Danielle Burns has wanted to create art as long as she can remember. Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, she sidelined her passion for painting and took up marketing at university, eventually finding herself in a familiar rut.
“My creativity was stifled by a life of full-time work in order to have nice things and pay the bills. That lasted for a while until I knew things had to change.”
For Danielle, it was an essential change. “Creating for me is the same as eating. It has to be done to survive.”
In 2009 she sold everything she owned and bought a one-way ticket to New Zealand.
“My intention was to travel and redefine myself. New Zealand’s beauty and nature called me to the other side of the world. Little did I know, it would change my life and fulfil my intentions.”
While traveling in Northland she visited the Kauri Museum in Matakohe, and found her calling.
“I was blown away by the wood carvings and left filled with inspiration and my very own block of Kauri wood. All I had was a Swiss Army knife, so I whittled the block of wood into my first wood carving. It proved to be the most satisfying and relaxing form of art I had ever experienced. Carving sparked an undeniable passion!”
That led her to The Learning Connexion School of Creativity and Art, where she was able to channel her new passion. “I’ve mostly concentrated my time on sculpture, carving Oamaru stone, wood, ice carving, sand sculpture and bronze casting,” says Danielle.
She is now working her way towards an Advanced Diploma of Art and Creativity (level 7), having completed a New Zealand Diploma in Creativity (level 5 and 6).
Danielle is enjoying the challenges of carving Oamaru stone. “When I first started carving Oamaru stone, I didn't think it was possible to create fine and intricate sculptures because it would break too easily. However, I’ve found that it is possible and once the sculpture is balanced, it can be fine in form, fragile and also stable.”
In May she was announced as a finalist for the Richard T Nelson Award for Sculpture at the New Zealand Art Show, a thrill for Danielle. “I never imagined one of my sculptures would sit amongst the work of some of New Zealand's best sculptors!”
Danielle’s creativity journey has enriched other parts of her new life in Aotearoa too. For over a decade she’s volunteered for the Sanctuary Sounds Music Festival in Central Hawkes Bay, as a prop maker and organiser.
“The people that created the festival became my New Zealand whanau,” she says. “Being a part of this collaborative experience has provided me the time and space to explore creating in ways I would not usually do. I have to be very resourceful and use whatever found materials I can get my hands on. I also bring other artists on board to collaborate and combine our skills to create the biggest, baddest props we can think of!”
Danielle says the best thing about studying at TLC is interacting with a wide range of artists from every discipline and skill level, and has advice for prospective students.
“I highly recommend fully immersing yourself in the culture of the school. Reach out and talk to the tutors and higher level students. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience for you to draw from.”