I am thrilled to introduce my second guest on Creative Conversations because I have admired how this fantastic Kiwi artist is shifting the way we think of art in NZ.
I first met Hayley King, the talented founder of Haus of Flox (check her work on Instagram @floxnz) as was I commissioned to photograph her for an artist profile in a magazine about eight years ago.
I instantly loved Hayley’s contagious creative energy when we worked together. I was fortunate to photograph Hayley in her own studio and catch a glimpse of her vibrant, colourful world.
I have always loved that Hayley is a fine artist who explores colours and textures on different supports from print to textile and plywood to concrete. Her way of bringing the Kiwi fauna and flora into urban environments is very interesting from a creative standpoint. She constantly pushes the boundaries of what you can do as an artist, whether throughout her technique, stencil work or colour palette.
As an Aucklander, I have also always been fond of her murals, which bring nature and beauty to the rainy, grey city walls.
I have worked with Hayley on other projects throughout the years since our first photoshoot together and have asked her for business guidance when I first set up my own business. Hayley is very approachable and shares her knowledge generously, which I am personally grateful for.
A formidable source of inspiration and business info, I have asked Hayley to join me for an episode of my Creative Conversations. Read on, you will learn a lot. I certainly did.
HB: What’s something you learned early on in your career that made you a better artist?
Hayley King: Early on I learnt about the merits of collaboration. Working with other brands, artists, and women of influence has been an integral part of my creative growth. When you work alongside another artist/designer, you’re pushed into unknown arenas, places where you could never dream of going alone. This process can sit outside of the personal comfort zone but in the long run, is incredibly beneficial to your creativity.
HB: Who are your biggest influences in art?
Hayley King: The more I travelled, the more I realised just how much talent we have here in the New Zealand creative sector. My biggest influences are the artists I cross paths with all the time, whether that be on a collaborative level, or a close alignment. I adore Michel Tuffery’s drawing work (https://micheltuffery.co.nz), and I admire the passion and cultural narratives of Charles and Janine Williams’ work (https://www.charlesjaninewilliams.com). Lisa Reihana is also a super star in my books (https://www.lisareihana.com).
I guess I’m attracted to work that draws on meaningful narratives, incorporates new technologies with older analogue approaches, whilst displaying unique aesthetics.
HB: Can you describe your creative process? Tell me where you find your inspiration and channel it into a process to create a piece.
Hayley King: My work is deeply inspired by nature and it’s preservation. I feel lucky to call this place home, and so I find my inspiration in our unique natural surroundings here in Aotearoa. Our land is so precious, and so if I can use my artwork to speak about particular conservation efforts and bring awareness, then that feels right for me.
When we paint murals as private commissions or community engagement, we tend to look at cultural, geographical and historical contexts to inform the work, so inspiration can be very site specific too.
Before Covid, I used travel as a way to inspire my practice, as I love soaking up new locations, cultures and traditions. I guess that will have to wait for now, but in the meantime Aotearoa is where it’s at!
HB: Traditionally fine artists work on their own but having a support team allows artists to develop their work further and take on larger scale projects, which is what you’ve done.
How did you transition from working solo to managing a team? How does it affect your creative flow?
Hayley King: This was definitely a slow build over time. It’s always a tricky juggle bringing on your first staff member, as you have to keep watch on cashflow, but at the same time having someone else frees up your own time - and time is money yeah? I think that once I started growing my team, things really started to fire up, and the brand really started to gain momentum. Everyone has their role and brings a certain skill set to the team, and I could never be where I am today without that input. People ask often, how I fit everything in… the answer is that it’s not just me anymore, there’s an epic group of people backing me daily.
When I need creative space, I work from my home office, it’s nice having another space (a quiet one!) where I can focus and let the creative juices flow.
HB: Artists face many challenges when they decide to share their work with others. Engaging with the art world can be daunting for someone who has been working away in their studio for months.
How do you make sure your work is positioned in a way that feels right to you?
Hayley King: This is a great question! Back in the day, I used to say YES to everything, as naturally it was in my favour to keep options open. Nowadays, I’m much more selective about who I align myself with (whether it be a brand, agency, charity or another artist). We’ve done quite a bit of internal strategy around what the Flox brand is and what that means to our audiences and this helps with knowing our own identity and who we feel aligned to. I think if you know what your values are, then you should feel confident in showcasing what you have to offer, whether that be campaign, project or exhibition based.
The core ethos of the brand is ever evolving but I think if I’m clear, and my staff are clear, then this naturally becomes evident to our audiences.
This process is a bit of an evolution, and in my own experience, really does need attention at least every five or so years.
HB: The way art is traditionally appreciated is through linear channels like galleries and showcases. You have created your own lane by controlling your art work and the way it is shared. You manage your own representation as an artist, you negotiate your own licence deals and exhibit your work a lot through public space displays.
You’ve commercialised your artistic work very successfully without compromising on your own voice, which is generally hard to do for artists.
What would be your advice for an artist who is starting to collaborate with brands but want to retain their artistic authenticity?
Hayley King: My advice has always been to keep doors open - certainly at the beginning of a career anyway. The creative industry has so many cross overs, and I could see that 15 years ago. I trained as a fine artist, but I then got into public/street/mural art, began a clothing brand and then started painting interiors.
To this day, I avoid at all costs, being pigeon holed, as I do believe you can “do it all”.
Like any career out there, as a full time artist you need to make money and that might mean washing dishes for a while (I worked in a bar for a few years to fund my passion).
At the end of the day, I don’t believe you have to position or choose what side of the fence you sit on - (I’m talking fine artist vs commercial artist).
It’s in your best interest to put down your roots on both sides and see what grows from there.
HB: I respect the way you blend your artist work and business so seamlessly. It is often hard for creatives to run a profitable business, yet, it is exactly what allows us as artists, to be free to create and experiment more.
What is your main focus as a business owner who is also an artist?
Hayley King:I tend to focus on maintaining a level of diversity in my business and art practice. There’s always multiple plates spinning in the air! When something’s not working for me creatively, I can step away and focus on another project or something completely different that needs my attention, and that time away from the initial focus, can often give me creative clarity about what is needed. For me, it’s important that there’s a balance between projects that are financially driven, and projects that inspire and develop my own sense of self, as an artist and a business owner.
HB: What’s coming next? Can you share what you’re working on or what your next project is about?
Hayley King:I have some really exciting murals coming up this year, both indoor and outdoor. I paint these works with another artist TrustMe (@mroscarlow), so it’s a really rewarding experience combining our techniques and aesthetics to create a brand new look. I also have a few workshops lined up and Haus Of Flox have some super exciting Flox gifts and lifestyle products being developed both here and offshore. During lockdown I managed to illustrate the entire second book in the Tu Meke Tui series, Tu Meke Tuatara. We had an incredible response (and still do) from Tu Meke Tui and so this second book was a long time coming. The TMT team are super proud of this next release, and we’ve lined it up to be on shelves by Xmas this year. I cannot wait for the kids to get their hands on it!
I was so inspired after listening to Hayley’s smart take on creativity that I want everyone to discover (or rediscover) Hayley's work at flox.co.nz . She’s a breath of fresh Kiwi air and her creative world is so rich, we are going to see a lot more of her art for sure.
And if you haven’t got a pair yet, Haus of Flox is currently supporting Bowel Cancer (@bowelcancernz) with the awesome GreatFull Bum Huggers project. Made in NZ from 90% GOTS-certified organic cotton and printed with water-based inks, all profits go to Bowel Cancer New Zealand, marking Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
Picture credits: 1, 3 & 9: Helen Bankers, others: courtesy of @floxnz