Andrea du Chatenier, a ceramics artist, UCOL lecturer and Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) native, relocated to Whanganui in 2005, moving a former schoolhouse onto her Aramoho property and converting it into an art studio. Du Chatenier was the recipient of this year's Dame Doreen's Gift award from the Blumhardt Foundation, which celebrates artists whose achievement and commitment has garnered the respect and admiration of peers and sector leaders. She answered 10 questions from Mike Tweed.
What is your favourite thing to do in Whanganui?
Walking on South Beach. I do it about four times a week. It's beautiful, hardly occupied and always different in terms of weather. It's a great place for the dogs as well.
You're the proud owner of two dalmatians. What is it about that breed that sets them apart?
It's all about look. They are the most perfect home decor accessory. If you sit them on the couch there is no need for that fake fur. Graphically superb. They are also very nice to touch - soft and silky. Dalmatians do need a lot of exercise, so they're fantastic personal trainers. They're quirky and have a sense of humour.
How did you get into ceramics? And why did it become your chosen medium?
My father made ceramics, and when I was at art school I specialised in sculpture. Generally, ceramics were becoming more popular. Why I keep going with it is that it has such potential and is very addictive in terms of its complexity. There are infinite possibilities when I start working.
You can invite three people from history to dinner. Who would they be and why?
I'm starting with someone who will cook - Heston Blumenthal. He's really into the science of cooking and seems like quite good value. It would be incredibly beautiful, theatrical and flamboyant. Next is Donna Haraway, who is an American philosopher and scientist. Her point of interest is the intersection between nature and culture. She's pretty amazing. I thought I needed a bit of light relief too, and that would be Jerry Saltz, who is a New York art critic. He's very funny and witty, and a great talker.
Do you have a secret skill nobody knows about?
I'm very good with a pneumatic tufting gun, which is for rug making. I've also got quite good taxidermy skills. I've never thought of putting them together, though. I've only done birds, really. I did a rabbit once, but that was bad because it was already partly decomposed. You want them "freshly dead".
What is one thing you would improve in Whanganui?
I would like the bridge at Matipo Park reconstituted. I love the wilderness areas in Whanganui but I don't think we do well by them. The [Whanganui] river needs cleaning up a bit. People shoot wild goats and toss them in there, and forestry stuff gets pushed in too.
If art was off the table, what career would you have pursued instead?
When I was around 11 I was asked what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to be an art teacher or a fashion designer. My teacher said "Andrea, it's a lot of work being a fashion designer", so I switched to art. I've veered off many times and had other careers. In my twenties I had a couple of restaurants in Kirikiriroa.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
I would say things like resilience, aspiration and hard work. "Get your head out of the clouds, Andrea, and knuckle down." The other one was "stop thinking about boys". I would like to be beside them as my adult self and give them a hand in decision-making for those stupid moments.
Who would play you in the Andrea Du Chatenier biopic? And what would the film be called?
That's easy, Meryl Streep. I've often been told I look like her. An air steward told me that once and insisted on calling me Meryl for the rest of the trip, which was a long one. I know she would be honoured and privileged to play the role. I'm going to call the film Crafty Hollow.
What do you think is Whanganui's best-kept secret?
It has a fantastic history - pre-human habitation, pre-colonial and post-colonial. Our natural history is fantastic and our Māori history is really interesting. I think we could celebrate that a little bit more.