Jonathan Organ and Jessica Pearless got the call about eight weeks ago to say the owls had landed.
They borrowed Jessica's father's van and Organ drove from their Devonport home to the Corbans Estate Arts Centre in West Auckland to collect the temporary new additions to the family. The drive home, with such precious cargo, might have been slower and steadier; getting the owls through an ivy archway and onto a covered back veranda was definitely a challenge.
"All the neighbours were watching and they're [the owls] quite large and I could hardly fit them through the ivy archway," he says. "The neighbours must have wondered what we were up to now…"
What the two Auckland artists are up to is a project which, early next year, will take flight across inner Auckland to raise funds for the Child Cancer Foundation. Organ and Pearless are among 40 artists who have turned the owls into bespoke works of art for The Big Hoot.
Of course, no actual owls have been harmed in the process.
Artists have spent 10 weeks transforming blank 1.65m hollow fibreglass structures — in the shape of owls — into individually decorated structures. They're now ready to be collected and carefully stored before the Haier Big Hoot art trail opens in early March.
Then 46 owls will be displayed, among them Organ and Pearless' two as well as one created by The Hits Breakfast crew Sarah, Sam and Toni in conjunction with artist Paul Walsh. Other artists involved include Dick Frizzell, Jeff Thompson, Flox (Hayley King), Peata Larkin, Weilun Ha and Charles & Janine Williams. Schools have signed up to decorate 58 smaller owls as part of the Little Hoot.
Pearless says each owl is about as wide as "two hugs" and their height and girth means they cut quite striking figures. Organ even admits late at night, he thinks about trying to communicate with his.
They and sons Jacob, 4, and Dylan, 2, have become quite used to having the owls on the back veranda where the couple has spent many hours working alongside one another but creating completely different designs.
Auckland's wet weather meant a later start than perhaps they would have liked — getting paint to dry in the rain is not much fun — but both are pleased with their near finished results.
Pearless' Geometric Owl is decorated using a base of duck egg blue with paints from Resene's metallic range. It incorporates a range of geometric shapes, which she uses a lot in her art, and thinks is a nice crossover that the exhibition is aimed at families so she could play with the geometry of shapes and build in some learning around that.
Organ has used more industrial paints — iron oxides and graphite greys — on his owl which has been nicknamed Hoot Abstract. He's tried to add texture to his owl, in contrast to its smoothness and stream-lined shape.
Both say while they'll be sorry to see the owls go, they look forward to having more space on their deck and to then seeing and walking the Haier Big Hoot art trail. The public art exhibition will run for 10 weeks, before the Owls are auctioned to raise money for the Child Cancer Foundation. It is hoped to make around $300,000.