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Source: Eastern Institute of Technology – Tairāwhiti

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For this art piece, Tania has woven a PVC-coated wire into a traditional poutama pattern turning it into a rug. The tassels are created from recycled plastic packaging.

For Tania Skilton (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu) a full-on year is about to end with a new milestone. The Creative Practice degree student is set to showcase her best work at this year’s IDEAschool Arts Festival on November 27. Tania is hard at work putting the last touches on her art pieces to be exhibited on the big day.

Over the last three and a half years at EIT, the 34-year-old has turned from hobby jeweller into a professional artist discovering the creative potential of recycled materials and developing a unique artistic style.

Feeding from an innate level of creativity, Tania always loved creating, sketching and drawing. She was 17 years old when she had her first daughter and left school and for a while, arts had to take a back seat. Two more children came along who kept (and still keep) Tania busy.

Some friends who studied at EIT, encouraged her to study and develop her talent. Tania enrolled in a level 3 Arts & Design programme, initially with the idea of expanding her jewellery skills. Little did she know that she would explore a whole new world of art disciplines and free her creativity.

Next, Tania went straight on to do the level 5 Diploma in Art and Design that sparked her passion for sculpture and welding. One of the highlights was a workshop with a jeweller who showed students how to make rings from scrap copper and brass. Tania said that she found it extremely inspiring to watch the artist creating masterpieces from recycled metal that would typically be classified as waste.

Although lockdown had posed some great challenges to Tania, hindering her from using the workshops and welding machines, she pulled through thanks to her lecturers’ support and creative solutions.

“Despite the circumstances, this year actually feels like I’ve found my calling,” Tania says with a spark in her eyes. She has delved into traditional Māori and contemporary weaving techniques and started to challenge herself by using unconventional materials to create threads including steel, cables, bubble wrap, bread bags, recycled linen, garden hoses and plastic. Her intricate woven art pieces will be exhibited at this year’s IDEAschool Arts Festival.

Asked what she will do next year with a Bachelor of Creative Practice in her pocket, she says that she will just play it by ear. “Completing a degree is a true mission but I’m nearly there. There are multiple options and I will see where this journey will take me and take things as they come.”