Opening night at the Warkworth Town Hall was a great start to the 2023 Mahurangi Artist Studio Trail (MAST23) for both artists and visitors alike. The Network would like to thank Murray Chapman from One Mahurangi Business Association who officially opened the event for us. It was a great opportunity to mix and mingle, to see such a variety of work and art practices. Never have we, as a Network, held a group show and having the space at the Warkworth Town Hall for the duration of the Trail meant that we were able to have nine artists establish their own ‘studio showcase’ in the Town Hall along with the Members Showcase group show that highlighted work from Network artists with open studios throughout Mahurangi. Thank you very much to all those who bought the special pieces donated by Network artists made specifically for the Trail. All the proceeds from these sales went directly to the Network which raised over $900 which is very much appreciated.
Warkworth artist, Ian Anderson set up his easel and just started to draw and engage with all those who watched his progress throughout the evening during the MAST23 Opening Night at the Warkworth Town Hall
This year there were 32 artists participating in the Trail throughout Mahurangi, 7 of whom for the first time like Sally Thrush, who really enjoyed participating in the Trail. She found that people who came were really interesting folk and she got really good feedback for her work and her studio, “I just really enjoyed the whole experience and made some good contacts”. Larraine Buswell also opened her home studio for the first time and was surprised by how many visitors came over the weekends to see her work and to see where she painted her creations and hear about what inspired her. Exhibiting also for the first time along with Amanda Morton at Talia Russell’s studio in Mahurangi West, Ann Cook loved taking part in the Trail, even with helping to put out bunting and the signs along the road. Despite it being nerve racking showing your work for the first time she was greatly encouraged by the feedback she received.
Being on the main road for Rosemary Rowe, can have its drawbacks when it comes to traffic snarl-ups anywhere near Warkworth road junctions at the moment, but Rosemary found that she was especially busy on Saturdays with lots of visitors to talk with about her art and some also took advantage of following her husband through the adjoining museum that they have as well. Even though this is the fourth year that Rosemary has participated in the Art Trail, she was delighted to hear that some visitors had chosen her studio as one of their ‘must see’ studios and those who had come all the way from Auckland city to partake in the Art Trail reinforced that the Mahurangi Artist Studio Trail’s reputation is growing each year, especially with the free professionally produced Trail brochure. It’s a great way for art lovers to select what interests them and explore further. As Rosemary said, ‘the Art Trail is currently my only exposure, and I would be gutted if we stopped’.
This was the second time that Ceramic artist Maggie Matheson opened her studio on the Art Trail. “It’s quite nice to be yourself in your own studio space rather than always participating only in local exhibitions. To put your things out on display and just having people coming and looking at your work”.
Blair Fraser also a regular on the Art Trail continues to find that it is a great way to talk to people about your art practice and things you make, “it is great to meet people, to engage with them and show off what you have made. By inviting them into my working studio I could over a couple of days glaze a big piece of work”. People were amazed at how long it takes to glaze some work, not realizing that some of Blair’s pieces had over 6 layers of glaze.
During the Trail, a frequent question asked by visitors is where do artists get their ideas and inspiration from? Sandra Mather thinks that you surround yourself by the things you love and when you least expect it, ideas come to you inspired by these things. Karena de Pont would agree with this and also added that each work feeds into the following work and so your art practice and artwork keeps developing and evolving because of this too.
This year there were four Creative Workshops on offer for Trail visitors to participate in with funding from Creative NZ. Alysn Midgelow Marsden held four Creative Stitch Project sessions during the two weekends of the Trail. One participant said it was “so lovely to just sit and create”. From the many Instagram posts by Shelly Gray and Desiree Alexandre, the Creative Sculpture Project held at the Warkworth Town Hall throughout the Trail proved to be a ‘must do’ activity for both young and old alike. There were plenty of fantastic sculptures made from ‘scrap’ materials that were donated to be repurposed as artwork. Jo Farnell said “it was great to see so many excited by what they produced when they felt they were not ‘Arty’ at all” in Studio 22’s Creative Card-Making Sessions held over the 2 weekends of the Trail. This was highlighted when one man was very excited and pleasantly surprised by his Card-Making efforts and keen to show his adult children “who wouldn’t believe that their Dad had done it”. Some of the visitors to Sandra Mather’s Creative Clay Play workshop on the Mahurangi Arts Trail said how much fun they had while ‘playing with clay’. How they didn’t think about anything else except what they were making with clay. These workshops, once again proved that it is important to continue to offer opportunities for all to reconnect with their creative sides and we thank Creative NZ for their support in allowing us to provide these sessions as part of the annual Mahurangi Artist Studio Trail.
Finally, it was great that the Network was able to fit in the Trail in between significant weather events. Whilst some of the visitors numbers were down because of Cyclone Gabrielle, the Art Trail still proved for many artists whether they be established artists or emerging artists, to be a great way to engage with the art loving public and get exposure.