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Category Archives: art
Last year I slotted in on the judging panel for the annual Bolt of Cloth Textile Design Award. Just like the year before, it was thrilling to see the short lists and degree of talent in the locally submitted work (bodes well New Zealand!!). While Bolt of Cloth provide a version of heaven for fabric loving makers and decorators; I tip my hat to their committed effort at spotlighting domestic design talent with this ongoing project.
The resulting collection between Nellie and Bolt of Cloth is both bold and fluid. The colourways and playful graphics would slide into a really broad spectrum of homes of different aesthetics and its damn exciting that you can also buy this quality fabric by the meter!
These images are part of a terrific feature on the collection in the latest Homestyle magazine and you can explore the winning range in its total here online or at any of the Bolt of Cloth stores.
I thought I would take the opportunity to learn more about Nellie in her own right as a very experienced and diverse creative professional. We talked about inspiration, working from home and her personal direction when decorating her own spaces.
Working from home can be a double edged sword when it comes to productivity! What is your experience with this and how do you combat the distractions?
Time restraints with deadlines means I can’t always wait until I’m ‘feeling creative’. Sometimes I just have to turn it on and make it happen. Trying to stay focused at the job at hand can be really hard at times when working from home… I’m terrible at getting sidetracked checking out social media, the ‘just for 5 mins’ usually turns into half an hour, down the instagram rabbit hole. I have to remind myself when I’m looking at gorgeous images I’m not actually creating anything myself (that’s usually enough to snap me out of my trance).
Generally when I’m procrastinating my house looks a lot tidier, which is one bonus! You’ll find me sorting or organising things, I think by doing that it relaxes part of my brain and gives me time to think about the job I’m about to start working on. Once I’ve been briefed on a new job I try to start on it soon after the briefing, as that’s when the ideas are most fresh and I’m feeling most enthusiastic about it, really good to get pen on paper then, rather than wait a week, and come back to it. When that happens I can lose the momentum. Also I break the job down into bite size chunks, so it’s less overwhelming and feels more do-able.
Despite your huge body of illustrative work for books, brands and commissioned jobs – it’s obvious you are concentrating on more and more textiles and products aimed squarely at the “home”.
How would you describe your personal interior style and aesthetic when it comes to your home spaces?
I’ve always been bit obsessed with interiors and have a passion designing textiles for the home. My personal style is relaxed, yet I like to think it’s little sophisticated with some quirky touches.
I love having lots of books and art around me and live in a light filled house. There’s a blend of old and new pieces together, mixing midcentury lamps and sideboard with cleanline modern pieces. Most of the objects I surround myself with were collected from my travels or from vintage markets and carboot sales. I’m attracted to slightly offbeat or beautiful objects and always love finding out the back story of where these pieces came from. Though I don’t like unnecessary clutter and do love to edit my space from time to time.
My style now is more about simplicity, natural fabrics, texture and interesting print combinations. The older I get I really appreciate quality and design longevity over the ‘sugar rush’ of cheap, fast, mass produced fashion looks which require people to buy and dispose of pieces seasonally which is unsustainable and generally doesn’t inspire the same sentimentality and nostalgia as a good quality piece does. I always try and carry that through into my own designs, as it’s important for me that my designs stand the test of time.
Your career has exposed you to some major local and international names in design (Kate Sylvester and Jasper Conran to name just a few!)
Who out there in the creative world provides you with inspiration?
Currently I’m listening to some great podcasts and reading about some really inspiring females, their extraordinary stories and their ability to sustain successful careers over their lifetime. I’m resonating more with hearing stories of artists who have faced challenges or just hearing about their creative evolution over time.
One of my favourite artists is Louise Bourgeois. Her career peaked at 70, which is wonderful to think maybe the best is still to come. I’m really inspired by designers Elsa Shaperelli, Celia Birtwell, Barbara Hepworth, Bridget Riley, Florence Broadhurst, Corita Ken ( an amazing graphic designing Nun!), Lucienne Day ( so many more!) and what they were able to achieve.
I am also constantly inspired by my creative friends who take risks to be doing what they doing and always give great advice. I listen to Kathryn Ryan, on the RNZ Morning Show and BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour online, both radio show have a wonderful line up of interesting guests. Great books I’d mention would be Elsa Schiaparelli ‘Shocking Life’ and Peggy Guggenheim, ‘Out of this century’.
You had 10 amazing years based in London before returning back to the homeland. Do you think being based back in New Zealand has influenced your work?
The pace of life and laid back, ‘can do’ attitude of New Zealanders has influenced me by finding more life/work balance and helped me nurture my creative side a bit more.
If you were only allowed to hang the work of ONE artist on your walls….who would it be?
Hard question! Hmm I’m going to say David Hockey, I’ve loved his work and it’s so diverse from his pool scenes in LA from the 1960’s through to his most recent oversized hyper colour paintings of the Yorkshire landscape.
Where are your favourite haunts in Auckland ?
I spend a lot of time with my partner and son locally around Point Chevalier, where we live. It has a great community vibe, lovely beach, lots of parks and a few interesting places to eat. I also love a good forage in charity shops, looking at old books and hunting for treasures to then sneak back into the house. And always love popping into beautifully curated shops, like Flotsam and Jetsam, Tessuti and Simon James plus some of the wonderful independent books shops like the Women’s Book Shop and Novel Bookstore. Browsing art galleries on K Road happens too!
Our favourite dinner haunt would be Coco’s Cantina on K Road. Damaris and Renee are so hospitable and it always has a great atmosphere. A Friday night drink or two at Golden Dawn is always fun (especially as I’m out less these days), I can usually bump into a few old friends.
Photography by Wendy Fenwick for Homestyle
Learn more here:
*Bolt of Cloth x Nellie Ryan Collection*
I had followed the instagram account of Formantics for a good 5 months before artist/designer/maker/over achiever; Susan Christie and I started trading emails. In total honesty, I had been SO taken by the brands witchy way with colour and shape that I hadn’t cast much thought into “where” or rather; “who” it was coming from, definitely stopping short of my usual stalkerish ways.
Lucky for me I didn’t need to investigate further because one email from Susan saved me from my own ignorance and re-framed Formantics as a very personal creative venture, based on a love of making and resisting any moves to be pigeonholed. As a master of colour she hasn’t stopped short at her painted originals and print release, but instead followed up with abstract hand formed ceramics and even a collection of totally unique shelves!
For any person gravitating toward a creative career, Susan’s story is encouraging.
“My back story is pretty hectic!
I was a Navy Officer, then Psychologist,
then mother, then business consultant,
then visual arts graduate
and finally a creative business owner.”
I find it incredibly inspiring to read about people that push their life in the direction they want it to go in…even when their past experience, current responsibilities and even age might not match up to others expectations!
In the interview below with Susan she reveals so much about way she created Formantics, the road she took, challenges and even some advice for those wanting to scratch that creative itch!
Despite dipping your toe into a really diverse set of industries – you mentioned that you loved “.. nothing more than creating art and design”.
What did this feel like to you and how did you know that was your calling?
If I had a tail it would be wagging while I’m making! For me, the process of making and creating is part of my DNA. My parents were both very creative people and loved the simple pleasure of making with their hands. From making and designing clothes to furniture, my parents made everything for the pure pleasure …..and the added bonus of saving money! I would have to create even if I didn’t sell my work, although I have to say my heart does a little leap every time someone buys or gets excited about my work.
When I look back, it’s like that creative DNA was always there, I just didn’t recognise it. At age 23, when I finished my registration as a psychologist, I immediately began doing creative night classes at the local high school. I did everything from ceramics, lingerie making, landscape gardening to interior design. Also as a child, I have very specific ‘happy memories’ of creating. I would spend hours digging up clay in the back garden and making little pinch pots.
Having kids was also a real opportunity for me indulge my creative side. I was not that sporty mum that kicked a ball around in the garden. I was inside making play dough and getting all the craft stuff out and getting messy!! I used the time when they were at Kindy to redecorate the house. Painting walls, making cushions….. I was the happy homemaker! So, I guess the creative signs were all there. They just seem so much more obvious now when I look back.
You studied Fine Art at AUT as a mother AND student in her forties. How did you find this ?
As soon as my youngest child went to school, I started doing painting classes through Matthew Browne School of Art. After a few years with Matthew, he recommended that I complete a degree at AUT. So, (I’m in my forties by this stage!!!)…. I decided to go for it.
It was scary going back to university as an adult student but I desperately wanted to take my art to the next level. I did worry about how I would fit in being an “old girl.” Whether I would be edgy enough, AND how on earth I would juggle the kids and all their after-school activities! As it turns out I had nothing to worry about. I loved every minute of it ( oh …accept the essay writing that is) and because we mothers learn to juggle so many things, I could complete assignments in half the time the school leavers could. The highlights of the experience were getting the AUT painting award in my first year and being selected for the Eden Art Awards in my last year. Yay, felt so good!
Susan – you belong to a special club of people that can combine unexpected colour, pattern and shape together like a wizard!
Where does this come from? What process (or lightening strike!) happens as you create your abstract work?
Thank you, Ju. I get very excited about colour! I liken colour to musical notes and if one of my paintings was a song it might be “Chained to the Rhythm” by Katy Perry. I really like the idea of blurring traditional boundaries between craft, décor, fashion, design, and art. If I’m honest I hate that term “Fine Art”. It is so loaded with hierarchical connotations! I take inspiration from my domestic world and keep a keen eye on what is happening in all the creative industries.
In terms of my creative process each painting arises quite organically. I start with a plan but it quickly goes out the window as the process unfolds. Rather than beginning with a fixed idea, I will pick a shape and colour, create the first form and build the image intuitively from there. My ceramics are made in the same sort of way. I cut out a form and then begin creating from there. Each one is completely original and I never know what they are going to look like until the end ….. which is what keeps things interesting!
The shelves were designed out of a desire to curate the objects and paintings together on the wall. I am so proud of the shelves as they took a lot of work to get just right. I wanted them to be able to be hung anywhere on the wall. I don’t like to be restricted by having to hang art into a stud. My shelves can be hung anywhere and take some hefty weight. The beautiful lines on the ply and the round geometric shape work in perfectly with my obsession with lines.
I love that you have let yourself “wander” from painting to hand formed ceramics and even to product design. Do you envisage Formantics to grow further in this direction as an all encompassing design and art brand? Or is this you just letting yourself explore all the mediums that feel right at this stage?
The thing that sets Formantics apart, is that ability to walk the line between art and design, while producing quality, handcrafted items of distinction. Our brand is all about curating bold, vibrant elements for the home which have a playful edge.
The name of the business, (after far too much of brain storming!!!) came about by combining the words form with antics. These are two vital ingredients for all the work I produce. I chose not to use my name for the business because in the future we will expand our range by collaborating with other creatives who relate to the feel and vibe of the brand. I am positive really exciting, innovative ideas will come about by collaborating with talented creatives from all sorts of backgrounds!
You have the opportunity to offer some nuggets of wisdom to parents or people of a similar age looking to re enter study and chase after their passion….what can you give us?
I really believe in the cliché that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. We spend far too much time at work not to LOVE it! I would encourage people to make the change but recognise it may not come about overnight. For many of us we have to juggle families and working a job to pay the bills, while at the same time pursuing the thing that makes our tail wag! Make a start!
Last one for fun.When asking my boyfriend some questions to ask you, his first one was; “What do you have against circles?”
Ha Ha. I guess you have noticed that most of my paintings and ceramics are a little “off kilter” I like my artwork to be slightly imperfect and have a slippage of unexpected angles and colours. I think it makes them a little more interesting. However, when it comes to our shelves they are absolutely perfectly round!
Imagery supplied by Formantics with styled product shots by Tash Hopkins.
Explore the Formantics world here:
This new blog format of “handing the microphone around” is reallllllyy working for me, and this post is the perfect example way.
I’ve followed Annie Smits Sandano since the very beginnings of of Studio Home but this is the first time that I’ve had the chance to share her own words and thoughts with you. And while we can thank Dunedin based, Gallery De Novo for taking the time to do some digging with Annie, it got me thinking even further on perhaps what Liz Fraser might have to share as well! The result is a nice juicy peep into the world of a roving NZ artist and a galleryist with some great things to share about following your creative dreams and the hotspots of Dunedin. There’s a little everything here!
The thing that fascinates me most about Annie is the way her work has varied over the years but with each new turn, she nails it to the extreme. If you were to lay out the best of the best from her natives and printing years, to her round, colour rich abstract paintings to her newly issued ethereal watercolour, ink and gouche pieces….well I don’t think you would pick they were from ONE prolific artist. But I do think you would fall in love with each series individually.
Read on for some insights into two professionals of our local art world.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as an artist:
My visual interests and pursuits are quite broad, but I think if I distill my direction down to it’s bare elements, I am most fascinated by the basic interaction between line and colour.
Currently I’m exploring this through two main mediums: painting and printmaking. Having studied printmaking at Elam at the University of Auckland I’m very much interested in participating in, and continuing the tradition of printmaking in New Zealand, especially one as rich as the one we’re lucky to have. I love everything about it – the process, the tactility of the materials, understanding pigment behaviour and learning how to mix colours, the interaction between ink and paper and the endless possibilities for exploring.
My painting has become a more prominent part of my practice in recent years. I’ve drawn from process that is part of my printmaking and let that influence my painting. The treatment of materials, subtle surface textures, flat colour, sharp lines, stencils and vibrant colours have all spilled into my painting. I’ve worked hard to hone my palette and develop a rich and dynamic visual language.
How has living in New Zealand influenced your art:
Life and culture in New Zealand is the core part of how I relate to the wold and experiences. It is therefore the core part of most of what I try to observe and then reflect within my work. New Zealand icons, references, sensations, flora, fauna and language are all constantly being pulled into my distilling process – I take these, dissect, re-formulate, hybridise with my own mixed cultural background and referencing, turn upside down, and move around in my head till there is an idea that I want to translate into an image using my own personal visual vocabulary.
Who or what inspires you in your artwork:
I’m endlessly excited about colour, form and material. I am extremely eclectic in what I find conceptually and aesthetically interesting.
Low and High Art, people, travel, music, science, nature, history, design,
I’m curious about it all and I am always very happy to find
something new and exciting.
I also think that an artist’s attitude to what they’re working on and how they make the viewer feel can be very inspiring.
At the moment I’m finding exciting the work of Anny Wang, Kushana Bush, Beatriz Milhazes, Joakim Ojanen and Joshua Yeldham.
Tell us about where your artwork has taken you in the last year and how this has shaped your art:
After much planning and organising, I spent the year travelling and letting the world rush in and influence me. I set out to do three main things: connect new people within my field, learn new techniques and see as much art as I could.
I spent a month at the Australian Print Workshop in Melbourne, where I was able to develop a series of new techniques. I also was able to visit some of my favourite contemporary Australian Art galleries and meet some amazingly talented and lovely artists from Melbourne.
I then spent over 5 months in Italy between Florence and Rome. This time was characterised by watercolour and oil painting. During an intensive summer residency there I was able to explore the medium of oil painting for the first time, and I followed that with a couple of months creating a suite of new works on paper – watercolour and gouache with ink works. I also explored countless galleries, museums and churches, and was forced to eat the most delicious pasta, pizza and gelato to keep me going.
I’ve also spent a month in the outskirts of Barcelona in Spain where I was in a full time residency creating new works and learning new printmaking techniques. Again, visiting as many galleries, museums and churches as I could here too. I was also very lucky to make amazing and talented friends from Spain, Norway, the USA and Australia.
My time abroad has been completely invaluable, I’ve learned so much in such a short space of time and my experiences will without question inform what work I produce next. I have an arsenal of new techniques, and a brain exploding with the new things I’ve seen…I can re-calibrate my practice once again, infusing it with all of these exciting new things.
What is it like living and painting/printing in Europe? Day to day life:
Let me re-phrase that.
It’s been surreal.
I’ve worked really hard, which is the pace expected at the places I’ve worked in, and one which I find works for me. During week days I pretty much work full time (and often longer than the usual 9-5) and then weekends are for gallery hopping and museum visiting. There are loads of exhibitions which open in the evenings during the week, so it was fun to go to those too. The food has also been a highlight. Did I mention I was forced to eat the most delicious pasta, pizza and gelato to keep me going?
Being able to drink in Rome, Florence or Barcelona while going about your day-to-day and work is pretty incredible too.
What are your plans for this year:
I’ve started the year with a residency in Spain, followed by 2 months in London where I’m making work at London Print Studio. I have two solo exhibitions in New Zealand which I’ll be creating new works for, and an exciting textile design collaboration in the works (still under wraps but am very excited about this one!).
That’s just the tip of the ice-berg. There is always a long list of on-going prints which need to me made and sent to galleries, group exhibitions and commissions which make up the continuous flow which I love.
Then – to complete this interesting circle of artsy minds, I also threw a couple of questions at Liz Fraser of Gallery De Novo.
Top spots to eat/drink in Dunedin?
Oh we are spoilt for choice in our neighbourhood for places to coffee and ea!
The Perc and Morning Magpie are two favourite places to grab coffee on the way into the gallery and even better when we have time to sit in and enjoy the surroundings of these bustling Dunedin cafes.
For very special nights out we can’t look past Bacchus Winebar with impeccable food and wine and amazing views overlooking the Octagon.
People don’t know this Dunedin but……
Well, people who live in Dunedin do know this – it is a vibrant, creative, thriving little city.
Dunedin has all the benefits of a big city but feels more like a large community.
Everyday, visitors to the gallery tell us how much they have loved their stay in Dunedin and particularly the artistic vibe …. if you haven’t yet made it to Dunedin then put it on your itinerary!!
What led you choose your profession?
I always LOVED the visual arts and this was fueled by the most passionate Art History teacher in High School and I knew by the time I left school that I wanted to work in the gallery world. I studied Art History at Otago University and worked in dealer and public art galleries in Dunedin and then London.
Richelle Byers (my business partner) and I had very similar journeys and whenever our paths crossed we always said we would one day open a gallery in Dunedin. 12 years later and the rest is history!
Best advice you have been given?
I’ll actually tell you the worst advice I was given by numerous people when I decided to pursue an Arts degree …. “don’t do a Bachelor of Arts” “why are you wasting your time with Art History” “what will you do with an Art History degree”….
WELL – luckily I didn’t take this on board and in fact it made me more determined to follow my dream and it was the best decision I made. Sadly the arts are not promoted as much as other sectors but if this is what you really want to do then follow your heart.
You can learn more about:
The soft, drifting landscapes of Sophie Melville might be quite familiar to you but perhaps under her former moniker of Mini Grandi Artist.
Wanaka based Sophie has spent the last few years reconnecting with her art practice while juggling her Mum jobs. Her work, entirely inspired by the dramatic landscape of where she lives, has found an enthusiastic audience internationally and via her stockists.
Taking stock and looking toward the future, Sophie has stepped out from behind her “brand” name, sold the very last of her open edition prints and has moved to provide a more covetable form of her work in exhibition based originals and limited edition giclee prints.
Loved by those attracted to a minimal palette AND those attracted to the delicate, floating form her work takes – all will be excited to see the arrival of her new “Presence Collection”.
“This collection is a culmination of a lot of simply ‘being’.
Sitting and being comfortable in my stillness.
The realisation of the total acceptance of myself.
Choosing to focus on the journey not the result.
To me this is all the awareness of presence.
My style has become more refined through reflection, consideration and now my process is immersed in clarity and foresight. But more than ever I take a lot longer to complete a painting as I feel a deeper connection to myself and this is visually expressed in my paintings. It’s my thought processes while creating that are making me observe, consider and just be.”
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Upper Moutere based artist; Fleur Woods before, and heard first hand the happy story of how her painted work led her to teach herself to stitch and as a result we have this incredibly rich, textured and beautiful art!!
“Bloom is a new series of 14 contemporary, stitched paintings. I created them while channeling my humble Crown Lynn collection, love of flowers and overly optimistic op-shopper-itis. The 12 smaller works are each the size of a Crown Lynn saucer and their imagery references Crown Lynn patterns from the 50’s-70’s. Reinventing the patterns with fresh contemporary colours the paint & stitch meets linen where it blooms into new forms.”
To coincide with the launch of the collection, Fleur has also chosen 5 of the “paintings” to be printed as an exquisite, limited edition series of giclee prints. I own one myself from a previous series she did and the effect of the stitched features as a print is eye catching!
If you are in New Plymouth between Friday 27 January and 21 February, drop in to Kina (101 Devon St West, New Plymouth) to view. Fleur will be there herself for Friday’s opening and Saturday morning.
For less than a quarter of a second I wondered if you might be getting sick of the art based posts….then I thought, of course not, IMPOSSIBLE!
So, to keep the intro’s flowing, here is an exciting update from one of our “shared” (NZer living in Byron Bay) emerging talents!
I posted about Joe Helmore and his beautiful, layered largescale work earlier in the year. I’d definitely be considered a serious fan of his original works and one day I will surely arrive a “collector” status.
In the mean time, I can start with his brand new offering of beautiful limited edition prints!! This a tight, capsule collection printed at a variety of sizes (imagine the horse above at A0!!!) that will allow us all to jump on Joe’s fast moving track upward in the artworld.
Click through to explore all here and information for purchase.
Imagery supplied by and used with permission of