Featured seller: Joe McMenamin

Joe McMenamin describes himself as an an obsessive doodler. “I doodle everywhere. I even doodled on my arm and had it tattooed. The organic flowing doodle pattern that I use in most of my work has represented many different things, from birdsong to Darth Vader’s thoughts!”

joemcmenamin tui


What do you make?
I make hand coloured prints featuring birds and animals. These designs feature as greeting cards in my Felt shop too. I also make original paintings on plywood. My signature style is the flowing, organic patterns that I use in most of my work. I make these patterns up as I go along, and I enjoy how relaxing it is to draw them.

How did you get into your craft?
I’ve been a high school art teacher for 10 years, and I have always been inspired by what my students produce. Before teaching I did a Fine Art degree in Hamilton. I have made art for as long as I can remember.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love to draw. My favorite ink pens to use are called “U knock” and they are a rollerball ink pen. To give my prints a pop of colour I use powdered dye. I love the way it bleeds into wet paper and creates abstract patterns that are impossible to predict. I also use acrylic paint directly onto plywood to produce my originals.

joemcmenamin retro skateboard series

What inspires you?
New Zealand birds are the main inspiration for my prints. There is a plum tree where I live that attracts kereru and tui, and I love watching the way they move and sing. When I draw the organic patterns, I imagine what their bird song would look like. I’ve also been working on a series of nautical paintings on plywood skateboard cutouts.

Five words that describe your mind:
Beauty flows from God’s creation.

Describe your workspace:
I have a studio space in my garage. It has a large open door leading out to a court yard with ferns and an old church pew and a round table painted with a kereru. I also make sure I have a piece of art on the go in my classroom. It inspires my art students and I think it’s really important for them to see that their art teacher knows what he’s doing.



What are you currently listening to?
George FM. I also love Trinity Roots, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Hollie Smith.

Recommend an album:
True by Trinity Roots.

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
I really like Animalia by Graeme Base. I love the intricacy and layers of his drawings. It’s fun creating books with my own kids too, making up our own stories and illustrations.

What are you reading now?
I’ve just finished Book 7 in the Game of Thrones series. So good!

Who is your hero/heroine?
Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation TV series).

A favourite quote:
Ron Swanson: “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Do what you love and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I think too many artists undervalue their work and don’t think people will like what they make. Take good photos and promote your Felt shop widely on social media.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought a bird screen print from Hunting Bears at the Craft Central market in Wellington. I love the way the different layers overlapped, and the subtle blue tones.

What’s in store for the rest of 2015 and next year?
I’m excited to announce that I’ve decided to pursue my art in 2016 and drop down to half time teaching and do art for the other half. This is a massive step for me, especially since my wife is studying and I have three young kids. But I’ve had so many commissions and exhibitions this year, and been struggling to keep up with demand! It’s time to pursue my dream of being an artist. (Congratulations Joe! – Ed.)

I’m also currently working on an adults’ colouring book project which I’m hoping to release in December. Watch this space for more details!


If you love Joe’s intricate and arresting art, check out more of his work in his Felt shop.

Joe has very generously offered a prize of this beautiful Ruru open edition digital print, hand coloured with powdered dye (pictured above) valued at $90, for one lucky Felt blog reader. To win this awesome prize, leave a comment telling us what you like about Joe’s story and his art. The draw will be made on Friday 6 November and is open to New Zealand residents only.


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40 Responses to “Featured seller: Joe McMenamin”

  1. Bree Papa says:

    I love the combination of black & white with pops of colour. It’s better than bacon wrapped shrimp; my 1st favourite food wrapped around my 3rd favourite food. Amazing.

  2. Emily Byrne says:

    Joe’s work is amazing – from the distinctive flowing patterns, amazing use of colour, to the iconic native birds which feature in so much of his work. Also love the introduction of plywood as a painting surface.
    Good on him for staying dedicated to his dream, while raising his large family & guiding many young artists in the classroom. With such an incredible amount of talent & drive, I am sure he will succeed in all his future endeavors.

  3. Karyn says:

    I can really relate to the idea of bringing birdsong to life with interwoven and shapely doodles. I have always wondered how the world would look, if you could only see what is in the air around us. What if radio waves had colours, or txt messages had shapes; wouldn’t the air be overly full and busy? Much sweeter to imagine a song, drawn with fluid lines, mimicking the tuneful clicks and trills I can hear from the tui in the bottom of my garden right now. A very pleasing artform altogether.

  4. Julia says:

    This is so awesome! we saw your work at the Tititangi Market last sunday and was the gem of the day! we talked about it for hours! All the best in your future endeavours Joe! Beautiful work! Julia

  5. Heather says:

    I love the unique designs and intricate details of Joe’s work. He uses calming colours and patterns. I wish him all the best as he takes the plunge to pursue his artistic future.

  6. Belinda says:

    Joe, you are such an inspiration to me, and proof that you can follow your dreams and be successful in doing what you love. I love listening to and watching our native birds at play in our home garden and at large in the bush. Your intricate designs speak to my heart in a way that only special works of art do. Keep on making beautiful art. I can’t wait to see all your new creations in the coming year and beyond.

  7. Kylie Hickey says:

    Joe’s work is amazing, I’m in love with it – I’ve given framed prints as gifts :)

  8. Holly says:

    I love all your designs. The combination of black and white with a dash of colour is just incredible!

  9. Anna says:

    Awesome! I absolutely love Joe’s work and can’t wait to buy a piece!

  10. Ana burne says:

    love it Joe !

  11. Aimee says:

    I love your work Joe, love your style of painting/drawing onto the wood and seeing the wood grain, and I especially love the nautical themes. You are so talented :-)

  12. Emma Timihou says:

    Wow i love your designs. I love that you use lots of blue, it really reminds me of a paua shell and they are very kiwiana. I wish you all the very best for the future and look forward to seeing more creations from you.

  13. Mel says:

    We love Graeme base too! And love the bright pops of colour and intricate lines in your work.

  14. Rebecca Hrynkiw says:

    Such amazing detail. It’s great to see someone pursuing what they love. All the best Joe.

  15. Melissa says:

    I love Joe’s work! The birds are amazing – but love the nautical themes too! Been keeping an eye out since a mutual friend shared some fb posts of his a while back. Really enjoyed his the exhibition at Endemic Work in Auckland.

  16. eve says:

    I love your art, especially the random colour – you have great taste in music, too! :)

  17. Laura says:

    I love the use of new Zealand’s beautiful native birds and the stunning patterns and shapes. I’ve shown some primary children who I teach examples of his work and they were inspired to create their own beautiful pieces.

  18. Maddie says:

    I like the contrast of the black ink lines and the pops of powdered dye colour. Simply beautiful! Joe (Mr Mac) taught me in high school and I often think back to how he influenced and inspired me in the class room :)

  19. Karen says:

    Love Joes work he is an inspiration! I really love the doodles incorporated in his art ☺

  20. Daisy says:

    wholy crap, this work is wild. Those colours are just awesome bleeding into each other contrasted with the line work…….and the plywood Vader is the BEST. Love that you’ve developed your style and work on ideas and themes from our generation.

  21. Irene says:

    I have only been introduced to Joe’s unique style. I just love the birds that he can produce with his delicate style!! Well done Joe for going with your dream. I hope it goes well for you and your family too!

  22. Shiree Ritchie says:

    I love the water colors and the intricate details jo gets into his work
    I especially love the birds he has done with the combination of black and white with splash of colour. His nautical paintings were great 2.

  23. Caroline van deventer says:

    i’ve seen Joe’s work pop up in lots of places over the last year and have always admired it so this was a great article to find out more about him as an artist – something I haven’t had the opportunity of doing when wandering round an art fair or craft market! I love the fluidity and intricacy of his work and really glad he’s pursuing his dream! Good luck Joe!

  24. Sam says:

    I have been following Joe ror a while now via Facebook and love his stuff! Am super excited about the colouring book too!

  25. Kathy says:

    There’s a lot to love about this – the art is pure and so are the thoughts behind it. Having a piece in the classroom to inspire and reassure the students is genius. Your work feels accessible – that is, even those who don’t appreciate the skill that’s gone into it could enjoy having it on their wall (storm trooper, anyone?!). Ps. I’m stealing the half-arse quote.

  26. Maria says:

    Love the doodles. Colouring book is a superb idea. Go Joe!

  27. Katherine McMenamin says:

    I’ve just stumbled across this artist a week ago, and I’m already entranced with the beauty of our natural wildlife and birdsong effect, it’s just gorgeous!

  28. Naomi says:

    Love your art! So stylised yet detailed. And love how focussed you are on following your dreams, what an inspiration to not only the kids you teach but your own kids too. Keep creating!

  29. Katie says:

    I love the intricacy and flowing nature of the “doodles”, and also their simplicity. The colours are stunning – so vivid – and I especially love the native bird silhouettes. I need to see this in person!

  30. Anna says:

    I love that he has taken something like doodling – which we all do and expanded on it to make it something so gorgeous and ‘arty’. Love also that he is a high school art teacher and that he is obviously not just teaching the subject but immersed in it himself. Bet he is an amazing inspiration to his students.

  31. Kelly Prince says:

    I love that he uses pens, a traditional tool of doodlers. What a great sharp contrast to the water colours. Love it. N

  32. Helen says:

    Even with the intricate designs these pieces exude peace and calm.
    Teachers are the best people! Love Joe’s work esp the stormtrooper, that’s fun!

  33. Cara says:

    Amazing art! I love birds in art. Also love the bit about him doodling on his arm and getting it tattooed! :-)

  34. Hannah says:

    Absolutely love these Joe. From the birds to the surf boards. Thanks for being inspiring.

  35. Jan says:

    Beautiful work! I love NZ birds and the way Joe represents them is stunning. And what a beautiful thought about the way he used powered dyes- that the abstract patterns they create are impossible to predict. I love the idea of him not knowing exactly what will happen and just going with the flow. It’s inspiring.

  36. Petra says:

    The bird themes are great. Have you ever drawn wax eyes? Such interesting wee fellows. I really like the contrast/balance between the bold images and the intricate details of your drawings. A courageous move to dedicate more time to your art. Looking forward to a coloring book too (with the possible inclusion of chickens – says she who has recently joined the world of chicken fanciers). Thanks Joe

  37. Donna says:

    Absolutely stunning work. I love the colours and detail. Could just sit and stare at his work. <3

  38. Jessie says:

    As I have just moved into a new flat I am looking to brighten up the bare walls. Joe’s doodles are absolutely beautiful and I am a massive fans of his work.

  39. Eleanor says:

    Just beautiful. Love the colours

  40. Well I missed the draw but have just read the blog and have to comment. AMAZING art Joe! I love that you inspire your students by working on a piece in the class. Really love your colours and media. And you must be a good guy if you like Parks n Rec…haha my fav too. Good luck – you can do it!

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