Introducing Vanessa Wairata Edwards

A Printmaker with stories to tell.

Vanessa Graduated from Taupo Quay School of the Arts in 2002, majoring in printmaking.  Following that she opened her first studio with Rachael Garland in Whanganui and has based herself there ever since.

In 2004 Vanessa attended her first International Indigenous wananga, Te Mata, where she met numerous international indigenous printmakers.  They challenged her and Mike Samuels to identify and bring together Maori printmakers in Aotearoa as well as inviting them to the International Print conference in Wisconsin the following year.  Edwards and Samuels took up that challenge and both were founding members of Toi Whakataa that was established in 2006 under the guidance and encouragement of Gabrielle Belz. 

Over the last 10 years Edwards has worked predominantly in drypoint.

“I enjoy the quick and graphic nature of drypoint, I can create an image reasonably quickly and then spend time exploring layering, monoprinting and refining the drypoint technique”.

 More recently Edwards has started working in the mixed media sgraffito technique of scratching through a dark surface to reveal a light tone beneath.

 “This is something you may have done in primary school to illustrate fireworks displays, I started doing this with my junior students at secondary school and then started to push the technique myself to see how far I could go with it.  It still fascinates me now and will be something I would like to continue to develop.”

Alongside old techniques of sgraffito Edwards is exploring new technology and printmaking, utilising the laser cutter and seeing how far she pushes her image making through laser cutting collaged imagery into her solid wood and collaborating with others to cut into the negative space to reflect her concept. These two new techniques have been a refreshing change for Edwards and the new direction is reflected here and a direction she will continue to explore.

 I love the feel and smell of printmaking, the many processes and techniques to explore.  Printmaking derives from drawing and I love that.  More recently I am really looking at the long term relevance of my work and where I see it fitting into the scheme of things.  This has resulted in me looking into tikanga and matauranga maori and our mythology.  How is our past relevant in the present/ future?  I want to continue to reference past ideas so that they are not forgotten but rediscovered.

 Edwards is currently taking a sabbatical to complete her Masters in Maori Visual Arts through Toioho ki Apiti Massey University Palmerston North. She is a secondary school teacher and works to create opportunities for young artist and young Maori to explore their identity and ability through the visual arts. She is looking to complete her Masters of Maori Visual Arts over the next few years.

Clare Mora