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Our Creative Spaces: Exploring the Open Studios of MAST2024

The Mahurangi Artist Studio Trail MAST2024 promises a unique and intimate glimpse into the creative sanctuaries where art comes to life. From converted barns to purpose-built studios, each artist's space tells a story of inspiration, dedication, and the pursuit of artistic expression.

Glenda Hopkin at Venue 19 cherishes her dedicated space, where white walls become canvases for inspiration. The connection between her studio and the Mahurangi inlet creates an immersive experience for visitors, inviting them to share in her artistic perspective.  “I don’t take my space for granted; I know I’m incredibly blessed to have dedicated space I can call mine. I love the white walls and floor, speckled with paint and dye, the light from the clear light roof bounces off the hues in a current piece I’m working on. This is my favourite spot where I can see the Mahurangi inlet through the garden and house."

Alexis Waterhouse of Kaipara Wild Studios, Venue 4, shares her experience of transforming a corner of her barn into a haven for her clay creations. “It’s wonderful sitting at the wheel with the big barn doors open and the sun streaming in when I work.” She finds solace in the communal spirit fostered during weekly meetings at her studio with fellow artists.  Alexis reflects, “Working weekly with good friends and like-minded people has been a real gift to me lately.  Each week someone brings a new idea to work on and together we spur each other on to new efforts creatively.  This is the wonderful thing about art and creativity – you don’t have to do it alone!”

Caroline Bell is exhibiting at Venue 10, Trail Central in the Warkworth Town Hall during the Art Trail however, she said of her home studio, “My studio space is a converted garden shed by a duck pond in my garden. I enjoy the peace and quiet to create in with only my pottery wheel turning round. I have 2 tables one for clay where I construct my sculptures and one for my encaustic painting.  Outside I have a pit which I use for pit firing vessels and a large gas kiln for raku these can get very messy and smoky which I love. I’m glad I don’t have any close neighbours.”  Her studio’s tranquil ambiance stands in contrast to the dynamic processes that unfold within.


From Australia’s fully equipped art rooms to a converted double garage in Cowan’s Bay, New Zealand, Philippa Stichbury at Venue 3 describes her artistic journey, “While living in Australia I had the luxury of a fully equipped art room at the school where I taught art. Everything was to hand, but it was not always practicable to work on my own projects there. I had also converted the living space of our townhouse into an at-home studio- somewhere I could create my WOW garments and sew and paint. Also, not entirely practicable! Returning home to New Zealand to our online-purchased farm, we were excited at the thought of building a purpose-built studio on a flat piece of land in the paddock next to our new home. This however, proved to be a costly exercise, even if we built it ourselves. In a state of gloom, my husband then came up with the bright idea of converting the double garage into a studio, which once we had thought it through, became the obvious solution. It required decluttering and clearing out the previous owner’s tools and junk as well as some of our own, removing the roller doors and replacing them with French doors and windows, lining the walls with plywood, cleaning and painting the filthy floors and fitting it out with a bench, sink, worktables, cupboards, and workbenches- mainly repurposed items! The adjacent stables were changed into a garage and workspace for all the tools, machines, and the car. After about six months our ‘new’ studio was finished- complete with a room at the back for my husband’s train layout. The studio is spacious and airy. There is great storage and wall space, it is easy to clean and maintain and we are truly thrilled with the result. I can have multiple projects on the go at once and can walk out and leave everything out to come back at any time to carry on. I enjoy being able to work alone, with friends or run classes there and now I have a house which is not filled with art gear and art mess,” she reminisces.


Joy Zaloum at Venue #8 ingeniously incorporates a purpose-built space for pottery in her home, highlighting the convenience of internal access. The thoughtfully designed studio enhances her creative process, offering a sanctuary for clay-inspired masterpieces, “When we built our place, we decided to incorporate a purpose-built space for the pottery. Attached to the garage with internal access to the house it makes it easy to pop out and be creative any time a few minutes or hours are available. Everything I need is within easy reach with the kiln handily placed for loading and unloading. It's a space I really enjoy spending time in and creating in clay.”  

Hazel Hunt at Venue 22 celebrates the expansive canvas of her converted barn, enabling her to create larger-scale paintings. The studio, nestled in the heart of nature, becomes a cocoon for artistic exploration and expression, “because I paint larger scale paintings, having a great space to expand is important to me.”

Blair Fraser at Venue 14 finds joy in his new studio, a bright and creative space where he can immerse himself in his work. Blair shares, "I am loving my new studio which had the finishing touches complete late last year. It's a great creative space where I can shut the door, put on the aircon/heating, turn on my old 80s records and work. It's a bright space and I feel happy when I'm there, all my work is on the display shelves, my pugs are at my feet and some days a gin in my hand.”  Blair’s sister Sonia Fraser who paints seascapes and landscapes will also be exhibiting with him during the Art Trail at Venue 14.

 Pauline Gough at Venue 20 reflects on her artistic evolution, from humble beginnings at a dining table to the luxury of a purpose-built studio. The spaciousness allows her to explore larger canvases, emphasizing the profound impact of the right environment on artistic growth.  “When I started painting, I began at the dining table and, after some time, progressed to a small room at the side of our garage. This was fantastic! I had my own lock and leave painting space a hop, skip and a jump from our house. Some years later, we sold this property and bought at 161 Sharp Rd where we demolished the original dilapidated house and built new, along with a purpose-built studio/gallery. Pure luxury. And I don’t take it for granted after the preceding years of painting in small spaces. This larger space has allowed me to paint bigger which has been great - challenging to begin with but now I enjoy painting small, medium, and large. I am also lucky to have a sink with running water close by which I couldn’t do without as I’m constantly washing my brushes and changing my water.”   

Sally Thrush (Venue 16) treasures her small studio, where a table top etching press becomes the heart of her printmaking endeavours. “Studio space is my happy space where I can create, paint, print and make marks.  I have a small, treasured table top etching press which gets good use printing collagraphs, dry points and any other type of printmaking that needs a press.  Studio space can also be shared by my three grandsons who use it as a ‘play space’ or sometimes they make their own art,” she shares.

Julia Fraser (Venue 13) ingeniously repurposes her boarding cattery into an art studio. “When I closed my boarding cattery, I was left with a large space so what better than to turn it into an art studio. The lighting is great as there isn't a ceiling and there are some laser light panels in the roof, this also means that it is warm in the winter but can be kept cool in the summer with ample door and window space,” she reveals.

Larraine Buswell (Venue 18) challenges the conventional studio, utilizing her entire house for painting. "I haven't actually got a ‘studio’ so to speak," she says. "I have all my painting needs scattered from office to garage to front covered deck (which makes for a lot of good exercise when I need more materials).  I tend to gravitate towards the front deck to do my actual painting though, when weather doesn't permit, I cover our dining room table with plastic and set up there. So, you could call me a nomad painter in my own house. For the Art Trail I may set up on the covered deck which is really my happy place for painting.”

Karena de Pont at Venue #2 reveals the dynamic nature of her studio spaces. “This past year because I have been working on some large-scale works, I have gravitated towards the ‘outdoor’ room as my studio workshop and it’s where I exhibit my works during the Art Trail.  My usual studio space is a much smaller space downstairs where it looks like I have raided the Gordon & Harris art supply stockroom! The ‘outdoor’ room is light-filled, and I can open the ‘boot’ up which is a big glass tilt door which comes in handy for ventilation when I start burning the cedar boards for my Burnt Offerings series.  The table tennis which usually is set-up in the outdoor room has come in particularly handy recently as I have been painting my bamboo ‘earth sticks’.  It’s a much easier space to work in when you are working on large or awkward shapes, but my ‘Art Assistant’ (i.e. long-suffering husband) reminds me that this studio space is only temporary and once the Art Trail is over, I will return back to my downstairs studio space where paint splattered floors are not an issue,” she explains.  

Embark on this immersive experience during the Mahurangi Artist Studio Trial MAST2024, where the artists’ stories come to life in the very spaces that fuel their creative spirits.  Each studio, with its unique narrative, beckons visitors to explore, engage, and be inspired by the artistic magic within its walls.

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