Sculptor; Hannah Kidd has long been on my list of people to interview. I can remember seeing her work as a design student in my early twenties – her agricultural subject matter rung bells for me and whats more we both called the rural/seasonal ski town of Methven home at different times.
So a few months ago I drove the grid of long straight roads of Mid Canterbury and made for the small town sitting at the foot of the shadowy Southern Alps. Its pretty beautiful!
Many an eyebrow would be raised in surprise when passing Hannah’s Methven studio. A peek through the doors offers a glimpse of the blue glow of welding torches and flying sparks as two women wrangle steel and iron into three dimensional animals charged with such life-like vigour you expect them to trot off down the street!
Hannah Kidd is pint sized and packs a relaxed, “can do” attitude which barely matches her rise as a wildly in demand artist and international exhibitor. Her interest in art and making came early and was likely influenced by her father who was a set builder for the Christchurch Court Theatre. After high school she headed for art school in Dunedin where she majored in sculpture. Looking back she noted that even then she had a fascination with trying to create three dimensional shapes and the subtle beginnings of her style grew from casting in bronze.
In 2001, she joined her then boyfriend (now husband) in the small Canterbury town of Methven. Not exactly the artistic hot spot of New Zealand but as it turns out, the perfect environment for Hannah to cultivate her art and sculpture heavily concentrated on the animal kingdom. She secured her first exhibition at COCA (proud supporters of young artists in the region) with a collection of drawings depicting genetically engineered animals (think glow in the dark rabbits etc!) But drawings weren’t her calling – what she really wanted to make was “big stuff”!
She promptly talked herself into positions at South Pacific Seeds and then Methven Engineering with the aim of mastering the art of welding and learning to “make things stand up”. A year was spent developing her skills and she then followed it up with another show at COCA using fiberglass on frame work (this time think astro turf and glossy fiberglass sheep!)
In 2003 she was still experimenting with materials – frustrated at the limitations of fiberglass. She began to play around with discarded pieces of iron and slowly but surely developed her now iconic technique of cladding her wire frames with metal to create three dimensional creatures ranging from magpies, fawns and dogs to life size bears, orangutans and elephants!
Most of her work has been produced from various garages around Methven and for a time, Franz Josef. Balancing marriage and babies with group shows and a rapidly growing list of commissions it wasn’t long before Hannah needed to add some hands to her team. Graduating from hauling in her husband, friends and family to the welding shed she hired her first assistant in 2006 and then in 2007 met Sue Bamford her current welding extraordinaire. Initially, while still based on the West Coast, Hannah would freight the large wire frames she had made over to Methven where Sue would piece together a patchwork of metal to complete the works from a garage studio.
In 2012, Hannah and her family returned to Methven and along with Sue, moved into the new lofty studio in the centre of town in February last year. While still fulfilling their steady stream of commissions through Milford Galleries, they have just completed a collection ready for a solo show at Artis in Parnell, Auckland next month!
I found Hannah to be the real deal.
By that I mean, she is obviously super talented but it was her “no jobs too big” attitude and ability to innovate to extremes to achieve the creative result she has in her minds eye. She was casual, friendly and without a SINGLE pretentious bone in her body which you might expect from a sculptor who has exhibited at the iconic Sculpture by the Sea events in Bondi, Perth and Denmark multiple times.
Grass roots attitudes combined with steel capped boots are the way to go!All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM HANNAH:
Girls can do anything. Seriously.