9 min 24 sec

Photojournalist Crafts Fighter Jet Jewelry to Relive History

A New Zealander’s artistic side hustle encourages nostalgia while providing extra income and a creative outlet.
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What It's About

A photojournalist takes the stress out of PTSD with a nostalgic side hustle.

Business Model
Arts & Crafts
Skills Required
Design & Creativity
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Martin suggests that you have solid systems in place. For him, this means keeping track of his costs and sales on Excel spreadsheets—he even records cash sales to friends! One of the gallery owners once told him the best artists keep good records and treat their art as a business. It’s important to him to look back over the last five years since he started his business and see where he’s at now.

Fun Fact

The Spitfire was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft. Nearly 60 remain airworthy, and many more are exhibited in aviation museums worldwide.

Notes from Chris

Episode 812
Martin de Ruyter is a visual journalist living in Nelson, New Zealand. This job was formerly called a photojournalist. But like so many careers, the duties have changed, as has the job title. Martin now shoots and edits around 200 videos per year, something he never did much of before.

This kind of documentation can be mentally draining. Martin has covered numerous disasters, including over 100 fatal car crashes and a number of aircraft crashes. At the time we worked on this story, he was in week four of covering a major forest fire (and this is the fourth one this year in New Zealand). As a result of working in journalism and witnessing death and disaster for 35 years, Martin suffers from PTSD.

It’s not surprising, then, that his side hustle is completely different from his day job. After covering disasters all day, Martin looks forward to going home to his happy place. For him, it’s very uplifting to know people love what he produces, and as one of his recent customers said—‘you created a family heirloom!’

So exactly what does Martin create? He makes ‘Spitfire Trench Art.’ The Spitfire is a type of fighter aircraft used by the British Royal Air Force before, during, and after World War II. Trench art, also known as sweetheart pins, is a type of brooch (or a pin worn as jewelry).

In the last 6 months, Martin’s average monthly profit has been around $600 US dollars. Startup costs were minimal because he was given his grandfather’s tools. He purchases the coins he uses in making the jewelry in bulk, through Trademe, the New Zealand version of eBay. Each coin costs less than 25 cents, and the brooches sell on his website for $40.

Martin’s trench art has been worn by some extraordinary and distinguished people. In 2014, the (then) New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, was photographed wearing Spitfire cufflinks at a service commemorating the start of World War I. Martin knew that John had a cufflink collection of over 120 pairs, and enjoyed the personal story behind each pair. Each year while John was Prime Minister, Martin would send a pair of custom made cufflinks for John’s birthday, and get a friend who was one of the PM’s press secretaries to hand deliver them.

In fact, during his time working as a journalist, Martin has met and photographed every New Zealand Prime Minister in the last 35 years.

The digital revolution is another incentive for him, since Martin is unsure what will happen with his day job. In the last 20 years, 80% of the jobs in his workplace are now gone. His business provides him with an income should his visual journalist career become threatened in the future.

Regardless of what that future holds, Martin can continue to fly high with his trench art creations.


  • Spitfire Trench Art: Don't let your interest take a nose dive—learn more about Martin's artwork over on his website!
  • Felt: New Zealand's online marketplace for handmade goods—another platform that Martin uses to sell his artwork

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"The digital revolution has already been catastrophic for many industries and this isn't going to change. I think this is the reason everyone should have a side hustle."
—Martin de Ruyter #SideHustleSchool

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Chris Guillebeau