Tauranga Welcomes You!

Faye Suzannah | World-Travelling Mural Artist in Lockdown Grateful to be Living in Papamoa

Faye Suzannah World-Travelling Mural Artist

Glastonbury mural artist Faye Suzannah has painted her way around the world.

Since moving to Tauranga in November 2019, Faye has already made her mark in the local arts scene by painting a mural in Mount Maunganui as part of the Street Prints project.

The COVID-19 lockdown, while a crisis for many, has provided a welcome opportunity for Faye to embrace a slower and simpler life.

With no art projects on the horizon, her sketchbooks are being filled merely for her own pleasure and she is grateful for the ever-present inspiration of Papamoa’s endless beaches and huge open skies.

This is her story.

Faye, first things first. How has lock-down life been for you?

This lockdown time has been a well-received peaceful break for me. I had just quit my job. I had no art projects surfacing. I was just about to enter a period in which I intended to live very cheaply, not engage in anything new, and to use the little bits of spare time I have around parenting to make drawings and sketchbooks just for my own pleasure. So the timing couldn’t have been better for me.

That said, I can feel deeply that this has affected a lot of people badly, emotionally and financially. The economic fallout of the prolonged lockdown in the UK doesn’t bear thinking about, especially for the arts. The financial support system for creatives over there is so squeezed already.

How do you feel about living in New Zealand during the COVID-19 crisis?

I’m so blessed to be in New Zealand at this time. The beach is practically my backyard. I’ve never been more grateful for anything as much as the space and the light at the beach over the last month!

Like a lot of the world’s population, I am unsure about going back to ‘normal life.’  I’m very happy without the background noise of commerce distracting me.

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Glastonbury, a beautiful rural town famous for an enormous annual music and arts festival. It has been a prominent spiritual hub for centuries, so has always attracted a varied and transient alternative community. Despite its small size, it is quite a vibrant town.

How did your journey as an artist begin?

I always excelled in the arts throughout my childhood. At the age of 16, I decided to drop my academic subjects and study art full-time. Although I never officially completed an arts degree, I studied print pattern design and screen printing in London and Bristol. I was part of an exchange programme in Spain, enjoyed trips to Portugal and Barcelona, and journeyed back and forth across the UK. Photography was a large part of my artistic process and I was meticulous at keeping sketchbooks of all my travels.



How did mural painting become your specialty?

After university, I didn’t want to invest in an expensive industrial print kit to launch a design career. Instead, I went traveling again! This time I ended up in Argentina and Brazil, where I started to paint murals. I learned to create huge patterns on large areas with paintbrushes. I decided to commit myself and my resources to this medium.

In the ten years after I finished my studies, I painted in Australia, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Morocco, London, Bristol, and of course at home in Glastonbury. I never earned much from painting and lived very cheaply. Painting murals in-situ meant that I never had any product to exhibit or sell, so I didn’t learn about that aspect of the art world.


How did you make a living during this time?

I survived mostly on my resourcefulness and enthusiasm. I had a lot of part-time jobs including lifeguarding and swimming teaching, t-shirt printing, painting and decorating, factory work of many types, and childminding for family and friends whenever possible.

When I finally settled in Glastonbury, I began applying some of the design principles I had learned at university. I started investing time and money in making products – hiring a studio space to make art on paper and working on mural commissions. I held my first exhibition in Bristol that year and became more established and accepted in my creative community. After the birth of my daughter, I painted my first paid public mural as part of a mural trail in our town and I was asked to hold workshops in my favourite medium of screen-printing.


What drew you to New Zealand?

My partner Marcel comes from Auckland and has the dual UK and New Zealand citizenship, so the opportunity to live and work here couldn’t be missed. Starting again in a new place wasn’t a new concept for me, so I was up for the challenge. I was very happy to escape the UK winter! Also, our young daughter was a big deciding factor. We wanted her to spend time living closer to her Kiwi grandparents and to be able to run around naked on the beach.


Why did you choose to live in Tauranga?

It was a pretty practical decision. We didn’t want to be too far from the grandparents or too far from the surf for my partner. We also had to choose a locality that was accessible to me as a non-driver. We needed a base within walking distance of a beach, a supermarket, and a swimming pool (for my part-time work). We ended up in Papamoa, which is perfect.

What is your take on the creative scene in Tauranga?

Everyone is very welcoming, open-minded, and accepting here. There seems to be an emphasis on creating an art scene rather than attempting to shift the shape of an existing one. In the UK, there is literally no room for growth and no funding at ground level for art. I also think there is a growing sense of the country being over-populated and people are starting to close their minds and hearts to new ideas. In contrast, the Tauranga creative scene feels very refreshing.

How did you go about getting involved in the local scene?

About a month after moving here, I picked up the magazine, Our Place, and discovered that there was to be a street art festival held in the area! When I contacted the organizers, I was given a wall to paint by Jah Smith of Street Prints.

This gave me an insight into the mural scene here, which was incredible. The way those murals transformed the very centre of Tauranga was so great, not to mention the others around the Mount too. I was so lucky to be able to paint. The way it came together was amazing.

I am interested in tapping into the growth of the creative scene here. I have the benefit of a very fresh and enthusiastic view, having not been here very long. I’m putting all my energy into applying for various types of art funding and seeing what doors open. I have found and visited the Historic Village, home to The Incubator,  The Artery, and Imprint Gallery. Connecting with these creative hubs has given me ideas on how I can become more involved in the art scene here. I see opportunities for accessing funding, holding courses, and starting to make work on paper to exhibit or sell.

What is inspiring you creatively here in Tauranga?

There is nothing like space and light to make a visually minded person happy! The endless beaches and huge open skies deeply affect my emotions and openness to ideas. The small details in nature such as strange seed pods, bits that wash up on the beach, and new plants and leaf shapes all appeal hugely – they will no doubt show up in some artwork of mine soon.

Exercise has always had a huge impact on my happiness and inspiration levels. It is so much more normalized here to run, swim or take an exercise class. I feel much freer in my efforts to achieve that positive headspace I need before I can sit down and draw or paint anything.

Where can people contact or see more of your work?

My website is the hub of all my communications: www.fayesuzannah.co.uk. I like to keep my social media time to a minimum, so I’m not that active in that space.

What is Papamoa like as a place to raise a child?

It is obvious that the light and space I am enjoying are also having a positive effect on my little girl. Public services like libraries, parks, swimming pools, toddler groups, and the beach and surf facilities are so well maintained here. All these things in the UK feel very squashed and funding is being cut from every angle, so I’m really taking advantage of it here.

Being a parent of a small child without any flexible childcare means it’s very challenging to meet anybody socially. I left a support network back home that I didn’t realize I had, but there has been a handful of friends back home with whom I’m regularly in contact. Phone calls mean a lot more now.

What do you do to have fun and relax here?

I think the main advantage of this area is the proximity of the city, Mount Maunganui downtown, and the beach.

My main way to switch off is through swimming, running or yoga practice – all outdoors whenever possible! I have never been a big pub-goer or drinker as I prefer early morning sports. This is also something I feel I have more in common with the community here than in the UK. Riding public transport is also a huge part of my relaxation strategy. Gazing out of the window whilst being driven along is awesome. You should ditch your car one day and try it!

Do you have any advice for other creatives about how to make a living doing what you love?

This is tricky, as it depends largely on the emotional and financial support you have through your family as to whether you are able to ‘quit your day job’. If you have been brought up in an environment where everyone works 40 hours a week in an institution or industry, it will be much harder for them and for yourself if you choose the rollercoaster of a creative career.

Also, the administrative side of creative work is enormous and invisible. So even though you may be a fantastic dancer or painter, if you don’t have the skills to be able to record your work, update your website regularly and do your accounts, it will be a hard journey. I think the creative side of your work is only about 30% of all your work combined, unfortunately. If you can be aware of that and budget it in timewise, then you can succeed.

Gets You Thinking Doesn’t It?

No one can tell you when you’re ready for a change of lifestyle…but when you are, we’d love to have you in Tauranga!

Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaurangaWelcomesYou

Email us at info@priorityone.co.nz

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