It seems only right that one of my first posts be about the person who got me here in the first place, so lets get this thing going with the gorgeous sparkly rainbow unicorn of a human who I am more than blessed to call my friend, Mandy Cherry Joass.
“Mandy Cherry Joass graduated from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts in 2015 with of a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in sculpture. While studying she won a number of prizes and scholarships. In her current practice she is using raranga (weaving) as a metaphor to explore themes relating to postcolonial identity.“http://taitapusculpturegarden.co.nz/mandy-cherry-joass
So that’s her professional description. Her business persona. What I’m sure is written on her CV. But actually, she is much, much more colorful, magical and exceptional than that. She is one of those rare humans who brings light and laughter with her everywhere she goes. Her creativity astounds me each and every time she shows me something new she has made, and it is simply not fair (in my green eyed opinion) that one person should be blessed with so many different artistic talents.
“As a descendant of the first European settlers and also of Ngapuhi Whakapapa I express my biculturalism through my work. The contrasts and tensions created by weaving together disparate materials represents the complex interweaving of cultures”.Mandy Cherry Joass, 2018
Given all of this, it is a given that she would be an inspiration to any budding young artist wannabe, but she is also a mentor, an encourager of other artists and a fierce cheerleader for everyone with the courage to follow their dreams. Everyone, it turns out, like me.
I met Mandy through her younger sister Karla. Karla is a very good friend I met in my previous life as a Mercedes Benz Service Advisor. Karla and I had an instant connection as friends and continued to work side by side for many years until my departure to another city. Being friends with Karla means you are part of her family, and thankfully for me, that family also includes Mandy.
“Maoritanga in the mid 20th Century was heavily suppressed and I wish to celebrate its consequent revival and thriving. My use of aluminium Venetian blinds from that era refers to the loss of community for Maori which occurred when Europeans arrived with their conventions of privacy.”Mandy Cherry Joass, 2018
When I was forced to stop working in September 2017 to focus on my mental health, Mandy basically hounded me to go hang out at her place during the week. She tried for weeks before I finally (reluctantly, I admit) agreed to go over for coffee. It turns out, Mandy makes great coffee. And snacks. She also has a beautiful home, overlooking Christchurch City, which is packed full of her own and other artists creations. Every wall, roof, floor, shelf, cupboard door and empty space is an opportunity to add colour and beauty to her life. There is no room for ‘Live, Love, Laugh‘ generic department store furnishings here.
Over the next year or so, that initial coffee catch up turned into weekly Wednesday ‘making‘ days, where Mandy carefully and creatively encouraged me to start making art again. Starting with the familiar painting and drawing, she then taught me how to make jewelry and how to needle felt, how to use polymer clay and make greeting cards. She always made sure I had the supplies I needed to keep me going. To make sure I didn’t stop making. Even when that meant giving me her own supplies under the pretense that she couldn’t, for whatever reason, use them herself anymore.
“Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the Unicorn, “if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 7
Mandy continues to be a massive part of my life today, and I’m sure I would owe her an obscene amount of money if I ever had to pay her for the knowledge she has shared, the advice she has given me and the opportunities she has let me be a part of in the five short years I have known her. Her support in getting back to art has been such a huge factor in managing my health and getting well again. I am forever grateful for this human, the art we have made, and the things we will create together in the future. Three cheers for Artists! Three cheers for Mandy!