Your browser is outdated!

We recommend you update your browser in order to fully experience this website.

How about trying one of these instead:

Google Chrome


W&H x WCAG Partnership

We were delighted to feature Wanda Gillespie, Artist in Residence at the Waiheke Community Art Gallery in the photoshoot for our Walker & Hall & The Arts campaign. This campaign is a celebration of the skill, commitment and passion of some of our partners in the community.

We spoke with Wanda and Fiona Blanchard, the Director of the Waiheke Community Art Gallery about art and the community, Waiheke's reputation as an 'art island' and WCAG's alignment with Walker & Hall.

Waiheke Community Art Gallery

Tell us a bit about yourself and when you first started your artistic journey, and how it makes you feel.

Wanda - I know it's cliché but I'm with Picasso, I think every child is an artist, the trouble is remaining one as you grow older. With that in mind to pinpoint when my artistic journey began would be hard. I enjoyed painting and drawing as a child and had ideas about being a costume designer. As a teenager I became very keen on photography. I set up a darkroom under my parents' house. From the age of 13, when I first heard about art school, I was fairly sure that's where I wanted to go. I went straight to Elam from high school and studied Intermedia arts but began working with more objects in installation towards the end of my degree. I moved to Melbourne and began exhibiting my work, mostly large format photography and sculpture. I was lucky to be selected for the National Sculpture Prize at the National Gallery early on. in 2007, I was awarded an Asialink residency to Indonesia, and from there my sculpture and woodcarving focus began.

The creative process is extremely rewarding. From having a concept through to the completed object, there is a kind of magic. Of course, it never turns out how you envisage it and it would be pretty boring if it did. Sculpture requires a lot of problem solving which keeps things interesting. It certainly makes me feel alive with my synapses tingling. There are aspects that are more of a slog or plain boring, like sanding, however I usually put on a podcast for those moments or work them around as breaks between more mentally exhausting parts. Overall art making feels like channeling from the collective consciousness, and I have a sense of meaning and purpose to the work.

At times I imagine, if time is non-linear, then every art work I could make has been made, and I'm working to reveal it again, if that makes sense.

What has been your story with the Waiheke Community Art Gallery? And what do you think sets them apart in your eyes?

Wanda - I first connected with the Waiheke Community Art Gallery in 2016 when I entered the Small Sculpture Prize and was awarded the runner up prize by the judge Zara Stanhope. At the opening, I met some locals who told me about the artist residency program, so I kept it in mind as I have always loved Waiheke and wanted to live here one day. When I saw the call for applications last year I though it was worth a try, and here we are.

I think what sets the Waiheke Community Art Gallery apart is that there is a tremendous amount of energy and generosity from the community who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about visual arts. The gallery exhibits some very interesting shows and the director, Fiona, has inspiring visions for the future of the gallery. It's a focal point, part of a community hub, for what is now known as an art island.

Waiheke Community Art Gallery

What would you want people to know about your craft? Or something people may not actually know...

Wanda - Woodcarving is like drawing or any other craft I guess, in that you can get out of practice and forget learnings if you aren't keeping it up consistently. It can be quite tiring work and muscles need stretching out at the end of day. In general, I often rough work out the shape with power tools, so it's very messy. On the residency I do this part of the work in a marquee. I wear a mask, goggles, ear protection, and am standing, so I'm usually not that glamourous. Otherwise, I'm using long handled chisels and a mallet. The chip carving is not my main form of carving although it makes a nice break from the more physical carving work. I see the chip carving as a decorative pattern work that links to sacred geometry. There aren't a huge number of women woodcarvers historically but my female idols from the past would be Marisol Escobar and Barbara Hepworth.

Waiheke Community Art Gallery

Why do you think art is crucial in the community? What does the support of the community mean to you?

Wanda - Art can be uplifting and teach us how to see the world differently. Artists notice things that others might not and lead viewers to see things anew. This engagement piques a part of our minds that keeps us enriched, stirring our souls. It can also be very healing and help process historical events. I see it often as a window into aspects of our collective psyche.

The support of the community is so wonderful. Art making is not easy. Sometimes I feel I’m wrestling with the material. The community here at Waiheke have been fantastic. I have had so many visitors on my open studio days and such interesting people from different backgrounds. Probably my favourite were the children from the Fossil Bay Steiner school across the road. They asked such good questions and were so curious about what I was doing. They sang a couple of lovely waiata at the end as a thank you. A couple of them came back with their parents to be photographed as reference models for my carving. 

What was your favourite piece you wore on set and why?

Wanda - My favourite piece was probably the smaller swirly ring. I liked the sculptural form. Jewellery and sculpture are very closely linked of course and there are many artists who work between both.

I don’t often wear jewellery for practical reasons, however I did enjoy wearing all the pieces. I liked the vintage theme and the bracelets felt very luxurious.

Wanda is wearing a selection of pieces from our Curated Collection in the photoshoot.

Waiheke Community Art Gallery

Waiheke Community Art Gallery

Tell us a bit about the Gallery and your involvement. 

Fiona - Waiheke Community Art Gallery is only thirty-five minutes from downtown Auckland by ferry! We are open 364days a year and feature a diverse exhibition programme from local and New Zealand artists for visitors from around the world. Waiheke is home to a lively community of artists, painters, sculptors, jewellers, ceramicists and more. There's always something new to be inspired by. I have been the Gallery Director for almost one yearand I’m excited about the potential to grow and develop our programme particularly through our national awards like the Walker & HallWaiheke Art Awardand events like Sculpture on the Gulf. With a vibrant community of artists and a longstanding tradition of arts activity Waiheke is well placed to establish itself as a creative destination. 

What do you find the most rewarding about being involved with the Gallery?

Fiona - I love seeing the role the Gallery plays to connect people through art. The Gallery is at the heart of the community and a must do experience when visiting the island. We play a critical role in fostering the island’s creative economy supporting artists to exhibit and sell work through our retail store and galleries. The Gallery also brings the best of contemporary art to the island working with artists from around Aotearoa and further afield.

Why do you think the Gallery's alignment with Walker & Hall is special?

Fiona - Walker&Hall have been supporting the Gallery for a number of yearsthrough contributions, promotion, andthe Walker&Hall Waiheke Art Award. This national award of $10,000attracts entries from throughout the country from a high calibre of artists.To be able to offer this award and exhibit these artists in conjunction with Walker & Hall,a long-standing, trusted New Zealand owned and operated business is a privilege.Our relationship with Walker & Hall demonstrates the immense value long-term partnerships have for the Gallery. 

What are you most excited for in this partnership?

Fiona - Walker&Hall are very open to opportunities and collaborations on the island. They are committed to our kaupapa/purpose to "Connect people through art to the essence of Waiheke" We're really excited by what we can achieve by working together to foster and promote Waiheke as a creative island. 

Waiheke Community Art Gallery

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This item is available by Special Order. Please enquire for pricing and ordering details.