GUEST ARTIST: Hannah Starnes

It all started with a market stall and a like-minded, neighbourly hello when Paper Rain co-founders, Indi and Wills met Hannah Starnes. Setting up shop at the Nelson Christmas Market, coincidence brought together two stalls, both selling their wares on recycled wood from wine barrels. While we at Paper Rain work with the staves of the barrels to make our longboards, Hannah prefers the circular tops - this mutual love of oak was the beginning of an (obviously fated) beautiful friendship!

Years and many collaborations later, Hannah Starnes will soon be travelling with the Paper Rain Team up to Auckland for our Pop-Up Store at Ponsonby Central as our guest artist.

You may have spotted some of her bird realism that has adorned more than a few of our boards over the years and now you'll have the opportunity to see her in action in person! All the way from Nelson, Hannah will be setting up a work station at our pop-up store and will be working on art boards that will also be up for purchase. 

The very talented Hannah shares our love of the outdoors and the wonders of our stunning backyard here in the 'Top of the South'. She shares a little insight into why sustainability and the environment has such an emphasis on her work, "We're all lucky to be renting out this earth and as New Zealanders we have a small piece of paradise with relatively easy living conditions. I think it's important we don't take this for granted, or abuse what is naturally here before us." 

We personally love her flow, her use of colour and her ability to capture the raw beauty of the natural world around us that truly invokes deep emotions and memories in all of us.  

If you're an Auckland local or nearby, Indigo and Wills would love to see you at the Ponsonby Central Pop-Up Paper Rain Store from the 30th of April to the 13th of May. You can also check out Hannah in action on the last weekend of the Pop-Up on the 12th and 13th of May! 

We asked Hannah a few questions recently to gain a little more insight into herself, her artwork and working with The Paper Rain Project. We look forward to working side-by-side and giving everyone the chance to see her in action! 

Hannah, tell us a little about yourself!

I’m a lover, a mover, I seek connection and I get a massive kick out of teaching and helping people realise their potential. I’m more or less a self-trained artist, I always loved art at school and did well at it but had the idea in my head that it wouldn’t be a respectable career so I dropped it for science and maths. When I was fourteen I got into rowing and felt instantly at home on the water, and I excelled at it because to me it was simple- all you had to do was work harder than everyone else. When I was finishing up at school I was committed to representing NZ and had a bit of a fascination with physiology and the human body so I followed my sister to Otago Uni and did a degree in sports science. I rowed at NZ U21 level then gave it up when I got a job as a cardiac physiologist in Wellington and did my post grad degree in medical technology. After a few years I got back into rowing through coaching- something that instantly resonated with me rather than sitting in a dark room all day. It got to the point where I had no leave left and I was so committed to the coaching that I made the decision to leave my job! I’d kept painting for gifts and someone from work saw one and asked me to do a commission…  From that point on they’ve just kind of rolled in! I’m just starting my own body of work and still developing my style but I guess you’d call it realism. At the moment I work mainly in acrylics but dabble a bit in oils and coloured pencils. I also take a ‘wine and art’ class fortnightly at a café here in Nelson!

How would you describe your work?

I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I’m very methodical. I work from photos and everything in terms of proportion is measured, scaled up and plotted on my canvas so I know I will get the dimensions right as they’re not my strong point! But then comes the colour…I love colour and light and I think I have a bit of an eye for it. I’m all about layers so the first few are always putting down the darker tones. I usually only work with primary colours plus black and white and mix and match them to what I see. I’m not really conventional and I’m still learning (that’s the best part), but in the end I always aim for something that looks real and takes you to a particular place or evokes a particular feeling.

Where are you based and why?

I was born and raised in Nelson, around the ocean and in the bush. My whole family lives here and my sister and I swore we’d be the adventurous ones that broke the mould, but as we got older we realised that Nelson is such a relaxed, beautiful place with family close by and the outdoors right on your doorstep. My mum used to stop us from whinging when we were tramping by playing the ‘find a native plant’ game, so I learnt to seek out and appreciate nature from a young age. I’m a water baby so I have to be near the sea- We have a family bach in the Abel Tasman, and it’s my favourite place in the whole world. It takes 90 minutes and you can only get there by foot or boat so you can imagine how beautiful and peaceful it is. My partner Reuben is starting up a float centre here too, they’re these pods where you lie enclosed in a capsule of warm water and 500 kg of Epsom salt- the ultimate safe place to reset and recharge.

I have also been part of the Nelson Rowing Club for twelve years where I coach the girls squad and we have a wicked team that are kind of like my second family.

How is craftsmanship involved with your work?

I do a lot of my paintings on wood, I love the grain and how the colours come out once you put a layer of varnish on. My dad actually does most of the preparation work for me- he is an amazing carpenter. We source old rimu head boards, house planks and oak wine barrel lids then he strips them back so you can see the wood grain and seals them up with struts on the back so that they hold their shape.

 How do sustainability, environmental emphasis or localisation factor into your work?

We’re all lucky to be renting out this earth and as New Zealanders we have a small piece of paradise with relatively easy living conditions. I think it’s important that we don’t take this for granted, or abuse what was naturally here before us. We need to preserve our environment so that it stays that way and holds it’s beauty for future generations. All of my wood is sourced locally and recycled. It sounds weird but you’re pretty much painting on a tree, there’s no chemicals involved and it gives the wood another life...like painting nature on nature!

What drives you to make art?

Beauty, love, flow- all that good stuff. When I started painting my own pieces I always questioned whether I needed to be one of those angsty creatives who work best during emotional turmoil...I think being a deep thinker there’s always a certain amount of that but I find that I actually create better art when I’m feeling peaceful. That’s why I think the nature theme resonates with me, because it brings me a feeling of calm and joy, and I always wonder at how perfectly formed and aesthetically pleasing it is. A lot of people don’t get to experience that beauty first hand so as an artist you get the unique opportunity to take a moment, place or animal, enhance it’s natural colour/texture/expression and bring that beauty to the viewer.

Tell us a crazy dream:

One day I’d love to get into street art, to travel to different places and have people connect with my art on a larger scale. Street art is such a cool vessel for getting a message across and making art accessible to everyone.

What do you like about working with The Paper Rain Project:

I love the idea of art with a cause- the world needs more kindness! I think the whole point of life is to be part of something bigger than yourself- whether that be parenthood or teaching or rallying for a cause. Everybody knows ‘what’ they do, but very few people know ‘why’. If you start with why then you have the ability to inspire people around you or find others to inspire you. As consumers we buy into organisations like the Paper Rain Project because they inspire us and what they do for the environment and people is simply proof of what we believe in....I think it all comes back to kindness.

Favourite ‘art’ experience?

I recently did a commission for a woman that had suffered from domestic violence. She wanted an illustration-style painting with a quote that said ‘’She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away she adjusted her sails”. It had her and her three young children sailing through rough seas towards a calm horizon, and she wanted it so that she could look at it during tough times and know that she was heading somewhere better. That was pretty cool to feel like I could bring someone a bit of hope through my art.

What do you love about where your live/ or studio space?

My dad helped me to convert my garage into a little studio. He gibbed it and made this beautiful wooden ceiling which i think ties in perfectly with my work! It’s warm and I can sit with my dog Sunny, who’s a happy little border collie, and look out the window into my vege garden where my chooks are roaming around. It’s simple but it makes me happy 😊

For more information on Hannah Starnes check out her Facebook Page: Hannah Starnes Art