We are delighted to feature Ophelia Mikkelson Jones on the auór journal this month.
A fierce creator, artist, photographer and sock maker who is carving out a quiet life which reflects and celebrates her coastal surroundings in beautiful New Zealand.
We first crossed paths with Ophelia when we caught her wearing our Paloma Celery frames a year ago now, befriending one another over our shared love of radiant green.
We’ve been in awe of her sensibility, creative eye and humble ways ever since.
We’d love to know how your life started out, where you were born and grew up?
I grew up the youngest of five children, the daughter that followed four boys. We grew up in Devonport, a small seaside village. Our home was always full, warm and by the ocean. I loved making ‘houses’ in the hidden corners of the garden, under the guava tree and near wild lavender bushes. I’ve always enjoyed collecting things, picking flowers, cooking and imagining rooms and spaces.
Where is home for you now?
I live in Tairua in the Coromandel with my husband, Ryder. We live in a small beach house that’s tucked up into the sands dunes that’s falling apart.
What is the most interesting place that you have lived?
Where we live now poses a certain way of living. Tairua is a two hour drive from the city so our days are slow and self-directed. Being near the ocean and in nature is really important to us and our art practices. We go to the city every few weeks, so we dip in and out of more social and extraverted times, but we always love returning and focusing on our work from the quiet of our home.
Can you give us an insight into your inner world? In three words describe yourself.
One of the most important things in my life is to be kind. To be kind and take care of others.I also love to danceand be joyful. So, if someone described me as a kind dancing woman I would like that very much.
We know there is someone special in your life. Who is he and how did you meet?
Ryder and I met at whilst studying Visual Arts at university almost eight years ago. He first saw me walking into a lift barefooted. I first saw him in the sculpture studios, he was making work from stones and kauri gum he’d collected on the beach. When I saw him I walked straight up to him. We have been talking and making ever since that day. Ryder is an artist and writer. He was born on the island of Kauai, in Hawaii (where I am writing this interview from!). We were married on the dunes outside our house on a Sunday at sunrise three years ago.
You are clearly a creative person. When did you first realise this?
I grew up in a very creative family, so that part of me (which is all of me!) was always nurtured and honoured. I have always loved drawing, painting and collecting objects. I remember as a little girl crushing up flower petals with water to make ‘perfume’ and selling it to people that walked by my house. I was always making huts and imaging the rooms inside them. I never tried hard in subjects I didn’t enjoy in school because I knew I wanted to paint, take photos and make things: whether that was artwork or a meal, I always knew that’s how I wanted to spend my time.
You have an art background in painting, photography, textiles and object making. Where did you gain these skills from?
I studied Visual Arts at AUT University where I had the most wonderful teachers and peer group. I majored in painting and sculpture. I then did my Masters in Spatial Design where I then focused my thesis on the space of the home. I was interested in the home as a domestic space but also how we can find home in nature and/or common spaces.
Do you have any creative rituals you like to do from time to time?
I walk the beach everyday. I also love to do blind drawings. If my paintings are becoming too rigid this loosens me up. It reminds me of the gestures and looseness that I love in paintings.
Who are you top three most influential artists?
Oh my goodness! Ok, I’ll do this fast before I think of my top ten. Ann Hamilton because of the way she weaves daily and domestic ritual into the tapestry of her practice. Milton Avery because of his brush stokes. And Sophie Calle because of the way she documents and studies people.
You’ve worked on a lot of collaborative projects with sustainable brands. Can you tell us about some of your favourites?
I am super lucky to have an incredible community of people around me that are designing and making in an extremely conscious and sustainable way. This is really important for me when I work with other people - whether that be photography, writing, design or artistic collaborations - that this is at the forefront of their brands or projects. I always love working with Anyonegirl, Penny Sage, Curionoir, Tessuti… the list goes on!
What are you working on now?
I just had a solo exhibition called The Emerald Sun Dilates at Parlour Projects gallery in The Hawke’s Bay so I am just winding down from that. The gallery has asked me to make some more works for them so I am working on those now.
Your recent trip to Asia, Europe and California looked incredible. Tell us about it.
I love going to places I have never been before. We went to West Sumbawa and the shells there were the most incredible I had ever seen on a beach. We were surprised how much we adored Paris, usually we dip in and out of cities and head for the coast but we got caught up and lost in the galleries that we had to extend this part of the trip! We loved the Picasso and Calder exhibition, the Brancusi atelier and the Rodin. In California we watched, and photographed, our friends elope in 29 palms, deep in the desert. I had never been to the desert before and it was incredible beautiful, hot and still. The trip was long and exhausting, inspiring and special.
Is there a funny story you have stashed away to share?
I can’t remember where we were, but we got on a plane somewhere, maybe it was Jakarta, and we walked right down to the end of the plane but the seat numbers stopped at 40 but our seats were in the 50’s. The air hostess said we were on the wrong plane so we had to turn around and run across the tarmac to the right plane! I really want to know what country we would have ended up in that day if we had just sat down!
If you could live somewhere else in the world aside from New Zealand where would it be and why?
Japan! Ryder and I love it there. The people are so kind, the food is out of this world and the craftsmanship and ritual of making is something to uphold.
What are you listening to and reading at the moment?
I am listening to Lizzo and the last book I finished was called Three Woman by Lisa Taddeo.
What’s next for Ophelia?
A long lovely summer at home and I am publishing a book of photographs with anyonebooks that is being released early next year.