Amelia Walsh wanted a shop that was about more than just selling things: “I wanted to create a community, one where artists and crafters are closely involved with the business, customers, and each other.” That’s just what’s happening at her fresh new venture Canary & Co. Collective, at the north end of Greytown. Story and photo by Anne Taylor.

The shop’s name comes from the nickname of Amelia Earhart’s first plane ‘The Canary’, a bright, cheery moniker that appealed to the similarly enterprising Ms Walsh. Having made clothes under her own label Bella Threads, and working the markets for many years, Amelia wanted to team up with other “weekend crafters” to create a hub of NZ-made, sustainable goods.

She and partner Hayden Maskell took over the space that formerly housed Crafters Heaven on SH2 and opened Canary & Co in September 2017. The current collective includes Amelia and 18 other artisans, most of whom have until now only sold their work at markets – but there are new artists coming in all the time.

“We give people who may just have a market stall a couple of times a year the chance to have a year-round retail space. We’re also filling the gap for people who want to see lovely locally made things more than just once at the summer markets.”

About half of the artisans are from Wairarapa, and the others Amelia has found from throughout New Zealand. “Most of these products can’t be found elsewhere,” she says.

There is a strong handmade, sustainable ethos running through the project. Amelia’s own line of heirloom fabric dolls and women’s wear, which she started this year, uses vintage, found and organic fabrics which have impressive durability and quality.

She stocks work by Liberation Jewellers, a Christchurch start up that makes unique jewellery from post-earthquake furniture off-cuts. There are zines by local musician Sarah Saunders; tote bags and cards by Greytown photographer Rebecca Kempton, and whimsical dream-catchers by Masterton artist Manaia.

“People are much more aware now about being ethical consumers, and the great thing is that we know where everything comes from and who made it.”

This is resonating with customers: “We have a mother and daughter team known as Floxy who refurbish and re-upholster furniture, and they have been gobsmacked by the response to their work.”

Martinborough ceramic artist Nidito also continually sells out.

You could say the artisan life is in Amelia’s blood. She was born in Oregon to jeweller parents. “I grew up going to markets and went on to do jewellery myself.”

She came to New Zealand 14 years ago, basing herself  first in Nelson. She taught herself sewing and pattern drafting, starting small with aprons and working up to making clothes for her daughter. After working in different industries in both Nelson and Wellington, where she and Hayden met, she decided to resume making clothing as Bella Threads in 2015.

The couple bought their first home in Carterton last September, and the dream of running a shop was realised a year later. And while Amelia’s work is in the shop, the artwork and signage is Hayden’s. A keen musician and creator in his own right, Amelia describes him as “the calm cool collected guy behind the scenes” at Canary & Co.

The couple are enjoying their new life in Carterton.

“Lots of people are moving to Carterton – it’s a very welcoming place with lots going on.”

They are regulars at the new Balter Bar & Kitchen that’s similarly local and community-focused, staging fun events such as ‘Second-Hand Sundays’ with a dress-up theme.

The couple have plans to keep growing the collective and to develop the large parking space outside.

Canary & Co, 2595 State Highway 2, Greytown. Ph: 06 304 9184