Emanuella de Ruiter
24 May 2019
Emanuella is a documentary photographer and writer based in Ōtautahi Christchurch. She enjoys writing about people and their unique life experiences — especially when those experiences involve the arts!
Last year Soar Print advertised on The Big Idea, seeking a part-time Marketing Assistant to join their Arts division. Bobbie Gray got the gig and has been working there two days a week since December. She tells me she was delighted to join the third-generation family business, especially because Soar is a conscious carbon zero company. Their efforts have earned them the strongest sustainability credentials of any New Zealand printing company.
Bobbie has had a very eclectic career, all of which gives her a unique breadth of experience that helps her excel within her new role. She has worked in a number of administrative roles, as well as freight forwarding, shipping, and sales before moving on to signwriting. Then in her late 20s, Bobbie went on her OE and worked on superyachts for a couple of years. It was upon returning to New Zealand that she realised she wanted to go after a career in the arts and finally pursue her passions: “I decided I didn't want to go back to what I was doing before my OE, so I applied to study at Whitecliffe College of Art and Design and did a four year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree which was the best decision I ever made — I loved every minute.”
Since graduating in 2017, she has been working as an artist’s assistant to Sara Hughes a few days a week. “Some days I run errands for Sara, other days I spend my time painting, or packaging artwork – it all depends on Sara’s current project.” As a successful full-time artist, and mum, Sara has been a great inspiration to Bobbie. “There was an article about her in Canvas recently and reading that gave me an enormous amount of respect for how much she had going on in the background that I didn't even know about... there are busy people and then there are people like Sara who are just incredible.”
Typical for the life of a creative, Bobbie has lots of bits and pieces on the go. She founded an artist-run gallery from her garage on Ponsonby Road called Comet Project Space; a dynamic gallery that encourages artists to meet, collaborate and come up with innovative ideas.
She is also a practising artist herself, working predominantly with video, and has some exciting things in the pipeline. “I have my first NZ based show since University coming up with the Auckland Festival of Photography this June at Studio One, called Digital Gardens. It is about our connection to nature, which is what a lot of my practice explores. I've shown that work, in particular, a couple of times overseas; it was recently projected onto the side of a cathedral in Coventry UK, and is currently showing in the Medina of Tunis, which is a World Heritage UNESCO site. I also recently had a work shown in Shiraz which has since moved on to Isfahan, Iran through Pirsook Artspace".” Furthermore, she was until recently working as an afterschool art tutor for Creative Matters – reluctantly stopping so she could take up a larger role at Soar.
Bobbie’s new role as marketing assistant is an amalgamation of all the skills she has gathered throughout her career. She tells me the printing environment is actually quite similar to what she had experienced while signwriting and the gig is highly creative. “I do a bit of social media and website content for Soar, but currently my job is revolving around Soar’s Off The Press publication, which is a new initiative that promotes art publications. I deal a lot with art galleries, artists, and anyone who is creating art publications. I’m working alongside my peers, it's really cool to be working in the art realm and to connect with so many creative people.”
Bobbie says it is important to back yourself when trying to make it in the creative industries.: “I nearly didn't apply for this job to start with, thinking I might not get it, but I talked myself into it and I’ve realised that I have so much to learn here. It's such an exciting role and I'm so glad I applied for it. What's the worst that could have happened? I might not have got it and nothing would have changed. It is important to build up your confidence and just go for things while having a belief that you can do it well. I've had a few young creatives, who are super talented, come to me and say, ‘I might get bored or tired of art if it is my job...’ I don't think that's the case at all, if you're a creative person then the more you are using your creativity, the more it stimulates your own practice.”
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