The Best Stuff
- colour lover
- Contributed Stories
- creative business
- creative hq
- emerging designer
- fly the coop
- for the home
- Gift Ideas
- graphic design
- guest blogger
- home making
- interior design
- make up
- new zealand
- product design
- REAL WORLD
- sponsored post
- store front
- student work
- studio home
- Studio Home Interview
Category Archives: new zealand
Alice Berry’s invitation to her exhibition ‘Wonderland’ really made me sit up and pay attention!
Over the years I have watched as Alice grew a wholesale print empire that got the nod from many as a shining example of a young creative “doin it for herself”!
Her work was fun, graphic and light hearted – a total winner for the card and print shelves of boutique design stores across the country. (You may have seen or even own an Alice Berry Llama?)
So when the beautiful painted abstract invitation arrived I did a massive double take!!! It was unrecognisable to me as her work – and on further investigation, I had missed a lot more than a progression in style when it came to this savvy young woman.
The interview below has been done quickly to make sure we can get the word up and out about her show open for just TWO days this weekend! But Alice has undertaken it with such raw honesty that I highly urge you to share this among any friends who have experienced a struggle against anxiety. As someone who has been there myself – I found Alice’s story and words below to be enlightening and reassuring.
Wondering what I am on about?? Read on!
I am always struck with a smile when I see an Alice Berry “llama” series print on the wall. I mean they are seriously everywhere!
That very clean, light hearted style has been very much an identifying factor in your public work to date…which is why I got such a delighted surprise to see this amazing, painted abstract work from you with the launch of Wonderland!
It would be great to learn a little about your artistic pathway to date?
Haha thanks! Those llamas are a good time. #SpiritAnimalOnLand.
I’ve actually always painted throughout my life so far. I used to take lessons with another NZ artist; Hayley Brown when I was a kid and she took me under her wing a little in my primary years. I didn’t do art or design at high school as my intention was to become a town planner!! I did my first abstract when I was 12 that was in a shared exhibition. One more when I was 16, then 22. So it’s been a bit sporadic!!
After a year at Uni, in the first stages of a town planning career, I though “F**k this, I’m out”. So I quit Uni and had no idea what I was doing. I applied for a Graphic Design course 3 weeks before it started and got in (thank goodness) which is how I became a designer. It’s also where my love of vector became apparent and I developed my illustration style.
After that I tried finding a design job which took 18 months and moving to Auckland without a job or flat! That’s when Alice Berry Design began and my own creative outlet got its groove on! I’ve focused a lot on illustration over the past 5 or 6 years which is cool but got back into painting last year as a way of relaxing. Abstract just seemed to come naturally to me. I love the mixing of colours and not having the pressure to make something look exact. Painting this way allows me to express myself and still have a design eye on for the overall look.
In the release supporting your exhibition “Wonderland”, you very openly spoke of your personal experience with anxiety.
“After struggling through a solid year or two of intense anxiety, Alice has come through the other side and decided to put herself out there with a collection of her abstract paintings – WONDERLAND.
This collection expresses Alice’s feelings and experiences. Some have been painted over up to 6 times until the feeling is right. This collection celebrates individuality and colourfulness within ourselves. You will see paint on the frames. This represents being outside the box.”
Can you share with us how the process of painting, forming a collection and then putting it all out there in the public eye has helped you ?
Yeah, so, basically anxiety has been a thing for me for a long, long time without really realising it. I faced a lot of bullying in my school years and had no confidence to stand up against that. Losing special people over the years and doing things alone all freaked me out but I didn’t know why and maybe thought it was normal. Then at 20 I had my first full-on anxiety attack. I had no idea what was happening to me and I felt like I was never going to recover and that this was how I was going to die. To put it plainly, it was fucking scary.
Then the same thing happened again the next year, and the next year and then I realised I probably needed some help… after which I found out I was experiencing extreme anxiety. Although I got help and felt fine, it would still come back from time to time.
About 18 months ago I basically had an emotional breakdown and just could not go on like this any longer. It’s a pretty hard time to look back on really. It was about a year or two in the making and just hit me like a ton of bricks – I felt stopped in my tracks with no escape. Luckily I have great family, friends and doctor that all supported me through those times when I couldn’t be alone, stop crying, too scared to drive or too tired to stay awake for a whole day from the exhaustion of anxiety.
I kept being asked ‘Why haven’t you got any new work out yet ?’ and ‘What’s taking so long?’
My feeling was, “I can barely make it through a day right now, so the idea of being creative is really not happening” – obviously I didn’t say that though.. haha. I think people need to understand that we can’t always be ‘on’ and creating non-stop. It definitely can’t be forced or it just ends up crap.
First up, I did the 100 Days Project and started small by just drawing one thing a day. That got me slowly back in the mood for creating which led me to play with abstract patterns and design a sock for release later this year.
Then it just felt like it was time to hit the paints again. Got paints. Got brushes. Got an easel and away I went. I was playing and experimenting with colour and texture while trying to communicate a feeling at the same time. It wanted it to feel positive but real. You will see there is always a hint of a darker colour in the paintings which represents the realness of feeling low, but it is being taken over by light, colour and fun.
The reality is, you will always have ups and downs, just hopefully in less extreme way.
As the paintings were happening I just decided that it was time to put it out there. Share the anxiety and the creative in me. It’s the real me and I want to try and embrace it. A few of my family and friends are going through similar times, so I also felt stronger to let it out. The process of painting also helps me to be calm and not overthink life! They come together with lots of layers and textures created with the paints. A lot of these have about 4 paintings layered underneath as I would keep painting over until I felt it looked like the feeling I had – if that makes any sense.
I called the collection WONDERLAND as a play on Alice in Wonderland. I feel like her falling down the rabbit hole is my experience with anxiety- falling into what seems like an unexplained world, then turning that around into something positive. It’s pretty nerve-wracking but I’m proud of myself for making it happen and most people are really supportive. Some have definitely called it bull shit but I am stronger now to push forward against the haters. Haters gon’ hate after all.
Hopefully you guys will enjoy my artwork and have a good time if you come along! And to be real, anxiety is still part of my life, probably always will be, but you just gotta keep working on it and look after yourself.
A shout out to John Kirwan and his work for mental illness. I met him at a rowing regatta about a year ago he was so kind and inspiring. What he does is pretty amazing.
Who out there do you hold a creative flame for? Share with us some of your favourite people/brands who inspire you in their work, attitudes or practice.
Citta – I also worked here for a bit and the girls are the best.
Gorman – the BEST prints ever.
Margaret Petchell – I love a good bird painting and hers are the brilliant!
Jen Sievers – the way she creates is pretty amazing and I love all the colour and the vibes
Timo Design – from my home town and his work is fun, quirky and awesome.
Alice Berry – Photo by Will Morgan
What I learnt from Alice Berry:
“Outlets (whether they be creative or not) are important for
distraction, building courage, value, purpose and confidence.
Sharing, while scary, creates perspective and
everytime will show you that you are not alone in your experience.”
‘WONDERLAND’ – ALICE BERRY IN ABSTRACT
Friday 12 May 2017 – 6-8pm drinks + nibbles
Saturday 13 May 2017 – 10am-3pm
@ Thievery Studio – Level 2, 203 K’rd, Auckland
Online store (any available originals and limited edition prints will be listed here next week!)
I first got to know Billie Culy when she was helping with her parents Homebase Collections pop up in Auckland in 2013. I was captured by the close, creative aesthetic shared by the family as a whole, so often with the nature at its root. To this very day I am inspired to indulge the very fluid, beautiful way that they celebrate it – not only their art but their homes!
The work shared below is a continuation of Billie’s exploration of using flowers, foliage, sets, vessels and a painters eye to capture the essence of a person, a place or a moment in time. ‘Gild’ is showing now at Hawkes Bay’s; Parlour Projects until the 20th of May but for those that can’t make it I took some time to quiz this young artist on her inspirations, her process, her love of living away from the big smoke plus some Hawkes Bay highlights for weekend interlopers!
As a young creative you chose to swim against the flow of many, and moved from the city back to the regions. What was the pull to return home and share a little about your life in Hawkes Bay.
I think my main motivation to leave Auckland was just to give myself room to breath, I only lived up there for four years but I think it’s easy to get stuck in a space you feel comfortable and in a job you don’t mind but that stagnant feeling creeps in – you feel like you aren’t going anywhere, and maybe the urge to create is fading. So a complete change of environment was what we decided was needed!
Strangely enough, we actually had an opportunity to learn beekeeping with a local keeper in Hawke’s Bay so that was all we needed to motivate us to pack up and head back down there to live the dream.
It was a complete contrast to what we were doing in Auckland, study, work, city life. Literally the day after we arrived in Napier we were in a honey processing room, scraping the wax off honey frames and spinning it out, then out to help tend to Beagle’s hives. It was so fascinating – I can’t remember learning so much in such a short period of time in my whole life.
I’m obviously now not a beekeeper but I think it was something that really shocked me back into the creative zone. For some reason – it sparked something in me! Learning about bees and how their life cycle works and how they play such a huge role in the survival of our environment, it gives you a completely different perspective on life and I found it really inspiring.
It made me fall in love with Hawkes Bay again.
It’s so beautiful here, the landscape is so diverse. I live in Haumoana, a little community by a wild stony beach. It’s a quiet place but that’s what I love about it here, you can escape.
Having the space to make work and make a mess is so important so I’m lucky to have a great studio at home. It’s also so great to be near my parents, we have been able to help out a lot with things they work on at Balquhidder and it’s just really fun to bounce ideas of them in a way I could never do when I was living in Auckland.
Flowers and foliage are enjoying a well deserved time in the limelight at the moment with artists, gardeners and stylists a like! This is something that makes me VERY happy!
However your work has always stood out and above for me – the sets, the light, the vessels and the super layered and interesting combinations you put together are captivating.
Can you share with us your thoughts and process behind your photographic work?
I think it all starts with my complete admiration for the beauty of plants and flowers. Firstly, I wanted to capture their form at a certain time of the year, almost freezing a moment in time. I have always loved to collect foliage growing around me – I find certain plants remind me so much of a particular time or place. For example, Haumoana has such distinctive plants that grow along it’s coastline and I love the idea of capturing the essence of this our community in a single flower arrangement.
I use plants that evoke a feeling of nostalgia, sometimes it will be that they remind me of a favourite painting, my mum or town or someone’s garden I have a connection to. My arrangements are always a little playful and I like to let them do their thing. Sometimes something will droop, or fall off but these are the little moments I love to capture.
The vessels I use have such an importance too. I like that each one comes from a different era and this plays a role in how you view the work. I want people to have a moment where the image feels as though it’s from another time.
Colour is a huge part of my work. I think I see colour before any thing else, its very intuitive for me and I feel that’s why I see my works more as a painting. With my current exhibition I really played with the idea of my process being similar to the way you would put together a painting, using layers of texture in my backdrops and combining the two mediums of photography and painting. This time I also shot with medium format film for my current exhibition at Parlour (Projects), which was a completely different process for me.
You have been bought up in a family of prolific artists – some of my all time favourites actually!
What values, advice, work ethic and processes can you pin point specifically learning from them and how does this affect your own creative work?
I have had such an interesting life growing up with my parents doing what they do**, they are so diverse in their talents, and I think that taught me that creativity doesn’t just come in one form, you can express it in any form you feel like in any part of your life.
Everything they do has an element of creative expression and it’s something I so admire and really believe it can make you a better artist. The more you do the better you become. Being around them my whole life while they work – whether that be directing, photographing, painting or cooking even, I have learnt and still do learn so much. They have definitely shown me that an artists life is not always easy. I think to being creative can also mean you are quite sensitive (well for me anyway) so it’s a constant learning curve! Even just learning to believe in what you are doing, and to actually trust yourself, is a process I’m still getting my head around!
I consider myself so lucky to have mum and dad – my life mentors!
** Brian and Leanne Culy are well respected creative professionals across art direction, production, photography, film, design and painting/drawing. Their design, art and photography work falls under Homebase Collections. You can read more of their story in a previous interview of ours at their BEAUTIFUL Napier Home; Balquhidder House.
We all have those people that we love to check in with for inspiration and motivation!! Whose work do you follow and what attracts you to them?
For floral inspiration I always check in with Doctor Lisa Cooper on insta.
Her arrangements are so strong and so powerful! Flowers don’t always have to be pretty.
Food is life and my favourite food people at the moment are Organic Ash and The Next Meal. They are just always doing something different and interesting AND they share things that I actually want to make!
I follow so many galleries and artists on Instagram – it’s so great because living in Hawkes Bay you can easily feel a little out of touch from the art world, that’s something I miss the most about Auckland. It’s not quite the same as seeing in person but it’s better than nothing!
Michael Lett is always a good time! One of my favourite NZ artists; Gavin Hurley has the best gram! Also loving Kirstin Carlin’s paintings at the moment. I could just keep going…..
Sometimes the radio is my best friend and is constantly on in my house. I actually find it really inspiring and motivating! I always check in every week with Kim Hill, Arts On Sunday and Music 101 – the best of Radio NZ!
We have ONE weekend to spend in Hawkes Bay.
Where and what would be on your hitlist?!
Wow where to begin!
Ok – Saturday we would go to the crazy markets on the Napier waterfront. I like this market because it’s a little bit of second hand, bit of tacky crafty stuff, food and veg. There are always interesting people there andit’s a little different from the classic Farmers Market in Hawkes Bay.
Then we would have to go to Hapi for food, can’t put in words how good the food makes you feel!
Would have to go for a walk up through the Redwoods to Te Mata peak, the BEST way to see Hawkes Bay.
Possibly dinner at Bistronomy, very special food!
Maybe a bit of shopping in Hastings. The Little Red Book Shop is a real gem, and then La Petite chocolate shop is amazing, they make everything there – it’s so beautiful!
The Hastings City Gallery is really great, always something really good on. We would also stop in at Parlour Projects across the road!
We’d end the weekend with fish and chips on Ocean Beach.
That was basically a food tour of HB!
What I learnt from Billie Culy:
Romance, beauty and nostalgia live in the smallest of details.
Take the time to recognise the little things that you attach memories, people and happiness to.
You can connect more closely with Billie Culy by:
Viewing her show here at Parlour Projects
Following her on Instagram
Lola Wright is a young NZ photographer I have been gratuitously following on instagram for quite some time now. She takes me on her adventures around the country, across seas and on many occasions, “IN” seas!
As a total sucker for the romanticism of nature, I am an easy match for her art based and editorial work (she has a cool blog to explore too) which made sharing this preview of her exhibition a total no brainer.
“Aqua Frizzante” opens at Allpress Studio in Auckland this coming Monday – all details here – and runs until May 5. Pop in and meet the artist and view this work in person!
I feel like Lola’s photography very much engages us in “the moment”.
You know…lying on your back in the ocean at sunset looking past your own hand, peaking half out of water at your friends and the world on shore… it offers a very unique chance to “be” there. The tone and style of her imagery delivers the “magic” of that moment that I imagine to feel as if experiencing it myself.
So with this in mind I decided to ask our artist the thoughts that spring to mind when very simply posed with each sense…
Read on below.
Pictured above: Lola Wright
“Deep saturated golden light falling upon layers of sand dunes on Auckland’s West Coast. My favourite memories have come from running up & down sand dunes and along mirrored shorelines bathed in golden light. It never gets old standing on top of a dune with awesome people, in a huge vast space with no one in sight. Just watching that big ball of fire sink into the wild sea.”
“That almost quiet half hour before the sun is about to rise with the slight hum of the earth accompanied by Tui and cicada song. Sunrise is always a time of solitude for me. My mind is quiet and everything I see and hear is all that exists in that moment.”
“Neoprene, surf wax and salt air! Haha!
It always reminds me of summer, the ocean and my dude Jordan. Which are 3 of my favourite things. (#4 would be hot chips.)”
“That slight charcoal taste of fresh fish that’s been cooked on an open fire. It’s that satisfying bite into a piece of fish that you caught earlier that day, fried over an open fire, surrounded by my people (coupled with an ice cold Steinlager of course !).
Never quite complete without a little bit of accidental crunchy sand for extra flavour.”
“The deep, refreshing, silky sensation of the ocean as I tread water between shots. I love the feel of water and the visual textures it creates. Mum used to call me a little seal because I would spend hours swimming around as a kid. Not much has changed except now I do it with camera in hand!”
A journey expressing a love of water, light, movement & texture.
Allow yourself to sink into Lola’s Aqua Frizzante world.
At Allpress Studio, Auckland
O P E N I N G N I G H T
Monday 24th April 2017
6pm – 8pm
Some drinks & nibbles provided
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: