Using materials like plywood and polypropylene, Nina is inspired by the environment and she draws upon forms like sea sponges, leaves and koi fish. Each mobile is lovingly handcrafted in Nina's home in Putney, NSW and are captivating to both adults and children (yours truly can testify to that!)
Leaves mobile, polypropylene
Which came first: architecture or jewellery?
When I was growing up I always wanted be an artist, then I got interested in studying Architecture which was very stimulating at University and I got to play around with of ideas and different materials. After working in Architecture here and overseas, and also doing lots of night courses in Jewellery and art, I realised I needed a career that involved actually making things physically, not some abstract object on a computer! I love being connected with materials, using your hands and creating something in a few hours not in 5 years time! So I started studying jewellery and later spent a few weeks in the studio of Warwick Freeman in New Zealand, to see how a master works! I love jewellers’ studios, so many tools and amazing materials.
With your academic background, it would have been easy to sink into a career as an architect or jeweller. What inspired you to make mobiles and to launch Puka Puka?
I wasn’t personally satisfied with just being an Architect, and Jewellery can be sometimes limiting with the scale, whereas with mobiles they involve all my favourite things- detail, shadows, light, colour and form and they can be made in any scale! I saw that there was a gap in the market for modern Australian handmade mobiles and homewares, and Puka Puka was born.
Tell us a bit about the materials (old and new) you use... what was the first mobile made of?
One of the first mobiles I made was made from acrylic and pearl shell (This was after seeing Warwick Freeman), it was pretty large! I have since moved to lighter materials such as Polypropylene which is translucent and moves with the slightest breeze. I have been making some new mobiles from plywood, which is great as it allows me freedom to add paint, pierce and sand.
Apart from the Puka Puka, what else do you make or busy yourself with?
I’m always thinking of new projects, sketching, renovating our ancient house, playing with my 2 children, and dreaming of buying a laser cutter!
Your work has travelled to the bedrooms of so many little kids around the world. Have you ever received any far flung requests/commissions to far flung places?
Most of my mobiles seem to gravitate to Brookyln, NY. I have done several large scale custom mobiles for clients in NYC, and mobiles seem to be very popular there. I guess most people live in apartments there and my mobiles provide a link back to the landscape.
What are your favourite things to do in your suburb of Putney, NSW?
Hang out in my veggie patch, listen to the birds, walk along the river. There is a fantastic Italian cafe here called Dolcini which serves delightful fresh warm ricotta cakes...
And finally, what's the best piece of advice someone has ever told you?
An architect once told me it important to ‘get your hands dirty’ – use your hands, get involved! I guess it’s also pretty important to find out what you really love doing and try to do it well!
The sea sponge that inspired the mobile below
Sponge mobile, handmade from Australian plantation plywood