Kelly Spencer is a Wellington based artist who I first started following after stumbling across her work two years ago. I continued to keep an eye on her projects that popped up on Facebook and was able to meet her in person when I covered her “fridge” painting for the Red Bull Pop Life event in Auckland last November. We definitely clicked so you can imagine my excitement when she got in touch and revealed she had her own Gold Coast adventure planned that coincided with mine!
Despite us both landing at the hot and muggy Gold Coast airport on the same day, we made some loose plans via email to meet somewhere down the coast a few days later. I left some cryptic messages on the Aussie cell number she had supplied me with and after some to-ing and fro-ing we made a date for 11am at Cabarita Beach. Despite being a total tourist I felt pretty smug as I turned off into the beachside carpark at bang on 11. However, it was “bang on 11 am” a couple of kms back North where I crossed that invisible line from Queensland into northern NSW….and their daylight savings time. Kelly kindly never mentioned it – as I was bang on a hour late.
Unlike my other interviews, I was catching Kelly at the very very beginning of her Australian sea change. While the NZ summer had been a record breaking one for sunshine hours, the threat of fifth wet and windy Wellington winter was enough for her to finally make a move which she had been aiming at for some time. A few months earlier while home in Gisborne for a visit, she had caught up with friend; Robson Timbs and discovered he shared her ideas on a change of scenery too. In fact he even had a ticket booked. They were also on the same page when it came to travel and a plan was made to purchase a van and lock in tickets for the Byron Bay Blues Festival over Easter. I caught up with them “boiling the billy” the day before they were continuing South.
After a cup of tea I enjoyed a snoop around their van/home. There were grand plans to improve the interior fit out, but at that point of time the “pile everything in” method was doing just fine. Sharing the same carpark were a number of other vans, cars and caravans filled with super friendly, tanned adventurers who they had struck up an easy balance of sharing chairs and chocolate, watching unlocked vehicles and learning each others stories.
We then wandered down to the stupidly idyllic beach. It was here that I realised Kelly was actually acting out the secret dreams of so many people. To pack up and head for sunnier shores with the only secure plan being the purchase of a van….well it is a pretty romantic idea. The reality is that the life of a freelancer is scary enough without throwing in a foreign country (as close as it is) and no fixed abode – but the reason I knew this was going to be more than a long holiday was her grit and determination to lead her life the way she wants.
Kelly has many arrows to her creative bow. Her work has been seen across book illustration, webpage design, t shirt graphics, identity design, posters, set design, music festival branding, street art and painting a life-sized fiberglass baby elephant. She has work lined up with a kids clothing label (owned by an ex pat kiwi) on the Sunshine Coast and is part way through the completion of illustrating a book. In the 36 hours she had been in the country when I caught up with her, she had secured a painting commission and had a possible lead creating art work with a custom surf board shaper. So you get that motivation isn’t an issue here…
While I may have painted a picture of two happy nomads, this isn’t the case. Both Robson and Kelly are professionally trained and experienced in their respective industries, and it is certainly helpful that Kelly’s skills are conducive to travel! While plans were loose, they were concentrated on finding a balance between lifestyle and work opportunities which they hoped would have them putting down some roots somewhere along that glorious coast.
As I drove back and crossed the invisible border again, I felt that this post was going to be more like a “pilot” for a series. Having the opportunity get a glimpse first hand at a successfully creative New Zealander like Kelly leaving her secure network of clients for the virtual unknown, felt inspiring. I am sure it will just be a matter of time before I am reporting back with an update.
What I learnt from Kelly:
It’s one thing to have an amazing body of work, but it takes some spark and guts to sell your skills and turn a dream into reality.
Fly the Coop: Brisbane + Gold Coast was made possible by the support of Mondegreen.