The art and soul of beautiful gates

June 27, 2024

The art and soul of beautiful gates

Spotlight on Nicola Watkins, the creative force behind Red Stag, Auckland Steel, and Gate & Garden

With the soul of an artist and a passion for metalwork, Nicola Watkins has carved out a distinctive niche in New Zealand’s fencing industry. As the owner and managing director of Red Stag Gates & Fences, Auckland Steel, and Gate & Garden, she’s built a reputation for innovative custom gate design, impeccable craftsmanship, and an unwavering commitment to quality.

Nicola's fascination with steel and metalwork began in her childhood. "My father used to build stock cars in his garage," she recalls. "I was always out there, playing with bits and pieces, and wanting to watch him weld. He would give me things to do to keep me busy, and that's where my love for metalwork began." This early exposure ignited a lifelong passion, leading Nicola to marry into a family with a steel fabrication business, Auckland Steel.

Recession, resilience, and rising from the ashes

Nicola's career has been marked by resilience and determination. In 2009, Auckland Steel, once the fourth-largest steel fabricator in Auckland, fell victim to the global financial crisis. "It was like the sinking of the Titanic," Nicola reflects. "Everything we had built was gone." Undeterred, she embarked on a journey of renewal, pursuing studies in engineering and construction and reacquainting herself with her love of design.

With her son, Jonathan, a talented metal fabrication and gate installer in his own right, Nicola bought Red Stag Gates & Fences in 2018, relocating it from Tauranga to Auckland and overhauling the business to focus on locally manufactured gates and premium quality hardware. A few years later, she started her custom design business, Gate & Garden, specialising in automatic gates, specialty fencing, garden planters and screens and metal garden features.

"Everything we do is custom designed," says Nicola. "We want to give our customers something unique, something that reflects their individual style and enhances the beauty and value of their property."

Nicola's artistic flair is evident in every project she undertakes. From intricate laser-cut designs to bold geometric patterns, her gates are a testament to her creativity and craftsmanship.

"Gates are the first thing you see when you approach a home," she says. "They are the first impression, and I want my designs to complement the home and make an impact."

Having built a sterling reputation for Gate & Garden in her home country, Nicola says the next frontier lies over the ditch in Australia.

“We have the capability to design and fabricate here, shipping our gates to Australia to be installed by local fencers. That’s an opportunity I’m actively pursuing right now.”

A creative and trailblazing woman that’s succeeding in a male-dominated industry, Nicola’s advice to others is to back yourself and keep going even when the going gets tough.

"Women can absolutely thrive in this field," she says. "We bring a unique perspective and attention to detail that is highly valued by clients."

She encourages young women to embrace their creativity, work smart, and never give up on their dreams. "Don't be afraid to try new things, learn new skills, and challenge yourself," she advises. "The possibilities are endless."

D&D Technologies: A partnership built on quality and trust

Nicola's commitment to quality extends to the hardware she uses. "We've been using D&D products for seven years," she says. "Their hinges and latches are quick and easy to install, they look professional, and they work flawlessly."

She also appreciates D&D's commitment to customer service and the peace of mind it brings her clients.

"Knowing that D&D will replace any faulty product without question is invaluable," Nicola says. "It gives my customers confidence in the quality of our work."