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Artists embrace NZ Made Products Group

In the midst of the ‘first’ COVID-19 Lockdown, a Facebook group popped up that caught the attention of Kiwi’s from all over the country! 

New Zealand Made Products is a Facebook group initiated in April 2020 by entrepreneur Sarah Colcord. Sarah identified a very real need for an online platform to showcase Kiwi small businesses, whether they were an entrepreneur, sole trader or a small-medium sized business. The core premise: to make it easier to support Kiwi businesses during a very unpredictable and trying time.  

Inspired by a similar online group in Australia, Sarah was motivated to facilitate a platform that specifically helped small business owners boost their profiles and connect with potential customers at a time when traditional methods of marketing and selling were off limits. 

As a result the online group also provided a gateway for artists of all genres to share their work in a safe and supportive environment, some of whom had never publicly shared their creations. Not only has New Zealand Made Products championed the Aotearoa entrepreneurial spirit, but it has consistently unveiled the huge range of artistic talent in this country. 

Within the first 10 days of the launch in April, the group had gained 119,000 members. As of September the group has over 540,000 members! 

Recently the team made the decision to rename the group to Chooice and launched an ecommerce website of the same name where entrepreneurs and small-medium sized businesses can set up online ‘stores’ to advertise their products, feature in online interviews and reach new audiences.  

As the go-to arts organisation for the Thames-Coromandel District, we were very interested to find out how NZ Made Products/Chooice has impacted our local artists and whether the online platform had reinvigorated their practice during the lockdown period. 

We chatted with a few local artists from around the Peninsula who generously shared their experiences: 

“My name is Wilma White from Waharau, 10 km north of Kaiaua where I have lived and worked for 40 years at the DRAGON’S NEST. I am an 84 year old potter who makes dragons and other mythical and unusual creatures in mostly NZ clays. Each piece is individually modelled and fired to stoneware temperature.

As an over 70, living alone in a rural area, the lockdown did not affect me too badly apart from having no physical contact with my family in Auckland. My younger neighbours watched over me and I enjoyed my 5 km road walk each day without traffic. 

I joined the NZ Made group on 3 May after prompting by my daughter who thought it would be interesting to post the Covid inspired masked kiwis and cats I had been making. I have had a website for many years but this got me much more response. I had 9000 + likes in the first 10 days ….quite a boost to the ego!

I have increased my sales throughout NZ and overseas and made a circle of new collectors. I was also invited to join a worldwide artists group. I love the Chooice group as it gives New Zealanders a great chance to showcase their talents. Who knew we had so many talented artists and entrepreneurs out there!?”

For more information visit:

https://dragonsnest.co.nz/

Follow Wilma/Dragon’s Nest Pottery on Facebook

“My name is Julie Pijfers, based in Coromandel Town. I’m a jewelry designer and manufacturer. 

The lockdown period was initially very stressful due to having to close my shop at the end of a very busy summer. Then I decided to just go with it as everyone was in the same boat, and I took a break. 

A family member referred me to the NZ Made Products Group. There was a big push from the Govt to support local and NZ Made so it was a good opportunity to advertise. 

Publicising my work in this way was a bit of a challenge, personally – how do you measure up against your peers? There was a lot of jewellery on the page already. And business-wise it was difficult to capture a piece accurately through a photo. Overall it was a positive experience, there was a renewed appreciation and focus on NZ Made and what’s available in our own backyard – such talent! I also had lots of inquiries and new likes on my FB page.”

Julie has her own shop in Coromandel Town at 46 Kapanga Road, Coromandel

For more information visit: https://www.designerjeweller.co.nz/

Follow Julie Pijfer Jewellery Design on Facebook and Instagram

“Hi my name is Kenzie Sampson, I’m an artist based in Cooks Beach. I work mainly in pen and ink, focusing on intricate line work to capture emotive waves and sea creatures. 

Lockdown was bizarre and it took me a while to get my head around it. It felt weird to lose the momentum that’s created by meetings and work. I did manage to get my website together and then once that was done I did some online study which was very inspiring and brought forward a lot of creative ideas for me.

Someone mentioned NZ Made Products to me and said I should post on it. I followed it for a while and eventually posted later on. Publicising my work in this way was a slightly new challenge for me – I haven’t shared it with a group before. I waited until my website was ready before I posted because I wanted to be prepared for any interest. 

I got lots of likes and positive comments which was lovely. I would recommend posting on the group – give it a shot. You never know what may come from it!”

For more information visit: https://think-nz.com/

Follow Kenzie on Facebook and Instagram

“My name is Lucy Beard, I’m a mixed media artist primarily using acrylic, wood carving, resin and airbrushing and I’m based in Coroglen. 

I had a generally good lockdown, my family live pretty remotely anyway so it didn’t make it hard.  It was a great time for brainstorming and experimenting but not so good for actually getting much done with the kids home and not having my studio in working order yet. 

A few of my friends urged me to post on NZ Made Products, I was nervous about it but figured I’d have nothing to lose. It was an easy process as I already have my social media pages going. It has been really humbling, I was really encouraged by all the lovely messages people were sending me. I have made new connections and overall I’m really happy I did it.  It definitely increased page likes and followers etc on social media but no sales eventuated. 

A lot of people were expecting original art to be really cheap, like offensively cheap.  People don’t realise how much time and the cost it takes to create some pieces.  Other artists will understand this, you may make 10 crap ones to finally get your ideal result. You can’t just put your name on something that you’re not happy with.

Would I recommend NZ Made Products to other artists? Yes and no… the exposure is good but I still feel like people typically seem to try bartering on these types of pages. 

I’m not speaking for all artists but I’m sure many fellow ‘creatives’ would agree whether your craft is art, music, Digital, Photography, building, writing etc that a part of us goes into the work with a lot of blood sweat, tears, energy and experiences”.

Follow Lucy/Labartnz on Facebook and Instagram

“I’m Hannah Clayton, a jeweller working as ‘Whalebird Jewellery’, based in Kuaotunu. 

During lockdown there were lots of positives for us as we live in a beautiful spot with the beach in our neighbourhood and plenty of space at home to roam, so in that respect we were incredibly lucky. The family time was lovely, but with my girls home 24/7 and the home schooling on top, it really didn’t leave me with much time for making. Plus I found myself growing really apprehensive about how sales of my work might go once things opened back up again, given the increased economic strain on the country.

My partner gave me the push after seeing the page over lockdown. It was the perfect

thing to get me out of the creative slump I’d spiralled into over the level 4 period.

Publicising my work in this way wasn’t really too challenging as I already had plenty of photographic material to choose from and using social media as a platform for promoting work is something I’ve finally become more comfortable doing over the last few years.

The reception from people was all wonderfully positive, it both increased orders and I also gained some really interesting commissions, plus a couple of new stockists. I decided not to create a store on the ‘Chooice’ website as I’ve already got my own web store and am also pretty well represented online with the galleries I supply.”

For more information visit: https://www.whalebird.co.nz/

Follow Hannah/Whalebird Jewellery on Facebook and Instagram 

The NZ Made Products/Chooice Facebook group is still active, you can join here

Huge thanks to the above artists who responded to our survey – if you’d like to share your experience of NZ Made Products with us, get in touch on 

info.creativecoromandel@gmail.com

Image credit: Clockwise from top left; Lucy Beard, Julie Pijfers, Hannah Clayton, Wilma White and Kenzie Sampson

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