A rich diversity: the Taranaki artist creating a connection with nature and place

Catherine Marion of Folklore & Flora is a Canadian artist and designer, now living in the beautiful Taranaki. Trained as a graphic designer, Catherine has followed her heart and her own creative journey to become an independent artist. She loves to create art more than anything else and enjoys producing pieces that connect with people and remind them of the rich diversity of nature surrounding them. Catherine’s beautiful kererū also graces the cover of this year’s Felt Christmas Catalogue – we’re in love with it!


 

 
What do you make?
I make large fine art prints featuring birds from New Zealand and other countries which are combined with flowers from their natural habitat.

How did you get into your craft?
I always have been into art and design, but started creating art with the intention to share my work about a year ago now. I am a graphic designer and a bit of a geek so it came natural to me to start creating digital art and prints.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I studied fine art in Montreal, Canada for two years and followed this training with three years study in graphic design at the University Laval in Quebec city. I also studied design for 6 months in the south of France and worked as a graphic designer for two years in Scotland. I love learning and traveling!

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I enjoy drawing and painting but these days most of my work is done on the computer. I use a high quality texture art paper to make my prints which looks simply stunning. I always knew that the choice of the paper would be the key to create stunning prints so I found this beautiful textured matte paper which is 275gsm weight as well as acid and lignin free.


 
Describe your creative process:
I start with a hand drawing of my composition. Then I will take a picture of my sketch and import it into Illustrator where I will redraw the whole artwork in vectors (digital lines). After this, I need to choose what colour each element in the artwork will be. This is always a tricky part, it never ends up the way I first imagined it, but that’s part of the process! The final stage before printing will be to add texture and gradients using Photoshop. This last part is crucial as it transforms the artwork and make it look more organic and warm – closer to what a painting would feel like.

What inspires you?
I take my inspiration in nature. I will study the plants in my garden, at the beach, next to the road, etc. and draw a quick sketch of the flowers and leaves in my sketchbook. This first series of artwork I am offering on Felt is focused on birds from New Zealand and around the world. I aim to present each bird surrounded by the flora of its native region.


 

 

 
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
What I enjoy with my process is that people will recognise the flowers and plants depending on where they are from or have travelled to in the world. At present, I have created artworks inspired by the flora and fauna of New Zealand (Tui, Kereru, Fantails), Canada (Blue Jays), Scotland (Puffins), as well as Japan (Japanese
Cranes), which are all countries I have had the chance to live in or travel to. Through this process, I wish to create pieces of art that connect with people and remind them of the rich diversity of nature surrounding us wherever we are.

Five words that describe your mind:
Curious, adventurous, abstract, loving, free.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
Some of the best feedback I’ve had came from overseas clients that have visited New Zealand or have family members from here. One of my best customers is from Japan and she left me beautiful feedback saying that she loved the prints so much because they reminded her of the time she spent in New Zealand. She was really happy to find her prints arrived at her home in Japan in perfect condition as she had been worried at first about the transportation.

Describe your workspace:
Since most of my work is done on computer, I have the opportunity to work anywhere I want. Most of the time I will work at the dining table in our house in Taranaki, but occasionally on a cold winter day I will stay in bed all day and work while keeping warm under the covers with my dog! I work part time as a graphic designer for a company in town with amazing people who let me use their workshop and large format printer. I spend quite a bit of time printing and packaging my orders there as well.


 

 
What are you currently listening to?
I do not listen to music… I know this probably sounds strange! When I work I normally listen to informative podcasts or audiobooks, I just love to learn about new subjects all the time.

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
You probably won’t know this one as it is from a French author (yes, my first language is French!), it is called “La nuit des temps” by René Barjavel. It starts with an expedition to the north pole where the ruins of a 900,000 year old civilisation is discovered. I read this book as an teenager, but it remains to this day my favourite book. I love this story because it is an incredible adventure through time combined with mystery and an ending that blows your mind. I believe you can find an English translation called “The Ice People”.

What are you reading now?
I am currently reading the short story “How Much Land Does A Man Need?” by Leo Tolstoy.

Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
I admire people like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs for their creativity and their ability to make their ideas push through. These people are fascinating to me because they seem to be able to make reality malleable and create what others would consider impossible.

A favourite quote:
“Form follows function” by Louis Sullivan.

Tell us about your pets:
I have a dalmatian dog that has followed be around the world. I got her as a pup when I was living in Canada, then she travelled with me to Scotland where we lived for a few years and now she is enjoying the farm life with us in New Zealand. We also have three hens: Jenny, Babs and Myrtle, and a cat we recently adopted called Tom.


 

 

 
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Just do it – there is always a million reasons not to start your own crafty business but I did it! To be honest it took me years to finally decide to go ahead with it but in the end this has been one of the best decisions I have ever made and I am really happy I started this journey. I think everybody is creative in one way or another and it is so rewarding to create something that didn’t exist before.

Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
I think crafty products are really personal because they tell a story. I have quite a few craft objects that we have carried with us to New Zealand because they remind us of a place or a story. These types of objects can give life to a house.

What was the last craft item you bought and what attracted you to it?
The last craft item that was added to our collection is a little mackerel sculpture which was given to us by my boyfriend’s Aunty. It reminds us of Scotland where his family is from and more particularly of his Dad’s 69th birthday when we went out on a fishing boat and caught 28 mackerel!

What’s in store for the rest of 2018, and next year?
I am always working on new designs – you can see the creative process on Instagram @folkloreandflora or on my Facebook page – Folklore & Flora. I will also have prints appearing in an art gallery that has recently opened in Wellington and I will be taking part in the “Art in the Park” art and craft market, which will be taking place at King Edward Park in Hawera, South Taranaki on Saturday, December 1st. Then I will hit the beach for Christmas!


 

 
Prize draw!
Catherine has very kindly offered a wonderful prize of an A3 Scarlet Tui print from her stunning collection, for one lucky Felt reader (see above)! If you would like a chance to win this lovely Folklore & Flora prize, just leave a comment on the blog telling us what you like about Catherine’s story and her artworks. The draw closes at 5pm on Monday 26 November and is open to New Zealand residents only.

28 thoughts on “A rich diversity: the Taranaki artist creating a connection with nature and place

  1. I am from and currently live in Taranaki, but have travelled and agree it is great to have physical reminders of your experiences/learnings from those travels. I would love to win this print for friends who have always referred to the tui as a symbol of home whilst living overseas.

  2. Catherine your creative process is inspiring and clearly you were born to be an artist. I absolutely loved reading about your work, your process and what makes you tick and I am so interested in following your creative path and to which ever country that may lead you next, I just started following you on Instagram.

    Your scarlet Tui caught my eye and drew me to read about you. Our home backs onto wetlands and the flax bushes are in flower at the moment and the Tui are out dancing around the flowers and indulging in the nectar.

  3. Your work is beautiful. We visited Taranaki last year and can see why it inspires you to create such stunning art. I’m going to try and find a copy of the book The Ice People as it sounds very interesting.

  4. Such lovely comments! Thank you so much everyone.
    @Bobbie Pene – The flax are not in flowers here just yet but I am looking forward to seeing them again this year, it is one of my favorite 🙂
    @Desaree – I hope you like Taranaki as much as I do! I just can’t get enough of that beautiful mountain.
    @Paula Carter, This book is amazing, it is definitely a must read!

  5. I really enjoyed reading this article about Catherine and her beautiful work. As a fellow artist I loved Catherine’s advice about starting an arty crafty business……”just do it” and try not let the million reasons why you shouldn’t get in the way. I also share her thoughts on the importance of buying handmade items and agree they have a unique story behind them and bring life and soul to a home.

    The red tui print is stunning and I would gift this to my daughter who I know would love the vibrancy of it and for her it would be a reminder of the tuis we have at our beach home in the Catlins.

  6. I love how Catherine has captured the essence our beautiful native birds and portrayed them in such a beautiful creative way – I need them all on my walls!

  7. I love how she is inspired by nature. The favourite part of my day is sitting outside listening to the birds singing. Your artwork is absolutely stunning.

  8. I love her bold colourful prints 😍….and I am a huge fan of flora, fauna and bird life 🙌.
    Always so good to see when someone has followed their heart and doing what they love. It’s such a bonus being able to take her work anywhere in the world too👌😊 keep doing what your doing it’s awesome 💚

  9. These artworks are stunning, I love the detail and gorgeous colours.
    I love that Catherine is inspired by nature. Tui are my favorite bird.

  10. We have Tuis that come to our garden all the way at the bottom of Aotearoa/ New Zealand.
    This work is beautiful. I love the vibrancy, attention to detail and flair of colour.
    Fabulous 😊

  11. Thank you for sharing more about your work and process here Catherine, its always interesting to see how artists develop their pieces. I think they are stunning! I love the subject and colours especially. I wish your all the best. 🙂

  12. I love the use of colour and the beautiful kiwi flora and fauna in these gorgeous artworks. I also loved discovering more about the design process- it always amazes me how artists get their work produced. Simply stunning.

  13. It’s such a buzz seeing a fellow crafter’s take on our beautiful New Zealand birds, and Catherine’s work is so vibrant and detailed – stunning. I love that she creates art to connect people with nature. PS Will definitely look for the book :-).

  14. So much colour … beautiful..we forget to make it part of our everyday life – love how your passion has been combined with travel – and now here in NZ capturing who we are – thanks .

  15. I love your artwork! But I really love that you have brought your dog with you on your travels, hope he’s also enjoying it here in NZ 🙂

  16. I’ve followed you on Instagram for a while now Catherine – absolutely love your work!!! – so it was a delight to read this article and find out more about you and your creative process!

  17. I love the brilliant colours and fine detail. In her story, I loved that she brought her Dalmatian dog with her from Canada to Scotland to New Zealand! I have a much-loved dog, so I can completely understand!

  18. I just love how Catherine’s art is vibrant, vivid and inspired by NZ environments. There is a real feeling of heart and connectedness – to people and places – that come through this piece and her art. Stunning, just stunning!

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