Amanda Billing is unleashing her artistic side to raise awareness about bowel cancer - the disease that took the life of one of her closest friends.

The actress - best known for her role as Dr Sarah Potts on Shortland Street - has joined musician Boh Runga and several other Kiwi artists to design a chair to be auctioned for a Bowel Cancer NZ fundraiser.

Billing's creation is inspired by the Star Wars movie franchise, much-loved by her friend, a police officer in his mid-30s who lost his life to bowel cancer last year.

Her friend Garry was diagnosed in 2013. A large tumour was discovered in his bowel.


"He was a young man and from his diagnosis onwards he was told a number of times, you are fit, buff and strong," Billing said.

But he died two years later.

His experience fuelled her desire to see more people talk about bowel health. "I guess it's a taboo thing and we are embarrassed about it. "

Billing said of the chair she had created for the fundraiser. "It's just a series of thoughts, one thing leading to another. I have a chair, I have Garry, I have Star Wars ... I'm drawing on my own creative catalogue and putting all of these things together.

"It's just kinda fun, not serious at all. And that's what Garry was like, too."

An online auction will kick-off on Thursday as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness month.

The chairs will be for sale on Trade Me until June 12.

In this week's Budget, the Government announced $39.3 million over four years for a national bowel cancer screening programme for people aged 60-74. Each year 1200 New Zealanders die of the disease.