Master Builder, South Island Edition 2020
Legendary Mackenzie, March 2021
Essence Magazine, May 2021
A fabulous evening of fun at Matilda & The Metalman, learning the art of wreath making with our local florist Hannah. An evening enjoyed by all!
Like many kiwi's Luisa Potter, originally from Pleasant Point, headed to the UK for adventures and experiences in her early twenties. In 2000, after relief managing pubs for a number of years, she decided a change of scene was needed and landed on her brother’s doorstep in Perth, Western Australia. Seeking work, she replied to a short advertisement in a paper which read ‘barmaid needed in remote mining town’. It turned out to be Mount Magnet, a remote gold mining town north of Perth.
She was successful in her application and caught a bus for the six-hour trip. ‘Stepping off the bus, I looked around at the dusty, half derelict main street, three pubs and few buildings, and thought to myself, I think I’ve made a mistake. I had gone from a population of 12 million in London to a population of 600! There were 10 men to every woman. It was vastly different in every way. It looked like a set straight from a movie. Literally, there were tumbleweeds blowing down the main street!’ A local man called Rosie stood in the doorway of the corner pub watching. Seeing Luisa’s hesitation, he laconically asked, ‘Wanna hand?’ To her affirmative response, he proceeded to give her a slow clap – her welcome to the town. A movie scene indeed!
Luisa happily settled into remote living and not long after met her husband Glyn, a workshop foreman for Monadelphous Engineering. In 2002, they moved further north to Tom Price, an inland town in the Pilbara Region, 18 hours’ drive from Perth. During this time Glyn changed career paths, into Emergency Services with Rio Tinto as a trained medic/fireman. Both Luisa and Glyn also volunteered with the WA Fire & Rescue Service. Glyn is now recognised as a life member for his extensive years of contribution. He was also a volunteer for the local Bush Fire Brigade, and St John Ambulance service.
Luisa and Glyn had three sons – Conner, Brock and Talon, in quick succession and thoroughly enjoyed living in the Pilbara. They had a fantastic network of friends, which Luisa describes fondly as their ‘Pilbara Family’. Karratha was their nearest shopping centre, a three-and-a-half-hour drive, one way. Luisa explains that in Tom Price, there was limited shopping available. Spying an opportunity, she and a friend opened a children’s lifestyle store. ‘We focused on West Australian brands; clothes, toys, teethers, essential oils, and the craze at the time – loom bands and fidget spinners,’ she recalls with a smile. ‘We sold several hundred thousand of those loom bands!’
In 2015, when their eldest son was approaching high school age, they knew it was time to relocate to New
Zealand. During their time in Western Australia they had regularly visited New Zealand, often spending up to three months at a time exploring and visiting Luisa’s family in South Canterbury. The decision was made to move to Fairlie, ultimately settling in the beautiful farming area of Albury.
Soon after they settled, a prime commercial real estate space opposite the Fairlie Bakehouse became vacant. Drawing
on her experience and expertise, Luisa seized the chance to open a gift store, launching Matilda & The Metalman in March 2016. ‘Matilda is a nod to our Aussie roots and The Metalman is Glyn who is actually a boiler maker by trade,’ explains Luisa. ‘Originally, the concept was for authentic
New Zealand artisan goods – a gift shop. However, it has organically evolved into gifts, interior and furniture.
‘Believe it or not I’m not a born shopper,’ she laughs. ‘I like to buy good quality, so I don’t have to revisit purchasing that item again for a long, long time. If I would not have it in my own home, it is not in the shop. There is also a heavy focus on products that are not so run-of-the-mill.’
Earlier this year (2021) Matilda & The Metalman moved across the road to the old Westpac Bank building – a much larger floor space which has allowed Luisa to focus on homewares, floor rugs, lighting, art and furniture. She, along with her small team of staff, has also moved into the consultancy side of finishing spaces in people’s homes, which she is passionate about. It’s a natural extension from the store.
Throughout the shop, themed pockets of areas of interest, or ‘stories’, are beautifully displayed, each story playing on a different room. In the ‘living room’ you will find a stunning range of fabrics for cushions, throws, sofas, napery and rugs in luxurious fabrics and natural tones. A striking 10-seater dining table made from reclaimed boat timber in the ‘dining room’ displays tableware, vases and candle holders. With a
‘If I would not have it in my own home, it is not in the shop. There is also a heavy focus on products that are not so run-of-the-mill.’
focus on sustainable, ethically made items, there are leather bags, wallets, clutches, satchels and hand-crafted knives.
In the pantry, New Zealand flavoured syrups, gourmet rubs, sauces and honey sit alongside candles, diffusers, vintage puzzles and drinkware. A collection of exquisite jewellery, eco eye-ware and robes can also be found. Not to be missed are the huge metal fire-pits that have been a solid favourite of customers for years. It is clear Luisa has a creative eye.
2020 was a challenging year for many, and for the
Potter family one that saw them separated. Glyn had still been working as a FIFO (fly in fly out) worker in Western Australia when New Zealand went into sudden lockdown. As an Australian citizen, despite being a New Zealand resident, he was not eligible to re-enter New Zealand to be home with his family.
It was 16 long months before Glyn was able to be reunited with Luisa and the boys. During this time, they sold their property, bought another, packed, and moved.
Their eldest son, Conner, finished his secondary education at Mackenzie College where he was Head Boy; Brock continued to move up through the ranks with the 15 Squadron Air Cadets as a budding pilot and Talon transitioned to secondary school. All during which Luisa marched on with a smile on her face and a friendly chat for those who visited her in store.
After four months of going through the application and
Glyn will be creating hunting knives, along with an exclusive kitchen knife range to sell at Matilda & The Metalman.
isolation processes, Glyn finally arrived home in January
2021 to a well-anticipated and emotional family reunion. He says now he is in New Zealand he will not go back to working in Australia in case there are any further changes that could impact his ability to see his family.
As such, Glyn is now enjoying his commitment to being a metal artisan. He is converting the end of an old honey shed on their property into a forge (a blacksmith workshop). He is passionate about the creativity that forging allows, and its lack of constraints. From his workspace, he looks out onto a glen of mature oaks, pines and redwood trees, a naturally beautiful and inspiring space in which the family’s sheep, cattle, dogs and fowl wander freely. An abundance of pīwakawaka visit the forge, flitting around to see what is happening. Surely a good sign.
At present, Glyn is setting up his business and busy creating his own tools instead of buying – ‘tooling up’ as he calls it. Like others, Glyn has found sourcing materials and product more challenging due to the pandemic, as shipping has caused delays in freight and prices have soared. The process has therefore taken longer than he anticipated.
In time, Glyn will be teaching short courses in ‘metal creating’ at his forge and is looking forward to sharing his passion and skills. He will also be creating hunting knives, along with an exclusive kitchen knife range to sell at Matilda & The Metalman, although he’s not divulging too much at this stage … so watch this space!
Neat Places, South Canterbury 2022
Words by Petra Nyman & Photography by Nancy Zhou
Matilda & The Metalman sits neatly in a large corner shop space on Fairlie’s main street. A gift and homewares store with a heart, it is near impossible to walk out of this store empty-handed. Timeless ceramics, a curated selection of books, colourful planters, linen clothing and bedding, quality children’s ware plus plenty more beautiful items, await discovery within this tranquil space.
The original concept of the store was to showcase authentic, artisan, New Zealand-made goods. With this still at the core of the ethos, the store’s offerings have evolved to include a variety of interior items from sofas to lighting to rugs, hides and beyond. The aim here is to support ethical makers and creators and to use natural items that have the capacity to enhance any space.
If you find yourself falling head over heels with the autumnal colour scheme and earthy style of Matilda & The Metalman, you’ll be glad to know that the store also offers a styling service for your home.
Find more neat spaces at https://neatplaces.co.nz/places/south-canterbury/shops/matilda-the-metalman