Combine the layback lifestyle of Aitutaki with the opportunity of making a living from creating arts and crafts, and you have the perfect world for Steph Joseph.
Married for ten years to her ‘best friend’ Turoa, an Aitutaki-born ukulele craftsman, Steph is in no doubt that living and working on the island is something special: “I feel like I’m on holidays – I love it!” said Steph.
“We met in Adelaide when I was working in schools and he was working in corrective services.” Today, both work in crafts. A visit to their home workshop will reveal some of the best creative on the island.
“Making useable jewellery with recycled glass and beautiful Cook Islands Pearls is so satisfying”
South Australian-born Steph was a teacher for 30 years, but art has always been at the core of her existence.
“I have always loved art. I’d been accepted to go to art school, but my father thought I would become a starving artist so he convinced me that teacher’s college was the better career opportunity,” said Steph.
“I majored in Indigenous education and literacy and have enjoyed lots of wonderful experiences through teaching in Australia, PNG and the Solomon Islands.
“In 2003, I took a teaching team to North Carolina, USA, where I met with glass artists. That is where I learnt to melt glass for jewellery.”
Nine years ago, Steph and Turua came to live and work in Aitutaki.
“I was a team manager here for Westpac but longed for an island lifestyle, so I took up creating glass jewellery. It was a hobby at first, putting some pieces in the market. From there it just grew and grew!
Steph works mainly with a hot head torch using propane gas on broken up recycled glass bottles.
“I am sometimes asked I have a particular color such as Bombay sapphire. My mum once asked me if I could make some earrings and a bracelet from a Heineken bottle!
“More recently, I taught myself to work in pearls. I’m addicted to Cook Islands black pearls because they are so beautiful!
“I keep my designs fresh and wearable, and I am pleased to say that I am known for my reasonable prices!
Steph said there is a lot of artistic potential on Aitutaki: “Turua and I would like one day to teach our crafts to young people here”.
“We have come to Aitutaki for a simpler, holistic sort of life; helping people when we can, growing our own vegies and eating well”
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