"Pearls are at the heart of an oyster"
When I was invited to be part of the collaborative exhibition and retail experience as part of the launch of Oyster + Moon - an online and collaborative realm where creatives of Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa (Pacific ocean) share their cultures, stories, works and wears to the world - I jumped at the opportunity.
As an alumni member of Oyster Workshop - having completed one of their partnership programmes looking at export into Latin America markets - I had the privilege of being invited to join their Oyster + Moon initiative. As part of the launch of Oyster + Moon we had the option of creating pieces to be exhibited and/or providing products to be sold in the retail space at Depot Artspace in Devonport Auckland. I've always had a dream to have my design work displayed and part of an exhibition so this presented the opportunity for this to happen and to do this within the safety and support of the Oyster Workshop whānau.
An unexpected but welcome add on in preparing for this exhibition, retail experience and launch was being asked to create a commissioned piece for Oyster + Moon - one of four Oyster Workshop/Oyster + Moon artists and designers to do so. The brief for the commissioned piece was succinct, "to create a sphere that represents Oyster + Moon" - the world was literally my oyster to conceptualise and design a response to this. After consultation about the direction of the piece the size of the sphere was settled at a 750mm round - the largest size I've designed to date!
If there's one thing I've refined since launching MISS MAIA four years ago, it's designing and creating at a small scale which is very different to designing and creating at a large scale and for exhibition display. I absolutely loved the design challenge that this posed and got to work responding to the brief and the story for which the design would represent.
The Whānau of Light
The design represents the whakapapa (genealogy) of light and the beauty in creation. The central diamond koru depicts the union between Tangotango (darkness of night) and Wainui (the ocean) with the four outer quadrants representing their offspring; tama-nui-te-ra (sun), marama (moon), whetū (stars), hinātore (phosphorescent light). The whānau of light provides lessons and helps us to make sense of our own journey of self-actualisation, illumination and collaboration.
Once the story was finalised and linkages made, I started working on ways to represent this visually and thinking through how the sphere would be constructed. I'm a lover of acrylic and laser cutting so staying in my lane as far as my design process and use of contemporary materials was very important. I started to consider new ways of construction at scale and decided to take the design and repeat this by making two rounds which slotted into each other, meaning the design could be viewed at 360 degrees, by quarters, halves or as a whole. Thought was given to etched and cut areas of the design to compliment and attract attention.
Using my visualisation skills and some crude mockups, I knew I wanted the piece to be suspended and for the colour to pop within the exhibition space. Orange translucent acrylic has always been a favourite material and colour to design with but it made absolute sense when considering the narrative of this design, the placement and the scale, that I would use this colour/material for the commission piece. I'm aware and have observed that others are drawn to this particular colour and acrylic - so the only thing left to do was laser cut and etch (and cross my toes and fingers that my design decisions would maintain function and design integrity once hung).
This project provided a new opportunity to work with local NZ suppliers for materials and laser cutting services because of the time constraints. Did I mention that we had roughly 6 weeks to complete our pieces for the exhibition, the retail shop, as well as this commission piece? An absolute bonus of deciding to be part of this opportunity is now having built local business relationships to create more of this kind of work at scale, when, and should, the opportunity arise.
I've always wanted to create and construct wall art rounds for home or office interiors so to compliment the larger commission piece, a smaller round (292mm) was constructed. This round was made up of different acrylics, composed together visually to acknowledge the many layers of whakapapa (genealogy) and the narrative of the design.
The final contribution for the Oyster + Moon launch and exhibition was the option to include our MISS MAIA products in the retail space for sale during the four week exhibition. Bespoke pieces were included for sale which highlighted specific parts of the overall design. These were made into earrings, some with handmade hooks to complement the designs. We also debuted our first MISS MAIA necklaces and these accessories were all true to our bold, high fashion and culturally considered style.
If you're interested in owning some of these bespoke MISS MAIA accessories, you can purchase these online through www.oyster-moon.com website. These accessories are exclusive to Oyster + Moon and only available to view and purchase through their website. You'll find the stories and offerings of so many other amazing Pacific and Māori creatives here too, so it's worth a look and shop.
To finish with, if you managed to see the Whānau of Light in person I'd love to know what you thought. And if you're looking to engage us for your own bespoke/commission piece(s), please reach out to us by emailing me (Tracey) at: email@example.com - I'd absolutely love to work with you to create something unique, memorable and impressive for your own spaces.
Images captured by Depot Artspace and Tracey Gardner