Staff at the Sarjeant Gallery work tirelessly to present the gallery's superb collection to the public, but something most people do not realise is that many of them are talented artists in their own right.

Gallery Assistants Katherine Claypole, Alice McDonald and Tia Ranginui are the front face of the Gallery for so many visitors to the Sarjeant.

When they aren't working they create artworks that express their individual take on life.

Katherine ClaypoIe, a practicing artist for 18 years, uses needle and thread as her primary medium for drawing, stitching on to paper or card, and more recently on to stretched canvas. She also uses collage and oil paints.

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Sarjeant Happenings
Sarjeant Happenings

"My work explores geometry, observation, science fiction and a sort of retro futurism. I make drawings that are often complex geometric structures and like to play around with optical illusions and perspective," Claypole says.

"I love making a viewer look and wonder just what is going on or just how did she do that and of course I always want to create work that has a wow factor."

Some of her work explores what she calls retro futurism.

"I love watching programs like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and listening to old radio plays. I'm kind of trapped like a little kid wondering just what the future holds, I love stories of robots and space travel."

Claypole sells her work in galleries and on Instagram where she has a small international following.

She recently sold all her work in an exhibition in Munich.

"I prioritise my studio time as best I can, juggling about four other casual jobs.

"Sometimes it is very tiring. Not having regular hours anywhere also makes it difficult to plan out my time."

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She rejoices in a recent move from a small sun room into a spacious studio on the river, where she can spread her wings.

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Alice McDonald studied glass production and design 16 years ago then moved into doing drawings that express her relationship to emotions and people. Her ink drawings are very fine line, abstract structures. At present she is working on a series of 12 drawings entitled Tête à Tête.

"It's my own language to express what I feel at a particular time. Tête à Tête is like a private conversation between two people (me and my husband). People around me inspire me and I am drawn to their emotional feelings. I draw any time at night when I have a quiet moment."

Alice says selling is a bonus.

She recently sold an ink drawing for $1500 at a contemporary art award show in Hamilton.

"I do it for me and if I have an idea in my head. My head is always thinking and that's why I want to produce. It's a hunger. I work through the process and I produce something, then I move on to the next project."

A return to creating glass art and building a hot shop is a long-term project already under way.

"My dream is to work for myself, open up a hot shop, blow glass and draw and have a gallery in town."

Tia Ranginui (Ngai Hine Oneone) uses mainly digital photography as an immediate way to express the way she sees things conceptually.

"My main thematic content is what impacts me as a Maori woman [and] can be a bit controversial. My 'serious violation of tapu' work is about tapu in today's society and modern women – whether today it is relevant. It was there for a reason but a lot of it is irrelevant today. For example it was a serious violation of tapu for Maori women to cut hair, to cook, to garden while they had their period, so I was questioning how that is even relevant today. In today's society you wouldn't be able to do hairdressing, or be a chef or a gardener."

Tia says she creates artworks when she feels an imperative.

"When I'm taking photos most of the time some kind of wairua (spirit) happens and everything comes together. It's like I'm channelling something and it happens so well. I'm not really controlling what's happening."

Three days a week at the Sarjeant leaves time to do her art. "Working at the gallery is great because you learn so much about the artists and the collection. Other artists work here too and they share things. It's quite inspiring."