Inky Cat and the House of Wa!

Lowtide caught up with Ngaumu Jones & Mel Mel, two of the five mana wahine whose art is permeating colour through the loftiness of the Inky Cat Pop Up Shop. We discussed small town dreams, the art of collaboration and the business of creativity. 

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Introduce yourselves & your art

N: Im Ngaumu Jones, my family’s from Hastings, I grew up in Opotiki and I moved to Auckland to pursue art. Ive been doing illustration and recently tattooing but Im not like “anything,” I'm really just doing me. I’m a creative, which means I am whatever I’m doing at the time. At the moment it's this, this and this but tomorrow it could be that, that and that. 

In terms of my art, Im just purely expressing what comes to my mind at the moment and just doing

M: My artist name is Mel Mel, Im predominantly a painter but, I draw as well and I'm starting to sew clothes. I like to branch out, I just like to create.

Is there a difference in your creative processes and/or in your sense of self when you use different mediums. Do you change as an artists from when your tattooing or painting to when your illustrating or sewing?

N: Just on how it translates on to the canvas I'm using. Doing it on peoples skin changes the images because human skin holds the image differently. Its kind of the same, I’ve learnt techniques on paper but on people its different. So the change for me is in trying to work with peoples skin. Because skin is a just different canvas. Tatooing, it’s intimate, so I'm trying to the same thing, draw, but on a different (human) canvas.

M: My art is more go with the flow, I try and start with something I have a vision for. It might sound stupid but i try and think of what that vision is “saying to me.” From there it takes its own life and then the mediums and practices choose themselves, because they make sense. 

Explain the pop up and how it came about:

N: So there's Atarangi, who is Inky Cat, her art is the clothing. Then theres Eridani, the Buffboiz, Zanalee & Melody,  whose art is also featured and then there's us two.

It just started because our mate reached out to us to jump in with her. So we did.

M: It's weird because we all really mesh well together. Its a solid unit but this is the first time we’ve actually all worked together to create a space. We all have our own voice but the pieces work speak together as well. 

N: At first I didn't even know what all of the girls were doing but then when I saw their work i was like “holy shit, that meshes so well with what Im doing.” Its cool. 

Why do you think that is?

M: I think we all just love colour, past seasons of Atis work has involved a lot of colour, she loves colour. So i think its mostly around that. 

N: And we’re all different colours as well haha.

M: Yeah we’re varying colours as well haha - women of colour. 

M: It seems curated but really its just an artistic vomit

N: and it all works together

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Is there any particular reason you chose K road? Has the community or the creative landscape impacted your art in anyway?

N: It kind of choose us because Ati wanted us. K road has fianlly given me a place to put my works.

M: K road and the space just houses all of our art really well. We very much fit in here and the demand for all of the different types of art we have in this space makes sense. 

K road makes sense, in terms of us selling, because theres a market for art here, but also its like we just fit here.

Personally, I would say it has a feel that suits my aesthetic. Which is kind of bright and colourful but the undertones of my work are dark, especially conceptually. Its ironic.

How are you finding it, the pop up, and what would you say the biggest factors you're taking away from this experience?

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M: We're really just dipping our toes in the water to see what people respond to. Ati's been a part of the Kroad community for ages, back when it was more raw and K road had that flavour, so its cool to see her response to it as well. I think eventually people who are part of that community will want a shop of their own so this is really just market research for that. 

N: Its just cool because I get to meet a bunch of cool chicks who are doing cool stuff. 

M: its really awesome we’re all women of colour and artists. I think as an artist it can be hard to get your name out there and this is allowing us to. That wasn't why we got into this but its cool that its happening.

What advice would you give young or emerging artists who are struggling to know how to value themselves and how to monetise their passions?

M: Charge in terms of your work how many hours you spent, think of what the overheads were, like how much did the paint cost? Don't be afraid to apply a business mind to your work, you can look at things like charging by the hour. 

Decide how much you value yourself don't settle for less, put value on your art because no-one else can do what you're doing.

N: Just keep doing what you're doing. Don't stop making stuff. If you're not making money right now just know that it'll pay off in the long run. Once it does don’t undersell yourself, everyone has their own art forms and you need to realise you own yours, be proud of that. Whats helped me is reaching out to people. Now we have instagram and facebook, whats been helpful for me, is just asking more experienced artists who have been in the same place I have. Talking to other people about their experiences is really helpful. You can learn a lot from other people. 

M: We literally googled how to run a pop up store. Ati has a lot of drive, she just looked it up and did it. She doesn't notice but as a third party we see it. 

What would be the biggest challenges you've faces in getting yourself to this point, and if people were to reach out to you as artists, what advice would you give?

N: Just actually believe in yourself and be confident enough to put yourself out there. Just say, “yup this is me, this is what Im making for myself.” A struggle I had was battling with making art not for myself but for someone else to buy. You don’t have to make things for other people. For me it was a challenge to be comfortable with that but now I feel like, “this is my art if you like it, you like it - if you dont, dont buy it.” 

M: its hard to balance a business and and artistic mind. Art is super individualised, where as business is for the consumer. You need to thrive as an artist but you know its hard, often I still think “I dont know.” Finding the middle ground and is the biggest challenge. 

N: We still have to work you know. We have our “real jobs” we still have to pay the bills. But during that, we’re creatives. 

M: And those 9-5 jobs like that just give me the fire to be like “omg I need to get paint, so I can get better, so I can get my art out there.” Im very small town so, so even this is so weird to me. I cant believe whats going. 

N: Im from Opitki, so a lot of my friends who came up to the opening and having them here reminded me that I just need to chase my dreams, because things like this are buzzy. 

N: We have our work in a shop. just remember you can do it. 

Whats next for you two, where do you think you’re heading in the future?

M: In terms of painting, I want to up my game and then say yes to more opportunities and see how that goes

N: I just need to be sure that i can really do it. I can do posters for concerts and stuff up to the standard people want, i just need to be sure and then say yes.   

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Make sure you pop into INK CAT AND THE HOUSE OF WA!

6 St Kevins Arcade

Follow Atarangi, Ngaumu, MelMel, & #Buffboiz

for all of their latest news and events!

Atarangi Anderson - or @inky_cat

Ngaumu Jones - @ngamoolie or @msmeemo_

MelMel - or @artbymelmel

#Buffboiz - @zanalee.makavani and @melodyjazzmakavani


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