The Mandarin Tree is now exhibiting the work of New Zealand artists in its new exhibition space, The Hive. Owner/artist/photographer Claudia Aalderink talks with Annette Taylor about the gallery, the first exhibition featuring her own work, and why she loves Aotearoa.
when did you come up with the idea to hold exhibitions?
Since starting the gallery I have had many ideas floating around in my mind. But as we all know time is precious and some things need time. It felt like the right time now – a new year, new exciting ventures at The Mandarin Tree.
You’ve got six artists who will be exhibiting – tell us more.
The idea is that each exhibition will run for four to six weeks. My own exhibition will be shorter to provide time for a special fundraising exhibition focused on Anzac Day! It’s very exciting.
Describe the exhibition space, The Hive.
It was created at the start of the year when I gave the gallery a fresh look. I decided on the beehives because they suited my own artwork and the boxes are great to display in. I have to add that these boxes are brand new and not the old ones I use for my artwork!
There are nine display boxes and I also created beehive plinths to display artwork on.
The artists are all featured in your gallery?
We have an ever-growing number of NZ artists represented at the gallery and I was fortunate to have a group of them willing to take part in this year’s exhibitions. With only six places available the gaps were filled in a day and that was great to see. Opening night will be a great chance to meet the artists and ask about their work and process, as well as the chance to get your hands on a unique piece of art!
Tell me a little about yourself, your background.
I was born in Holland and our family of three has lived in New Zealand since 31 December 2005. My husband Harald, daughter Isa and myself love it here. The nature is stunning, the people are friendly and everything is at a more relaxed pace that we really enjoy. We moved to Kihikihi six months ago and we love our own piece of New Zealand. I studied Photography, became an artist, opened my own art gallery, Harald became a beekeeper and Isa is now in her last year of high school.
How did you start?
Trying to make things from used materials has always been something I have done. Harald came home one day from work with beautiful colourful boxes on his ute. “Firewood” he said! I thought he was joking but he wasn’t. I convinced him I would make something with them and began to create wall hangings that I initially sold at local markets.
People loved them and I ended up having to rent a space to store the boxes for more artwork. I have an average of 300 boxes in stock usually. Now being married to a beekeeper is a bonus of course!
Could you describe your work?
I create artwork from old rejected beehives. The beehives are being renewed after a certain period and the old ones are thrown out (burned). I salvaged them and I cut them up with my saw to create new colourful pieces.
What has been the feedback/reaction to your work?
My work is well received I think. I have been constantly busy with commissioned and catering to people’s wishes that way. A great problem to have I would say. Any size, colour or shape is possible within reason of course. I recently made two XL pieces for a customer. I had trouble lifting them on my own which was a new thing for me. The result was stunning and it made me think about expanding my field. In saying that, the upcoming exhibition is based on smaller pieces because of the exhibition space.
Do you name all your pieces?
All pieces have a name. I keep a record of all of them. Naming them is an interesting stage in the creation of a piece. Like the cherry on a cake! Sometimes it’s a song on the radio in my workshop, sometimes a name just pops in my head or I see a figure or shape in the weathered wood and that’s what it is.
Do you set aside a special day/time to create?
Monday is my workshop day. It’s the day that I am not in the gallery so that is my day! I love it. Because we now live a bit further away I spend more time travelling but at our new place I have my own workshop by the house so I do pop in after dinner every now and then to do some work. There’s always something to do and for creatives! I try to spend as much time in the workshop as I can but because of my many other obligations it sometimes doesn’t happen and then my mind goes in overdrive! Too many ideas….too little time.
What do you love about your work?
What I love about my work is that I can never say what the final outcome will be. It’s very unpredictable. Even though it looks like I have placed every piece with a plan, that’s not the case. I always say that “a work grows under my hands”, almost out of my control in a way. I think it needs to be like that because it would be very boring if you know what the end result will be before you start. Creativity can’t be planned, it happens!
Where do you get inspiration?
I love everything nature. I love trees, flowers, mountains, clouds, animals, everything. I love being outdoors and the colours in NZ are so much brighter than in other parts of the world. So indirectly I am drawn to colours in general and use that in my work. The beehives are so beautiful in every way that we seem a perfect match! Their colours, their history, their ‘second’ life and they smell great too! Inspiration is all around me, every day!
At home it’s calmer colourwise. I think I need that to balance it out.
Your advice for someone starting out?
Do it! Just go for it and try it. You will make mistakes and fall sometimes, but you pick yourself up and move on. But at least try it! You will be surprised what you can do and achieve if you try!
- Altered, a selection of smaller beehive art works by Claudia Aalderink, runs from Wednesday 1 March to 29 March. The Mandarin Tree is at 1035 Gordonton Rd, phone 027 777 8733.