Q&A: Jacqui Colley

Jacqui Colley is an award-winning visual artist. Born in Zambia, Jacqui moved to New Zealand in the nineties and now lives in Eastbourne where she has a home studio with habour views (lucky!).

In 2018 Jacqui won the Parkin Drawing Award for her work Long Echo. It’s currently on display at Porirua’s Pātaka Art + Museum in Wai: The Water Project. Jacqui balances her art practice with design work for Wellington businesses, she’s just created a range of merchandise to celebrate Emporio Coffee’s 20th birthday.

We talk to her about dreams and memories, saying “no”, and why she loves Taika Waititi.

Describe your favorite Wellington memory. 

It’s an indelible domestic memory but it represents so much to me about our place and what it’s meant to live here. Years ago, just before Christmas day, I was baking and cooking. The tree was finally up, the twinkling lights were up, everyone was exhausted. The kids were setting up a tent in the garden and they had dragged all their bedding outside too. At some point we all decided we just needed a little afternoon nap. The girls were in the tent and fell asleep and we were upstairs in bed, all the doors were wide open – the late afternoon sun was streaming through the windows, a slight breeze billowed the diaphanous curtains in and out gently as if the house was breathing. When I awoke it was midnight, it was raining very lightly, the air was sweet, I could hear the lapping of the water down at the beach, the pebbles rolling back and forth and a morepork was calling out from the trees – while everyone was still sleeping.

If you could change one thing about Wellington, what would that be?

The terrible traffic in the CBD and surrounding areas. We really need to get with the programme and design our city for longevity like Copenhagen. Cycling has so many positives it should be central to our planning not an add on or a compromise.

What’s the best local purchase you’ve made this year? 

Just before lockdown I bought a little pottery teapot from Vessel, a gift for my daughter. For us we feel pottery is a more meaningful object because it’s handcrafted, which is both a beautiful experience and useful. And I also feel that when I’m buying pottery I am supporting a local artisan. And that’s important to me.

Who’s your favorite famous Wellingtonian and why?

Taika Waititi. He’s genuinely down to earth, fearless, honest, talented and living his best creative life. I met him briefly when he was Taika Cohen in his mid 20’s living in Wellington. He was born on the East Cape but I think we can claim him as a Wellingtonian.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

It’s okay to say no. Take responsibility for your choices and don’t hesitate with this. People get used to it.

You just won lotto, what will you spend it on?

So glad you asked because I’ve got it all worked out.

Firstly, I’ll anonymously buy a few homes for some folks I know are having it tough right now. Secondly I’ll have to knock off my debts. 

And then I’m going to work with a special team of Wellington architects to design a world class, bespoke artists’ residency. The design will be an expression of craftsmanship and creativity. The residency will be for local, national and international artists to come to Wellington, exchange thinking and work on projects. The small building will become iconically Wellington, layered with a few private studios and living spaces like a series of light boxes; metal frames and timber screens, with an intimate courtyard garden and maybe even views of the cityscape or harbour. 

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