People and Places

Inside Kiwi artist Amy van Luijk’s cute Wellington studio

Wellington-based designer and artist Amy van Luijk creates bold yet delicate images and patterns for packaging, textiles, magazines and more

Hi Amy. Could you tell us a little about your background?

I studied textile design in Wellington then moved to London straight after graduating, where I worked for several commercial textile design studios. The work involved really quick turnarounds and was very trend-focused. I started to develop a freelance practice through web contacts, using a more personal style. For the past six years I’ve been mostly freelancing full time, apart from a senior design role I took for two years.

What does a normal day look like for you?

I don’t have a strict routine, but I go to my studio every weekday, sometimes on the weekend as well. I find my most creative and productive hours are in the afternoon, so I make time for friends and fun things during the day, then work on into the night to get everything finished. I tend to work on commissioned projects earlier in the day, aiming to have some time left to work on personal projects. I have great studio mates whom I love seeing every day, but there is something special about the times when the studio is empty. I can listen to music and make a huge mess!

You work in a variety of media. What do you like about this approach?

And do you have a preferred medium? I prefer to work by hand. I feel I can respond better to an image when it is on my desk rather than on the screen. I have always worked in a variety of media, focusing on shape and colour – this threads the work together. I love the challenges and possibilities different mediums present. Currently I’m really enjoying using coloured oil sticks as well as collage in my work.

Your clients include big US brands such as houseware chain Crate & Barrel and Martha Stewart Living. What do these jobs involve?

For Crate & Barrel, I predominantly create surface patterns for bedding collections and other interior products. They approach me with a brief, and there is a back-and-forth dialogue, starting with roughs, then working through colour and composition, which I finalise and they send to the manufacturer. With illustrations for magazines such as Martha Stewart Living, I get sent an article and a short brief. The artwork is done by hand but delivered digitally.

What have been some of your favourite or most memorable projects?

Last year, I created artwork and content for Riddle & Squizz, a children’s show for HEIHEI [a TVNZ kids’ channel]. We made 16 episodes answering kids’ questions about the world in an abstract and playful fashion. Animation opened up all kinds of possibilities, which was rewarding. I was also lucky to work with the beautiful local soap company Sphaera. It’s a product I believe in and it’s developed with a sensitivity that is true to my practice.

What are the biggest challenges you face as an artist?

My biggest challenge is battling self-doubt. When times are slow or things go wrong I often find myself wondering whether I am any good at design at all. This is when I am thankful for a great community of supportive and creative friends. It’s invaluable.

What advice do you have for someone who aspires to be a self-employed artist?

I would recommend trying to get a full-time design job, either before or at some point during a freelance career. I learnt the true value of my time, skills and ideas. I was also lucky to be challenged and pushed by other designers and get perspectives outside of my own. I love the fact that I don’t have to answer to anyone most days and I get to set my own schedule, but I appreciate it all the more for having been commercially employed.

Who are some of your favourite Kiwi artists and creatives at the moment?

I recently went to a very inspiring show by the New Zealand Dance Company. Also the musician Aldous Harding is hard to beat – she has such a strong creative vision which she executes beautifully. I am fortunate to be surrounded by very talented and creative women including Suni Hermon from Sphaera, artist Sam Norton, ceramicist Misma Andrews and textile designer Marta Buda.

What have you got coming up in the future? Any long-term goals or aspirations you can tell us about?

I would love to exhibit my work and am also working through some book ideas. Long term, I would love to have my own line of textiles: beautiful, simple designs manufactured in the most sustainable and ethical way possible. | @amyvanluijk

Words by: Sally Conor. Photography by: Anna Briggs.

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