Serra is a Social Worker by qualification and teaches in the Psych Med dept running an education team. She travels the country talking about baby loss, postnatal distress and perinatal health, as a lived experience educator.
We chatted with Serra about her time at the Learning Connexion.
Kia ora Serra. Can you tell us why you enrolled at the Learning Connexion.
I had always enjoyed doing art, and used to work in a mental health creative space as a social worker and I had clients who came to TLC.
After I had my first daughter I couldn’t focus on work or study so decided to go and do something for myself, as I was isolated at home with a baby and no confidence. I was talked into coming here by other students and I enrolled part-time in Level 4 as a distance student initially as I was too shy, and then discovered the Jewellery dept during a Block week course so I applied for a scholarship to study Level 5.
Studying at TLC has given me back a lot of what I lost during my post-partum distress after the birth of my first daughter and the grief I experienced when I lost my second baby. It helped regain my confidence, and provided a focus and creative outlet for me outside of home.
I was halfway through my Masters in Social Work, but put it on hold during pregnancy and transferred it to another university. I needed to be doing something outside of home but I didn't want to go back to academia.
My husband was really supportive and encouraging of my study so I continued into Level 6 part-time in 2022, studying onsite.
It sounds like creativity has helped you through grief and lifechanging events. Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
I enjoy hiking and get my inspiration from the natural world, the sky, from what I see around me, and from my journeys with my children and honouring them.
At TLC I enjoy the focus on creating rather than academia, and the freedom to choose our own style and direction rather than being told what to create, and being around other artists. I have enjoyed the variety of tutors I have had in my years, and the flexibility to fit my creativity in with life.
Do you have a project you are currently working on?
I have been working on some large enamel pieces representing my children. As a class we created a themed body of work for a potential exhibition, with a nature theme. I enjoy the colours I use with enamelling, and working with bright colours. I’m not a painter but enamelling is like painting with jewellery.
Growing up as the daughter of a photographer, I have spent the last two years taking opportunities to travel and photograph the night sky.
With photography I am able to go on adventures with other photographers and learn from them.
The last two jewellery pieces I finished are modular so I can mix and match them. Fire has also beena big influence in my work and now in my photography with fire shoots.
I’ve been doing fire dance for nearly six years, after I had my first daughter around the same time I started at TLC, and recently I joined a Wellington night shooters photography page where we go to the Bunkers to photograph and also do fire dance performances at Frank Kitts park.
What advice would you give people starting out at The Learning Connexion and wanting to pursue a creative pathway?
Explore everything that is on offer at TLC, try everything!
I wasn’t interested in creating with jewellery initially. I thought I would do 2D and ceramics, then took a jewellery Block week class and found that jewellery was all I wanted to do. Photography has always been there on the sidelines. Have an open mind about everything. I would never have put myself with the Mentors I have but it’s worked out and their creative advice has been invaluable.
TLC has given me a good outlet and given me back things I have lost. It changed my direction.
What are your creative ambitions? Where would you like to be in 5 years?
I would like to still be learning, and to keep using creativity as a way of maintaining my wellbeing. I am not looking for a career out of it, and prefer to keep it separate from my job life. I would like to be creating jewellery that is meaningful for other people around loss and grief. I enjoy creating memorial jewellery for other people, to enable them to carry ashes in their jewellery.
To follow Serra's creative journey visit her Instagram.