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(Image: Ralph Brown/additional design: Tina Tiller)
(Image: Ralph Brown/additional design: Tina Tiller)

PartnersJuly 28, 2023

Art is work: Inside the careers of four New Zealand artists

(Image: Ralph Brown/additional design: Tina Tiller)
(Image: Ralph Brown/additional design: Tina Tiller)

We’re halfway through Art Work, a series in partnership with Creative New Zealand that aims to demystify the mahi our artists put into their careers. Here are the four artists profiled so far, and a glimpse into their working lives.

In Art Work, we’re talking to artists from a range of backgrounds: emerging artists, established artists, artists working in urban centres, artists working rurally, artists with jobs outside the arts, artists with families to support, artists who just have to support themselves.

The one thing they share in common? They all work, and ultimately, the work they make is for us. They enrich our communities, open windows to stories and experiences, and bring us all that little bit closer together. We want to let them tell you how they get it done.

The day-to-day life of the poet laureate, Chris Tse

Chris Tse is New Zealand’s 13th poet laureate, a frequent performer at literary festivals throughout the world and also serves as the editor of The Friday Poem on The Spinoff.

“Everything is so admin-heavy when you become a creative or a writer and no-one ever tells you that. There’s the paperwork, like invoices, taxes. It’s all the stuff they don’t tell you about and you have to figure it out. I got registered for GST because someone said I should, and then suddenly I have to figure out what all of this means, and how this affects all of my other financial stuff.”

Photo: Virginia Woods-Jack

“I just love poetry. This whole poet laureateship has reminded me of that; how much I love doing it, how much I love going out there and talking about it and sharing it with people. Even though it’s not gonna make me rich, I don’t think that’s the be all and end all.”

Read the full story here.

Emiko Sheehan makes time to create

Emiko Sheehan (Waikato, Tūwharetoa, Raukawa, Ngāti Tahu–Ngāti Whaoa) is a multidisciplinary artist and one of 10 creative enablers selected for Creative Waikato’s first artist-in-residency programme Whiria te Tāngata.

“I don’t know what I was doing before I had a baby. I had so much time and it would take me ages to make anything… With creative work, if I have something set up, and my daughter is entertained, I can just jump in and out of that space way easier because I’m way more enthused to do it and I’m way more into it. 

But it’s the actual making, that’s what I love doing.”

(Photography: Ralph Brown)

“Creative Waikato’s been really good to put me in touch with these other artists and really supportive around the funding side and making sure that we don’t miss out on any of the money that we’re supposed to be getting. They’re really keen to be able to pay artists to be artists.

But it’s my tane, my friends and my whānau, I couldn’t do it without all the endless support and aroha I get from my community.”

Read the full story here.

Pati Tyrell answers the world’s call

Pati Solomona Tyrell is an interdisciplinary artist and a founding member of arts collective FAFSWAG, which was awarded an Arts Laureate award in 2020. In 2018, he became the youngest nominee for the Walters Prize.

“We’ve been around for about 10 years now and we were a group of friends who wanted to make art together, but now that everyone’s grown up, having families and climbing the ladder in their personal lives, it’s really hard to just be with each other. 

In one of our hui that we had recently, we thought ‘What if the goal was to try and spend more time together?’ That’s our national goal, to spend time together, and then we can also come together for these big international projects.”

(Photography: Ralph Brown)

“The thing that would make it easier is probably people understanding the value of art and how much it actually costs. Specifically for photography – one time someone asked me if I could shoot a wedding for like $300, and I was like ‘what?’. It’s just that disconnect of what my craft is.

Who is doing $300 weddings? That’s crazy!”

Read the full story here.

How Ana Scotney gets it done

Ana Scotney (Ngāti Tāwhaki, Ngāi Tūhoe) has won multiple awards for her theatre work, has been the recipient of the Te Tumu Toi New Zealand Arts Foundation Springboard Award, and most recently has been a student at Jane Campion’s pop-up film school.

“It’s the unsexy back end of all of the admin that comes with all of the freelancing. It makes up the majority of the job – so communicating with venues, making budgets, making applications or like writing proof of concepts for applications for stuff, sending invoices …

It’s never one specific thing, but it’s the conglomeration of the admin mind needing to be on, as well as the creative mind. There’s the expectation on one’s self and to deliver to everyone that all cylinders will be consistently charged and ready to fire.”

Photo: Virginia Woods-Jack

“Even though there are certainly moments where the stress of needing to output in all of these different facets is like literally performance, literally to be expected to show up and deliver like an athlete, sometimes I clock a feeling of agency, and a feeling of freedom that I really cherish …

All that stuff gets overwhelming at times, but I just think there is something that is so heartening for me about knowing, “Yeah but actually Ana, this is towards you being able to do what you love”, which is, as twee as it sounds, telling stories and making people reflect on stuff that is experienced.”

Read the full story here.

Keep going!