Transforming cable ties into art

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When Wanaka artist Andi Regan arrived in New Zealand from the north of England in 2003, she had no idea that her observation of Kiwi ‘‘No 8 wire’’ culture would turn into her artistic career. ‘‘Kiwis are intuitive, and can make something out of nothing, so that sparked something.’’
Ms Regan was interested in using recycled items and transforming them into pieces of art. After looking at various items like plastic bags, simple utilitarian cable ties caught her eye.
‘‘The cable ties just seemed to be everywhere, and I started looking for them.’’
This began an exploration of how she could twist, loop and sculpt the ubiquitous plastic straps, ‘‘almost like a weaving technique’’.
‘‘When I look at things, nature is very mathematical. And when I was making some starfish, there is definitely mathematics in those sea creatures.
‘‘Nature is really mathematical when you look into it, and that does strike a chord with me.’’
Each one of her creations was beautiful but also had a clear message about the environmental dangers of a plastic, throwaway culture, she said.
‘‘It has to be beautiful, I have to bring it back to something visually beautiful. I don’t just want to make a mess.’’
A ‘‘lightbulb moment’’ came when she realised the ties could be dyed different colours.
‘‘That changed them completely, because I started off just making them out of white and black and red ones you could get.’’
Over time, Ms Regan was able to make more inventive shapes.
‘‘They become more three­dimensional. The first one I did was just a flat piece,’’ she said.
That first cable tie piece was white and circular, but it won a prize in a local competition.
One of the judges, artist Rachel Hirabayashi, encouraged Ms Regan to apply to join the Hullabaloo artists collective.
After being welcomed to the group, Ms Regan said her art was taken to a new level.
‘‘Being in here has pushed me, because we have to produce new work every month.We rehang the gallery every month.’’
Each artist also has solo shows in the space.
‘‘This started my career really, and from here I’ve got work in other galleries.’’
And her creativity is not slowing down anytime soon —for her next show, she planned to do an exhibition based on the world of fungi, exploring organic forms of mushrooms.
‘‘I like taking photos in the bush, and I went to the West Coast recently and I took loads of photographs of mushrooms.
‘‘I don’t think I will run out of ideas.’’