The smell of freshly burned incense greeted us as we entered the home of Waikanae glass sculptor and painter Graeme Hitchcock, followed by a collection of artworks settled atop tables, walls and subtly lit shelves, the miniature exhibition taking over his hilltop lounge.
Men with shinny heads and pointed upward facing noses comprised the majority of space, dressed in conventional black suits and rested in different sizes and tones, the smoothed glass breathing multilayered tones of orange, green, red, yellow and blue.
"The Man Looking collection came from of a group of men I saw waiting at a bus stop in Auckland, who had their hands in their pockets, just looking up as they waited to catch the bus to another day of work," said Graeme, whose forms have found homes all across New Zealand and stirred interest at a range of nationwide exhibitions.
Graeme, who took us through the intricate and methodological case glass sculpting process from his garage, was the first of four artists visited by Kapiti News, national media and Kapiti mayor Ross Church last month, during a day-long tour showcasing the depths and attractions of the Kapiti Coast.
Set to feature at this year's annual
running over two weekends in October and November, the artists will be among 61 studio artists, 19 artists in four hubs and 13 galleries comprising Kapiti's biggest annual art event.
With a number of new artists participating this year and interest pouring in from art enthusiasts in Wellington and as far as Auckland, organisers gave us an inside taste of what is on offer for visitors seeking a colourful coastal weekend experience.
So off we set, on a journey to uncover the vibrant beachside district recognised for its innovative hospitality and entrepreneurship, authenticity, community connectedness and, of course, thriving arts scene.
Leaving behind empty coffee cups and lounge views of Kapiti Island as we said goodbye to Graeme, we travelled the wet roads to our next destination, the home of Paraparaumu abstract and portraiture painter Micheline Robinson.
The French-Canadian artist's works, which have been exhibited throughout the world as well as at the Kapiti Arts Trail and Waikanae Summer Studio Tour, filled her spacious garage studio, the compositions moody and instinctive and depicting varying themes and mediums.
Many of the paintings unearthed emotions that had stemmed from her relocation to New Zealand in 2012, the long glass doors of her studio offering visual reminders of her family's newfound Kiwiness - native greenery at every corner and a homemade tyre swing gathering a pocket of rainwater.
"Since the works record my journey and experiences, they're more or less large visual diaries," said Micheline, who most often paints in a series rather than sticking to one style.
"Then, once I've thoroughly exhausted a subject, I'll move onto another one."
Before a visit to the home studio of talented 30-year-old contemporary artist Fabienne Joni Sopacua, our group was gifted with a decadent morning tea at the popular Ruth Pretty Garden Room, set amid 27 acres of rural Te Horo land and home to the well-known food personality's successful catering company, cooking school and garden and kitchen shops.
The tranquil complex, which hosts special functions from the cosy and elegantly set home of Ruth and husband Paul, was awash with fresh fruit, thriving vegetable gardens and, as we learnt, indulgent Caffe L'affare espresso coffee and cake.
Fabienne, who settled on the coast two years ago after shifting from the Netherlands with her partner and six-year-old daughter, greeted us at the doorstep of her rented Raumati Beach home, where she works during school hours to create her breathtakingly works from a spare bedroom.
Captivating life-like subjects lined the four walls, their eyes remarkably detailed and spilling their own backstories, reflecting Fabienne's desire to provoke thought about humanity through her artwork.
"As long as I can remember, drawing has been a part of my life," said the qualified social worker, who will donate a portion of sales from the arts trail to organisations including UNICEF, Wellington Zoo and the Kapiti Performing Arts Centre.
In between a visit to the last artist on our list, Paekakariki's well-known creative Alan Wehipeihana, we were welcomed into Kapiti's historically-rich Mahara Gallery, where director Janet Bayly took us through the gallery that opened in 1995, detailing the significance behind a 44-piece compilation The Field Collection, collected and created by three generations of Kapiti's prominent Field family.
A fresh, flavoursome lunch at Long Beach Tavern in Waikanae Beach followed as another mid-tour treat, its rising success the work of local entrepreneurs Todd Cameron and Aaron Wagstaff who, over the past eight years, have marked the three main corners of their home town with the equally thriving Olde Beach Bakery, North End Brewery and most recently, The Salt and Wood Collective.
After a relaxing lunch encounter that opened our eyes to the gravity of entrepreneurship in Kapiti, we climbed the steps leading to Alan's rustic street-side studio, an old sewing factory located in the heart of Paekakariki village.
, who has a collection of published short stories to his name, spoke of being introduced to lead lighting in the 1980s, before discovering stone in 1990 and becoming a full-time artist two years later, at age 42.
"When I wasn't pulling glass shards from my elbows, I was grappling with design and trying to overcome the limitations of function," said Alan, who will enter the Kapiti Arts Trail for his 12th time this year.
"A job with a landscaping firm led to a passion for plants, brick walls, trellised fences, old chimneypots and posed Zen dilemmas, like where the hell do I put the third rock?"
He said, eventually, a camera with a good zoom helped him separate a complex world into simpler elements and, now sharing his large multi-room studio with other unique Paekakariki talents, he has dug his heels in as one of Paekakariki's most prominent multi-faceted artists.
Leaving behind the creative energy stirring in Alan's studio, we ended the tour with a trip to Paraparaumu's award-winning Tuatara Brewery tasting room, where the smooth flavours of Tuatara's international-selling beers accompanied the taste of fresh Kapiti Cheeses and complimentary sides.
Welcomed by founder and beer brewing engineer Carl Vasta, who started brewing beer in his Waikanae backyard in the 1990s, we relished in the tones of four different beer crafts that left our taste buds tested and senses warm.
If that was not enough, a menu set with Italian-rich rice, pasta and meats was passed our way as we enjoyed a dinner at Paraparaumu Beach's popular Soprano Ristorante, a glass of wine and flowing conversation topping the comforting food flavours and gently lit evening décor.
As I headed home, after a day breathing in the vitality of such a culturally immersed community, the other visitors trailed off into the quiet sand dunes of Peka Peka, for a luxurious seaside stay at Atahuri - the sound of rolling waves creating the perfect end to a remarkable coastal experience.
¦The Kapiti Arts Trail runs over the weekends of Saturday, October 29 to Sunday, October 30 and Saturday, November 5 to Sunday to November 6.