Welcome to The Garden Party blog! This space is a new addition to our website, and we’re going to use it to share some of the things we can’t fit elsewhere – stories behind the products in our shop and the people that make them, recommendations and fun ideas for how to use the things you buy at The Garden Party, and what’s going on in our area.



OCHO Chocolate maker, Liz Rowe explains why craft chocolate is sooooooo much better

The Difference between Craft Chocolate and a Big Brand Chocolate Bar

Chocolate doesn’t have to be a complicated product and the way it’s made doesn’t have to be a secret. One of OCHO’s goals is to eliminate the mystery around chocolate by sharing what we know, from what goes into our bars to how we make them. 

Not so many years ago the ratio of cocoa to sugar in chocolate was a trade secret, cacao bean buying was done by men in suits hammering out the lowest price deals, and all chocolate was made in large, industrial-style factories. Things began to shake out in the mid 1990’s with the launch of Scharffen Berger, the first modern American bean-to-bar chocolate company. These guys figured out how to make small batch chocolate, and put cacao percentage and bean origin on their labels. The craft bean-to-bar chocolate movement was born.

The early makers of craft bean-to-bar chocolate had a lot to learn, after all, the big chocolate brands had been operating behind closed doors with the utmost secrecy. Makers had to teach themselves how to identify good beans, remove the husk and refine the chocolate without large scale equipment. Websites like John Nancie's Chocolate Alchemy were instrumental in sharing knowledge with people across the globe, and slowly more and more craft bean-to-bar makers started up. These days there is a wealth of information along with equipment and bean brokers so that anyone can get set up to make chocolate at home.

Real chocolate

So, what is the big deal about craft chocolate? Next time you’re heading down the chocolate aisle at the supermarket, check out what’s in the bars. Even a plain dark chocolate bar can have a long list of ingredients and different names can be used for the same thing. For example, cocoa mass is ground up cocoa nibs whereas cocoa powder and cocoa solids are both names for what’s left behind once cocoa butter is taken out of the beans. There will also be sugar, maybe cocoa butter, and likely some kind of flavouring. Most bars include an emulsifier like soy lecithin, and you might strike milk solids sometimes in dark chocolate. Remember that ingredient lists have to start with the biggest item first, so if the list starts with sugar then it means there’s more sugar than cocoa beans in the bar.

It does taste different

Every time you buy something from a big chocolate brand, you know exactly how it is going to taste. Vanilla is often added because it helps soften the chocolate and gives that familiar flavour many of us associate with chocolate from our childhood. An emulsifier helps achieve a smooth consistency and mouth feel, but is often soy based so causes problems for those intolerant to soy. Cocoa butter can be one of the trickiest ingredients to pin down. It’s in the beans originally, but is sometimes taken out and then added back in different quantities to help give the silky mouthfeel people associate with chocolate, especially quality European-made chocolate.

The cacao percentage of a bar can include added cocoa butter, but makers don’t have to put the exact split between cocoa nibs and cocoa butter. Using this ingredient can be a way of making a bar appear to have a higher ratio of cacao to sugar, but still a softer flavour. Really cheap chocolate, called compound chocolate, replaces cocoa butter with a cheaper fat like palm oil. This is usually used to make chocolate buttons or drops for baking.

Craft chocolate makers on the other hand generally take a less-is-more approach to ingredients and celebrate the difference in flavour between bars. Many only use two ingredients in dark chocolate bars - cacao nibs and sugar. In our 70% Cacao Solomons bar, 70 grams out of every 100 grams is cocoa nibs (cocoa beans minus the husk) and 30 grams is sugar. There is nothing else in the bar. The percentage of cacao is usually displayed prominently on the front of the packet, though this is not always the best indicator of how strong a bar will be because different beans have different flavour profiles.

There’s no doubt that craft bean-to-bar chocolate is setting new standards for the chocolate industry. We are starting to see the big chocolate brands following in the craft makers’ footsteps by displaying the cacao ratio on the front of a packet and naming bars after the origin of the cocoa.

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Gwyneth Hulse’s No Waste Collection

Gwyneth Hulse and her husband are the talent behind Gwyneth Hulse Design in Kerikeri.  Together they create wonderful wooden jewellery and homeware.  Each piece respects the native timber from which it is created and loving hand crafted and painted.  No two pieces are ever the same.

Gwyneth and her husband have always worked in an eco-friendly way and respect the environment but her new collection "Waste Not' is a spectuacular example of how to use every bit of a precious resource like wood.

These products have been created from the surplus remnants of our other pieces in order to maximise the potential of our beautiful trees.  So that nearly every piece of wood is used.  Gwyneth has designed some stunning new pieces made from the off cuts - bits that are normally thrown away are now adorning peoples homes and bodies.  This is a truly green way to run a business - its clever, resourceful and doesn't waste a thing!

"We hope that Waste Not is an inspiration and an encouragement to others to think about how we use our planet’s resources" says Gwyneth.  "We wish to have a positive impact on others and the planet, by offering beautifully handmade alternatives to mass-produced products which people can value and care for."

It's certainly inspired us - we love the new Gwyneth Husle pieces!


Coltrane Clay and Ponsonby Pomade from Triumph & Disaster

Coltrane Clay, for the disheveled “I-just-rolled-out-of-bed” look.
This product is perfect for those who prefer a soft, matte wave. The white clay and beeswax mix — with a touch of Pracaxi oil and Brazil wax — make for a medium hold which will tame his manly mane whilst maintaining its natural texture.
The masculine fragrance, American Tobacco, adds the perfect finish. “We don’t think smelling like a fruit tube is right for a grown man’s hair” — Triumph & Disaster

Ponsonby Pomade, for the sleek, styled, hair-care conscious gentlemen. This product not only styles, but aids in maintaining his healthy tresses.
The key ingredients, Dragons blood and Harakeke help to repair and strengthen the hair and scalp, while the Argan oil adds moisture promoting strength and softness.
It gives a medium hold with high shine, perfect for a more polished, groomed look. The somewhat medicinal fragrance elicits a musky character, full of spice and charm.
Available in-store and online!

The incredible magnetic bike light

This is a nifty design if we've ever seen one! Watch the video to see how the clever Lucetta bike light clips on and changes functions, easy as can be. This good-looking gadget is the perfect mix of form and function. Find them here.

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Feed the Wild Birds In Winter!

During the winter months all birds, particularly wild birds, need a diet high in fat as they need a lot of energy to fly and keep warm.
Bread on the lawn is good but seeds, nuts and fat are far better.
Fats are concentrated forms of energy and, per unit weight, provide more than twice the calories of protein or carbohydrates of equivalent weight.  This is very important to birds because of their accelerated metabolisms.  (Flying is a very energetic activity) Energy derived from fat helps birds sustain energy levels longer between meals and over the cold winter nights.

Our wild bird food is grown in North Otago by TopFlite, a company who has been growing food for birds since the 1970’s. 
Their products can be used to encourage wild birds into your garden.  It will take time for wild birds such as Fantails, Wax Eyes, Tuis, and Kererus to feel at home in a domestic garden but with patience you can encourage many different species into your garden.  Make sure you put the food up high, away from hungry cats.  And water is another a good thing to provide for the birds.
When the wild birds eventually find the food you will see a steady stream of birds flying into your garden for food and water, shelter and if you’re lucky, they may even nest.

Chalkydigits scarf

Chalkydigits are here

A warm welcome to Chalkydigits, our newest suppliers who are brightening up our winter displays with their bright and beautiful NZ made scarves.

A company with a conscience, these guys have a work ethic we really appreciate: they consider the true cost of cutting prices by getting goods made overseas.

"Our precious natural environment pays a hefty price from the use of polluting fossil fuels in the prolific production of low-quality goods overseas. It creates acres of carbon miles in transport and then there’s the chemical poisoning from non-organic clothing crop pesticides.

There’s the human cost too; jobs, skills and equipment are lost from New Zealand and, most alarming, plenty of employees overseas are working in underpaid, unethical or exploitative conditions and, sadly, many of them aren’t even adults yet.

It’s only when you completely ignore the true cost of fast fashion that these imported garments seem good value."

Well said! You can check out Chalkydigits scarves here

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5 questions with Kate Watts

Kate Watts is the crafty genuis behind our bestselling fingerless gloves. We sat down for a chat about her gorgeous work and the story behind it:


What first sparked the idea for your fingerless gloves?

I was making clothing in a drafty workroom, and really needed some myself! So I made some for me, then I made some for a wee shop I was selling clothing through in Dunedin, and they just took off. I decided to give the gloves a go by themselves, so I learnt to screenprint, which has lead to what you see today! Anna was one of my first 5 stockists, thank you Anna!

Screenprinting allows clothing to become a canvas for artwork – your gloves are a perfect example of this. What’s more of a passion for you, fashion or art – or are they the same thing?

My passion is craft! I have a background in fashion, craft and manufacturing, and I think these things come together perfectly in what I do. I like to be part of the process of making my product, I can't imagine handing over the entire production to a third party. But one day I would love to have the time and opportunity to make both art and fashion again, as they are both very creatively fulfilling, if not as easy to make a living from.

How does being a Kiwi influence your design?

I think being a Kiwi has given me the freedom to do anything I want to do, and to experiment within a few different creative fields until I have found my niche. I also love our history as a starting point for design, I love researching ships and drawing our native plants, and hunting for interesting vintage papers that tie back into our story as New Zealanders.

Tell us about your newest range. How has your style evolved?

I think that this range (my 4th) is more commercial (though not too commercial!)  and more polished. It's only my 4th range, and if you asked me what I'm good at designing screen prints isn't high on the list! But I think that I'm getting better with each range, and each year I have a better idea of what my customers want. But I always try to keep it a bit crafty, and a little quirky, and stay true to myself.


There is a big difference between creating something beautiful, and being able to make a successful business from it – what advice would you give to young creatives out there who want to make a living from their work?

Don't be too specific when trying to decide what to make, and listen to your customers. Try a few different things, keep an open mind, and hopefully an opportunity will present itself! Work hard, but find a way to keep your passion alive. And get involved in your local small business community. If you can surround yourself with cool people with complimentary skills and share your knowledge, it makes it a lot more fun!

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Dark Light


After all the madness of festival season (Pride fest, Fringe Fest and Arts Fest all in one go!) it's nice to sit back and reflect on some of the highlights.


A highlight for us was Dark Light: a street level architechtural projection, providing the technology platform and support for local artists.

This was a temporary event in Ponsonby, a beautiful combination of architecture and projected images. Have a look at the video - it was a huge success and heaps of fun.

The Garden Party  was one of the main sponsors, and we felt very privileged to be involved.  It's events like this that make Auckland a city with personality!

The installation featured local artists Mark Conaco, Miki Pogoni, Rebekah Taylor, Peap Tarr, Hannah Jensen, Petra Leary, Gasp, Enuake Sirikige, and Erin Forsyth.



Peace & Quiet

A pared-back colour scheme complemented with a few carefully selected treasures makes for a restful, inviting sleeping space.

This soothing bedroom setup features our

Copper Wire Fairy Lights $65

Nellie Tier Lip Balm $14

Nellie Tier Face Cleansing Oil $32

Ladies Sunhat $32 (available instore)

Ribbed Vase $18 (available instore)

Karma cola

Sweet Karma

This unexpectedly glorious summer has given us the perfect opportunity to test out Karma Cola, a fairtrade cola from the Kiwis behind All Good Bananas. We jump at the chance to support independent NZ companies - especially when it tastes this good!

This is a company that focuses on using organic and Fairtrade ingredients - so, in their words, 'it's good for the growers, good for the land and it’s as good for you as a fizzy drink can be because it’s organic.'

Not everyone is our shop is usually a fizzy drinks fan, but overall we agreed that Karma Cola was refreshing, sweet but not sickly, and with a deeper, spicier flavour than The-Drink-That-Must-Be-Named. And in this pic by Karma Cola, their old-school classic 'spider' made with Nice Blocks icecream (another cool NZ startup) looks irresistible!

Karma Cola also have a facebook page where you can see their stockists and keep up to date.

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Sculpture Onshore

Tomorrow is the last day of NZ Sculpture Onshore. We're hoping the nasty weather will clear up this afternoon because this is an event not to be missed. Over 100 sculptures by well known sculptors and younger artists are displayed all over Fort Takapuna historic reserve. It only happens once every 2 years so it's worth a visit if you can squeeze it in! The exhibiton is set up to support Women's Refuge, so it's a great cause as well. 


Above is a photo from www.nzsculptureonshore.co.nz, where you can find out more information about tickets and how to get there. 


Photo Credit: Howard Williams for NZ Sculpture Onshore

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Our shop stocks dozens of beautiful teatowels made by New Zealand artists and designers. Lots of our customers think the teatowels are far too pretty for dishwashing duty, and we love hearing stories of the alternatives they’ve come up with.

We had one customer who bought a series of classic kiwi icon teatowel designs like Mr Four Square, which she stretched over frames to decorate the walls when she refurbished her family’s butchery. Once a customer came into the shop wearing an amazing wraparound patchwork skirt she’d made from our teatowels! 

Here’s a photo a customer sent us, of a pair of cushions she made with some Garden Party teatowels she was given. We think they look gorgeous!

Feeling inspired to get crafty? Here’s a (relatively) simple tutorial we found on Youtube for making a cushion. This method would work with two teatowels, or perhaps you could use a patterned teatowel for the front and a plan piece of fabric for the back. Happy crafting.

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Art in The Dark

For two nights each year, Western Park – just up the road from The Garden Party – is transformed into a nighttime wonderland of light and colour. Art in The Dark is an annual exhibition in the park, being held this year on November 9 and 10. After dark, the Western Park lights up with amazing artwork that, in the curators’ words, ‘not only fits the specific contours of the great, urban outdoors but illuminates the dark using clean, eco-friendly energy and materials wherever possible’. The result is beautiful and heaps of fun, and we especially love the neighbourly community feeling the show brings with it. The exhibition is timed perfectly just when the weather is getting warmer and everybody is excited about finally getting outside!

Check out their website artinthedark.co.nz for more details and some gorgeous photographs of past years’ works. See you there!

Pho credit: Art in the Dark

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Designers Talk - Creative Ink

As a regular feature we’re going to introduce you to some of the designers and artisans who sell their goods through The Garden Party. This week, we talk to Deon Hendrikz, founder of Kingsland-based design studio Creative Ink. We stock Creative Ink and we love their refreshing, stylish designs and their ethical business attitude. Meet Deon:

What’s the story behind Creative Ink?

I used to work as a graphic designer for a large financial services organisation in Auckland. But, being curious and eager to explore my own creative free spirit, I set up my own graphic design company dhdesignz Limited about 4 years ago. Commercial graphic design is very rewarding but as a creative you never ‘own’ your commercial design work. So I’ve extended my creative palette and expanded my business. In October 2011 I launched Creative Ink, a sub-brand which focusses on designing carefull crafted patterns and prints.These designs are then used to produce a limited run of handmade homeware products such as cushions, tote bags and textiles.


How does being in New Zealand influence your work?

All of Creative Ink’s designs are New Zealand inspired. I came to New Zealand 10 years ago, and the longer I stay here the more connected I feel to this environment, and the kiwi way of life. I think that upon arrival, tourists and visitors to New Zealand are so overwhelmed with its unspoilt beauty, that often they don’t look closely enough to what this beautiful land is all about. It is not until you have lived here for a while that Aotearoa’s true beauty reveals itself in surprising ways. I’ve been inspired by the simple everyday things around me, and I’ve developed a need to reflect this new environment in my design work.

How does Creative Ink address environmental concerns?

Creative Ink prides itself in sourcing all natural textiles that are environmentally friendly and contain no synthetic blends. As a further commitment to keeping our environment safe from harmful chemicals, our inks are 100% water-based, contain organic pigments, and are produced and purchased in New Zealand.

What does the coming year hold for Creative Ink?

 At the moment I’m still very much involved with my first range of designs, which focuses on some of New Zealand’s iconic birds like the much-loved fantail, the curious pukeko, and very vocal tui. I’m also working on my second range, which will focus on New Zealand flora.


Photo credit: Arie Hoeflak.