Mentee Interviews 2011-2015

To commemorate 12 years of the Artist Alliance Mentoring Program, we’ve interviewed a selection of past mentees to see how these mentorships have helped influence and shape the careers of various artists.

Interview with Steph O’Neale, a 2011 mentee working with Lyn Dallison

 What did you work on with your mentor?
There wasn’t a specific project as such that I worked on with my mentor. I did have an exhibition around the time of my mentorship and she definitely helped me along the way with that, but the mentorship was based more around my practice in general, what my dreams and goals were, what I wanted to be doing in the future, why was I doing what I was doing! It became very practical – she said I had great work, but I needed to stop planning, and just start doing. Start selling, get myself out there, stop over-analysing everything and waiting for it to become ‘perfect’ before releasing it in to the world. So with that advice, not long after the mentorship timeframe ended I quit my full-time job and started a business!

What other opportunities arose from this mentorship?
The confidence my mentor gave me meant I was able to look at future opportunities with excitement rather than fear. As I started doing markets I was approached for wholesale, and with that came a whole raft of new experiences and obstacles to manage.

Would you recommend this mentorship programme or have any advice for future mentees?
I highly recommend the mentorship. I don’t think I would be creating jewellery to this day if I hadn’t had that boost in the first few years after leaving uni. In my experience, the number of jewellers who continue making after uni to the number of jewellers who graduated is tiny. Which is sad. My mentor gave me the confidence to believe in what I was doing, and just having someone genuinely interested in what you are doing after you leave the safety and comfort of uni was really valuable. It’s so easy to fall off the bandwagon, to isolate yourself, to get disheartened and just leave it all in the past…but here I am, 7 years after graduating and still creating handmade jewellery on a regular basis. I think a lot of that is to do with the early investment from my mentor.

My advice to future mentees would be: Don’t go in with an agenda. Be open to all directions of conversation. Bring ALL your questions, no matter how silly they feel. Discuss how your practice fits in with ALL aspects of your life. Have lots of discussions.

What are you currently working on?
I am currently building two jewellery businesses. I had zero business knowledge or experience before launching my first business almost four years ago. So these last few years have been my ‘study’ in finding out what works, where I sit, how do I keep doing what I am passionate about without getting sucked in to just making ‘things’ to make money so I can one day rely on this as a sole source of income? etc. It’s been (and still is) a huge learning curve! Though if I hadn’t just jumped in and started, I’d probably still be planning my ‘perfect business model’.

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You can find Steph’s work at https://www.gracie.nz

 

Interview with Emil McAvoy, a 2014 mentee working with Peter Madden

What did you work on with your mentor?
I worked on three major projects in 2014 while being mentored by artist Peter Madden. These were Reflections on Lily PondPRISMISM, and Contact Prints. Reflections on Lily Pond was an exhibition of photographs from my mother’s personal archive which explored her dementia, photography and memory. PRISMISM was my first solo show of abstract geometric paintings, alongside other works at Enjoy Gallery in Wellington, which investigated the issue of mass surveillance. Contact Prints originated as a finalist in the National Contemporary Art Awards that year and comprised a suite of photographs, video, and text. The playfully critical work manifested as an imagined project proposal inviting extraterrestrials to make Hamilton, New Zealand the site of first contact.

What other opportunities arose from this mentorship?
Each of these projects developed into other public iterations, which has been rewarding. A selection of my mother’s photographs reappeared in the group exhibition This is the Cup of Your Heart, curated by Alice Tappenden at the Dowse Museum, Lower Hutt in 2016. PRISMISM was well received and I’ve been invited to speak on the project on a number of occasions, such as the Rebooting Futurism Symposium at Victoria University of Wellington in 2015. Contact Prints evolved into a project entitled New Hamilton, included in the group exhibition this might be the place at Ilam Gallery, Christchurch this year.

Peter was also helpful in introducing me to his gallerist Ivan Anthony and some of the other artists in Ivan’s stable. Though I’d met Ivan and a number of these artists before, it was an opportunity to spend more time chatting with them, particularly as a group.

In addition, I think the learning I gained from the mentorship, alongside my other art making and teaching experience, contributed to me being offered a position as a mentor on the programme this year.

Would you recommend this mentorship programme or have any advice for future mentees?
Absolutely, it is an important programme and a rewarding experience. My advice to mentees would be to make the most of the time available, as this opportunity supports the challenging space after graduating from a tertiary arts education to help prepare artists for careers in the wider industries.

What are you currently working on?
There is too much to mention here to be honest! I like to have a number of projects on the go. In brief, much of my current focus is occupied by arts writing and criticism, with a number of essays and reviews due for release in the coming weeks. I also have several 2018 exhibition projects in development and a couple of books scheduled for the longer term. Definitely enough to keep me busy!

You can find Emil’s work at http://emilmcavoy.com

 

Interview with Michelle Beattie, a 2015 mentee working with Glen Hayward

What did you work on with your mentor?
I learned how to overcome anxiety around writing about my practice and my making, and how to write in a more authentic manner.

What other opportunities arose from this mentorship?
I can’t recall any specific opportunities.

Would you recommend this mentorship programme or have any advice for future mentees?
Yes, without a doubt. It is excellent to have someone to talk to, who can offer insights through their experiences.

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently making functional textiles, which is a bit of a branch away from my past. I’m really enjoying it. I am also currently working on a tiny house drawing commission.

You can find Michelle’s work at http://www.michellebeattie.net

 

Interview with Lea Schlatter, a 2015 mentee working with Jeremy Leatinu’u

What did you work on with your mentor?
The mentorship programme grew my confidence in my art making and research abilities. I had the most incredible mentor who guided me through my post graduation year, which can be a difficult space to navigate. I could not have been happier, having been paired with artist Jeremy Leatinu’u, whose practice incorporates performance, video, and public intervention. Also having a social practice I learned so much from our regular conversations. We exchanged stories, ideas, and visited galleries, which really helped to stay in touch with an important network. As a result of this mentorship I developed my portfolio hugely. I organised a group show at my own home, a typical student flat/villa in Mt Eden. This show entitled And & per se and included Jeremy and several other local artists. We wanted to see how the reading of a work would change in a home setting and how the food we shared, the warmth and casual atmosphere would encourage the audience to be active viewers of participating works.

What other opportunities arose from this mentorship?
I had the privilege of meeting the team behind Whau The People, whose passion and warmth bring the Avondale community together. Working with these guys during the Whau festival was a great experience, which showed me how a sense of community and belonging could be created by exploring the relationship between art and public life.

Would you recommend this mentorship programme or have any advice for future mentees?
Absolutely, aside from developing my practice in so many aspects and having support while carrying out projects and exhibitions, I was able to spend time with and learn from a prestigious NZ artist who understood my interests in art and public culture.

What are you currently working on?
I have just come back from Switzerland where I explored the relationship between community and nature through various interactions with potters and locals on the banks of the river Rhein. This is an ongoing study that I am continuing here in New Zealand. I have begun a new magazine called Falte. We have editors in New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland to give insight into interactions with incredible artists and communities across the world. The magazine aims to be a timeless series of limited edition artworks that you can hang on your wall or store away and treasure.

You can find Lea’s work at https://www.leaschlatter.com

Interviews conducted by Cadence Seeger, the 2017 Artists Alliance intern from Boston, USA. Cadence is a third-year student at Boston University and is currently in Auckland studying Art History at the University of Auckland.