WHATU's different

By Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell

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WHATU is no ordinary Tauranga gallery shop.

It contains an intriguing blend, from one-off, locally made taonga Maori pieces, to items made in larger production runs.

It also offers learning opportunities and support for local artists.

Founded by five local female artists, Tauranga Moana Artisans and trading as WHATU, the diverse business is growing steadily.

WHATU is not only a co-operative of artists - the business also supports emerging and senior artists by acting as their agent.

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The negotiation process and paperwork that goes with commissioning art can be a barrier for many artists. WHATU has the ability to manage this process so artists can get on with the job of making art.

The physical premises of WHATU is Shop 5, The Village on 17th.

The shop has a small area at the front, which presents exquisitely handmade kete, potae (hats), flowers, jewellery, whakairo (carving), painting and prints. It opens from 10am to 3pm, from Tuesday to Saturday, with late night hours for special occasions.

The rear of the premises is utilised as a multi-purpose space, for directors to produce their own artwork and as a workshop for learning.

One-day courses include raranga (weaving) for beginners, which the company hopes to grow over the next several months.

Social networking, and an internet presence, is proving a great way to showcase WHATU artists and their artwork to a wider audience.

Using Facebook has meant all advertising for WHATU is meaningful and unobtrusive.

The WHATU website www.whatu.net is also a key feature of the business.

The directors intend to move into online shopping in the future but are proceeding with caution, given the lasting impact the recent economic dowturn has had on artists..

The directors include weavers Aroha Luttenberger, Te Maumako August, Awhina Thatcher, Beverly Palmer, and painter and graphic artist Te Rahui August Sutherland.

Others listed as WHATU artists include local carver Hipara August, taniko weaver Rangi Moka, weaver Rawinia Grey, and jewellery artist Marewa Luttenberger.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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