Off the Beaten Path

The BOP Open Studios art trail weekend will offer fascinating glimpses into the world of vastly different artists, from sculptors using industrial tools to jewellers, potters and painters.

The BOP Open Studios art trail weekend will offer fascinating glimpses into the world of vastly different artists, from sculptors using industrial tools to jewellers, potters and painters.

Walking inside Constanza Briceño’s Pāpāmoa art studio is like stepping into one of her paintings. You get a sense of being wrapped in a patchwork quilt. Cosy and colourful, it’s comforting yet not without a feeling of vitality.

Constanza’s art itself is woven from her childhood memories. It’s a voyage through her life, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, where every brush stroke adds a bit more salt and pepper to the stories of her past.

“My grandmother lived with us; she wasn’t your typical lovely nana. She was very feminist, independent, a business owner, divorced… She was one of the many prominent characters in my life. The stories and memories I have of these people, that’s what speaks to me. I enjoy the layers — all those stories have built me into who I am today, the same way I build my paintings with layers. Things you probably won’t see in the end — but they are there.”

Above & opener: Constanza Briceño’s Pāpāmoa art studio.

Constanza’s studio is one of the many intriguing stops along the BOP Open Studios art trail, where the Bay’s artists open their doors and invite you to get up-close-and-personal with their work. From 23 to 25 February 2024, the free art trail will stretch from Athenree to Pukehina, mapping out our region’s creative landscape.

Constanza is also on the event’s organising team, alongside fellow local artists Nicola Welten, Christie Cramer, Shona Mackenzie and Tracey Finch. “We saw every other region was doing an art trail and we thought, why aren’t we? We figured it would be a great success if we had 40 artists sign up — with over 80 artists now participating, we’re very excited to be bringing this to life.”

Heading north along the art trail, we wind our way through industrial-zone Mount Maunganui to find the hidden gem tucked behind a glazing factory that’s sculptor Ben Young’s studio — although it’s more like a workshop. A glass and concrete artist, Ben has a mini concrete mixer that sits near a grinding bay rigged up with an old shower curtain, and across the room is the gluing department complete with a UV lamp typically used in nail salons.

“Each individual sheet of glass gets cut — you start working in two-dimensional shapes, but as you slowly change them, every 4mm piece of glass can create a three-dimensional object,” he explains.

Ben’s indepth process is to be expected when you see his objects. Piercingly blue glass shapes are shrouded in concrete, like jagged mountains rising up around the ocean, supported in stainless steel. “Everyone always asks where we get our ideas from — I’ve been doing it for so long now, and the sculptures themselves take so long to create, that one idea just leads to the next. It’s more now focusing on which idea. It’s a good problem to have.”

This chain-reaction of ideas results in extraordinary craftsmanship. Ben’s studio will definitely be a popular stop along the trail.

Ben Young with one of his striking glass and concrete sculptures

Just around the corner, artist Mandy Williams is painting in her studio off Hull Rd. Beside her, Cuban Havanese pup Ccino works her angles, ready for our photoshoot.

Donning a painting apron from the Tate Gallery in London, Mandy has an elegance to her, something which shines through in Blue Sky Days, her series featuring ladies playing golf and tennis, wearing Chanel shoes and preppy outfits. The sophistication lies in the detailing.

There’s a synergy between this series and the portrait commissions Mandy undertakes for families, telling their stories and keeping their memories safe above the mantelpiece. “Some people know exactly what they want, but not normally. Most people don’t know what they want, but all they need to know is who they would like in the painting. The rest is part of the process. That’s what they have me for — that’s the fun bit!” says Mandy. “I do a little interview and put all the information down about the kids, what they like, what they do together, how they bond, their preferences, anything special that they particularly like doing. Then I take lots of pictures and then put together some drawings, which they choose from.”

Mandy Williams’ art practice includes taking on commissions for family portraits.

Portraits in varying stages of realism line the walls. It’s as if they breathe. This stands to reason as Mandy explains her layering process. “It all starts with a warm undertone, an underpainting, then I start to put the brown over the top — the warmth underneath comes through.”

Like the warmth of blood beneath the skin. “Yes, I suppose it is,” Mandy laughs.

This free art trail is your chance to meet the makers behind the magic. It celebrates the very foundation that our creative community is built upon — the simple fact that we’re stronger together.

Start planning your BOP Open Studios art trail by downloading the map at bopopenstudios.co.nz
Words by Rose Treadwell
Photography by Jess Lowcher