House Visits: Pieces of Passion

A love letter to a home filled with creative sparks - our feature series gives you a special insight into the creative minds of New Zealanders.

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The days of visiting galleries and exhibitions are temporarily on hold. The lost opportunity to get motivation from walking through new spaces and soaking in different works is a void The Big Idea wants to help fill. 

Our ‘House Visits’ series takes you into the homes and working spaces of people in the creative world, to see what they have collected on their travels, what it means to them and what they’re using as inspiration inside their own four walls.

Bex Brent - Wellington

I have never really thought of myself as a “role” I play within the NZ creative sector – but having this opportunity to reflect back, be locked in, stop and “look”... I can proudly say I have been a quiet force behind so much talent. My eye is unique, authentic and relentless – my superpower seems to be bringing out your best side if you work for me and championing the next-gen with modelling opportunities, image-making, wearing the clothes they design, hosting art events, listening to the music they make and offering them my network while mentoring them. Basically I like to spot talent and get to it first!

When you are a mid-forties woman who is defined by a purpose through work (for me, I “am” Willis York), the first week of lockdown was spent UNLEARNING this purpose, going offline and pretty much just sitting with myself. Initially, I was like...this is an experiment, imagine you are on TV, reach out to EVERYONE you know, we are all in the same boat.

I think lockdown happened on the Wednesday night ... by Saturday, I was crying uncontrollably at the responsibility I had, the fact that I had drunk all my alcohol and the actual fact that I won’t hug or kiss another human for a very long time. I have made peace with all of that and my solitude now. Thankfully, I relocated from a 5 bedroom huge house to a little 60sqm apartment in the city. It’s the coolest little place in an old factory with large windows and a balcony that houses my beloved pottery wheel.

Downsizing and curating your life is such an interesting exercise. As I look around me, I seek great comfort in the fact that everything surrounding me I will keep forever. My forever loves. I have endless inspiration in books and things I have collected throughout my life, from seashells to mementos from travels - each item sparks creativity when I least expect it or didn’t know I was looking for it at the time. It's an elusive, strange beast, the creative spark; all I know is this, you must pounce on it when it arrives. The wonderful thing is now in lockdown, I finally have the luxury of exploring what I am capable of.  

The Tour Begins 

I remember the day I found this piece. I was in an elevator in some random downtown building in Auckland city about 12 years ago. I looked down and in the corner was this mould of a crushed can. I picked it up and underneath was FREE ART and a beautifully handwritten serial number.

The idea was that you registered where you found the item and left if for someone else to find ... I wrote to the website and said that I was taking it to Wellington to keep. I was so inspired by the concept and whole heartily believe that this piece contributed to me opening the doors of the salon as a space for community and giving back by not charging young artists and designers to use it. FREE ART... I have kids that work for me and they have never been to a gallery before. How does this happen? 

Big and Bold

I had just bought the salon, it's 2008. I handpicked 3 fresh-faced models, a budding photographer and young stylist. Together we produced Willis York's first collection of hair images. They are hands down my favourite to date, I miss that naive, fearless curiosity that I had back then with creating. I had been watching a young German street artist called Moni at the time too, but I was always too late to buy any of her works at exhibitions so I approached her with the 12 images of our hair collection, gave her $700 and said choose your favourite image and paint it for the salon.

This piece inspires me because it was painted by a female, I adore the colours she chose. I love her interpretation and whom she chose to paint, I love the size of it - it's huge. I love that it reminds me of a time when life was filled with endless opportunities and just the sheer excitement of embarking on the unknown journey of owning a business for the first time. The world was my oyster. 

Let There Be Light

My darling friend Trish Campbell made the light work, she actually gifted me this piece and it has a personal message on the back of it. I have 3 of her lightboxes in the salon and they bring every single human who admires them endless joy. I have used her lightboxes as backdrops for my polaroid photos, for disco parties at home, and as installation pieces in the salon. They are very dear to my heart.

Collage Story

This eight-piece set of collage work by Jade Townsend. It's just magical, a story depicting a war between the woodland deer and the owls. I really need to hang it up on my wall – I am still new in my house and can't decide where to hang things! Jade is a very exciting artist and I am enjoying watching her career develop.

Bodyscapes

I have always wanted a landscape of Central Otago where I was born and raised. This is of Moke Lake near Queenstown from the controversial exhibition Bodyscapes by photographer Matt Queree and street artist Andrew J Steel. I loved the concept, and it was tastefully executed. I love being around this piece, it's almost like a window, and I am always reminded of home and marvel at how clever the idea is. Andrew also has a big mural on the back of Willis York so it will always remind me of the salon.   

Evolving Inspiration     

This shelf is where I put items that are currently inspiring me. I change or add to it constantly.

The most influential person in my life watches over it (the photograph of my grandfather as a young priest). The ceramic work is by a young artist Sophie Hathaway. I just LOVE her work so much, it inspired me to start making ceramics.

The glass is from a smashed bus shelter that was carted from Auckland to Wellington by a human who wants to build a wearable arts dress out of it. I grabbed a few pieces because I just adore the colour of it and how if you look through the glass it makes your sight shattered.

Everyone needs a kaleidoscope in their life, this one is hand made by a friend of mine, Jinx who is one of my special muses. She taught me to really look at every tiny detail in things like flowers.

The polaroid is by me, it is reminding me to keep reaching out and the feather was found while playing golf with my father in Wanaka last time I was home. Nature is probably the most influential thing in my life, the sky is a constant source of inspiration, I am very intuitive and organic with my approach to life I am so grateful that I grew up in the country.

I would say that I was at my most creative when I was alone down south, no internet, I had no idea what else was happening in the world, it was just me and my ideas. I am going to turn my phone off for days on end during this lockdown to see if I can shift my creative process again.

I am alone once again. 

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

14 Apr 2020

The Big Idea Editor

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