I have had many roles at The Learning Connexion, my first role was as a distance delivery mentor.
Last weekend, I found myself in Gisborne. I paid a visit to TLC Graduate Todd Sheridan, who was a former student of mine from 2009.
I spent the day in his studio chatting to him about art, local history and had a healthy lunch with his whānau. I was impressed by his sunny light studio and the body of work he has been producing since graduating.
I left Gisborne with one of his blackwood glass Tiki. It is always a good buzz to reconnect with a former student and see where life has taken them after their studies.
Tell me about your former studies with the Learning Connexion.
I first heard about TLC (The Learning Connexion) in 2008 through my partner, Jo Tito, who had completed the Diploma and suggested this might be a programme I'd be interested in. Initially I had applied to skip the Certificate programme and move straight onto the Diploma programme. My idea of where I was with my art was obviously way out of kilter with where it needed to be, and after receiving a letter stating I'd have to do the Certificate programme, putting pride aside, I enrolled. I'd have to say it was the best decision I'd made in regards to my art practice (other than actually making the decision to be a professional artist)!
What were some of the highlights of your studies?
The Certificate programme brought me back the joy I’d had of art when I was younger. Drawing, painting, printmaking, collage and sculpting provided me with an injection of enthusiasm and excitement that continues to this day. Being a daytime student would've been preferable, but the way the programme is tailored around you and your other commitments suited my situation perfectly.
On completion of the Certificate programme I continued the following year to the Diploma programme, focusing on sculpture and printmaking, which are still a major component of my art practice today. I found the mentoring support TLC provided extremely important and remember looking forward to when my student folders were returned with invaluable insights from my mentor. In fact, I still refer to many of their comments and look back at some of my student work, when stuck for ideas, to remind myself of the range of techniques and activities we had covered.
Providing and selling my artwork at a couple of exhibitions has been invaluable, but being able to call my mentor strengthened the student/mentor relationship which is so important to distance learning students like myself.
What were some of the challenges around your studies?
As a carving student the most challenging decision for me was which programme I would continue with the following year. I decided to carry on with carving, as it was based locally, and I was able to transfer what I'd learnt with TLC easily into the customary practice of carving.
LIVING IN GISBORNE
How is the art scene in Gisborne?
Like most regions Gisborne certainly has it's fair share of creative people. The most frequented exhibition spaces for local artists to show their work is in The PaulNache Gallery, Tairawhiti Museum and Tirohia Gallery, as well as in many of the local cafes. Recently there has been an air of excitement around the local art scene with popup art markets, performing art events and concerts such as the Rhythm & Vines music festival coming to town. With the sestercentennial (250th year) anniversary of Captain Cooks arrival in Gisborne coming up in 2019, there is a certainly a sense of “Positivity Bay” about town!
Tell me about your studio space.
Our studio came about through necessity as the dining room was becoming a bit unsafe to navigate. It was only after visiting my partners relative (who's a sculptor as well), and seeing his studio space, that I took action and within 6 months had my own up and running. Since then it's been a quagmire of materials, resources, tables, and up-cycled materials shifting and shaping every year. Sometimes I don't know how my partner Jo and I work together, but funnily enough when you widen your working area you also broaden your scope and vision. We have also transformed our son's room into a gallery to provide art works for the local art scene. This has been great for networking as well as sales.
Tell me about the theme’s and imagery that you are working with?
Who and what inspires you?
Most of the work I do, in some way, relates back to the land and the environment. By delving deeply into the work of traditional carvers and artists, I understand more about how they lived, what they thought, and the messages they left behind. It's about unravelling the history and past, which we often forget, but also looking at the resources available to them at the time.
What's intriguing for me is to imagine what they were thinking, given there were no 'books' recording their stories. Once I tap into that language, I'm able to use a similar process to produce the work that I do. The obvious difference between traditional carvers and myself is in the type of materials I use. I'm a glass convert and find this media amplifies my ideas in ways unimaginable. I always wait in anticipation when opening that kiln door after a casting.
How do you get your work out there?
My partner's been really supportive in marketing and getting my work out where it can be seen. Honestly I'm a bit slack in this area, so it's been wonderful learning from her. I have constructed my own webpage, utilised Flickr, and most of my online sales are from my Facebook page. Familiarity and expertise with social media is integral for any creative entrepreneur if they want to survive in this competitive market so that's an area I'm focusing on over the next 12 months.
I've also contributed to group art exhibitions and entered art awards. I’ve won two Taranaki Art awards for my work. Commissions play a big part in getting my work into arena's I might otherwise not have access to, and currently I'm working on a group exhibition with other Gisborne artists for the Te Urunga Toi pre-Christmas exhibition, and on a mixed media sculpture for the Harbourview Sculpture Trail, 2016.
If you’d like to enquire about studying at The Learning Connexion School of Art and Creativity, call us on 0800 278 769, or email us at email@example.com.