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Meet the Creatives at Toi Auaha – Alice Spittle

Ngā Toi Māori

Alice Spittle is a Māori contemporary artist who has a studio at Toi Auaha  – here she talks about what has inspired her in her own creative practice.

How would you describe what you do?

I struggle to confine myself within a single label like painter, weaver, or mixed media artist. Instead, I embrace the identity of a Māori contemporary artist, passionately delving into various art forms to creatively explore life. Each medium I embrace serves as an inspiration and complements the others, enabling me to maintain motivation and unwavering focus on my artistic journey.

What was your most recent project?

Prepping muka and creating a kākahu for my whānau.

What project have you worked on that you’re the most proud of?

I take immense pride in engaging with traditional mahi, skilfully handed down by our revered Tipuna (ancestors) – Ngā taonga wakarere īhu. It fills me with a sense of accomplishment to not only practice and preserve this sacred work but also to pass it on to my whānau (family). This mahi holds profound significance in my life, and I feel a deep sense of pride in continually learning and sharing these invaluable skills.  These skills have opened doors to remarkable personal growth and exciting artistic opportunities. Through avenues like the Creative Artist Exchange in Ramingining, Northern Territory, Australia, and the Spirit Weavers Gathering in California, USA, I have been able to travel and immerse myself in enriching arts projects. These experiences have expanded my horizons, allowing me to explore new artistic realms and forge meaningful connections.

What is essential for creatives to have in their life?

For me, as a creative, having a deep connection to our whenua (land) is essential. Being able to find solace and space in nature truly nurtures and inspires me. It fuels my creativity and provides a sense of grounding that is invaluable in my artistic pursuits.

What inspires you about Ōtautahi?

 What inspires me about Ōtautahi (Christchurch) is the beauty of the little moments and connections that happen here. It’s the simple joy of connecting with someone over lunch, sharing ideas, and finding inspiration in each other. This city fosters a sense of community and collaboration that ignites my creativity and fuels my passion for artistic expression.

What piece of advice about your creative work has served you well?

To do mahi (work) that makes my heart sing, rather than creating with the sole intention of pleasing others. It reminds me to stay true to my artistic vision and pursue projects that genuinely resonate with my soul. By following this advice, I can fully immerse myself in my creative process and produce work that authentically reflects my passion and creativity.

What’s the biggest misconception about your creative work?

The biggest misconception about my creative work is that the traditional raranga, whatu, and muka preparation process is a quick and easy task. In reality, not many people are aware of the extensive amount of mahi (work) involved in these traditional practices. It requires a significant investment of time, effort, and skill to properly execute these art forms.

What Christchurch artists do you most admire?

The Ōtautahi artists I most admire are the Ngāi Tahu weavers, specifically Reihana Parata (Aunty Doe) and Morehu Greta Flutey-Henare. Their dedication and mastery of the art of weaving inspire me deeply. The way they skillfully infuse their cultural heritage into their creations is truly remarkable. These artists serve as a shining example of preserving and revitalizing traditional Māori weaving practices, and I have immense respect and admiration for their contributions to the art community in Ōtautahi.

What artwork/piece of music/performance has taken your breath away?

The artwork that has truly taken my breath away is the sight of korowai, kaitaka, and kahu huruhuru (Māori cloaks) in the museum archives. Witnessing these masterpieces firsthand is an awe-inspiring experience. The incredible skill exhibited in creating these pieces using traditional tools is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s a testament to the artistic prowess and ingenuity of our ancestors, leaving me in a state of wonder and reverence.

What do you wish you’d have known about creative work when you were younger?

I’ve been fortunate to have had a mother who always supported and nurtured my creative endeavours, so there isn’t much I wish I had known about creative work when I was younger. Her encouragement and the space she provided for me to explore my creativity have been invaluable. I am grateful for the freedom to embrace my artistic passions from a young age, as it has shaped the artist I am today.

What’s your favourite hidden secret in Ōtautahi?

My favourite hidden gem in Ōtautahi? It’s gotta be Doubles café! I mean, seriously, their food is just amazing. I can’t resist treating myself to a feed there!

You can find Alice here:





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