I work in 2D and 3D art with a diverse range of media. I have always had an intimate relationship with uku (clay) often collecting directly from nature, which I coined the term “wild clay” in 2004. Working with this indigenous material has provided a fruitful pathway in my art career receiving prestigious art awards.

My ongoing investigation around Material and Visual Culture has influenced my use of discarded materials that link to underlying facts about transforming trash and addressing our extreme wastage. My most recent unconventional art practices involve the use of the forgotten, unwanted, and discarded objects. The work illustrates ways which we can reclaim and integrate everyday materials from the refuse to the world of art. The designs are a hybrid between traditional practices and modern adaptations, and it becomes evident with the materials and process I labour with, and the theoretical meaning behind the art and artefacts.

IMAGE: 2013 Rotorua Artist Awards Winner: Waimangu Volcanic Valley Sustainable Art Award Rotorua Museum New Zealand

I am the youngest of nine children, born and raised in Rotorua. I affiliate with my iwi Te Arawa, Te Whakatohea (Opotiki) and Te Rarawa (Dargaville) and I am also of French, German and Jewish descent. My work ethics had started at an early age working on food caravans and at food establishments in the 70s. I did not receive a formal high school education as I was forced to leave at age 15 when I was expecting my first child. It was of no surprise that my trade would lead to working in the hospitality industry. I became an apprentice chef at an elegant restaurant called You & Me and enrolled during that time in study at Waiariki Institute of Technology. I went on to become Kitchen Manager in the Cobb & Co franchise at the Grand Hotel. I also spent three years as a Care giver to the elderly that I found the most rewarding.

IMAGE: 2013 Rotorua Artist Awards Winner: Waimangu Volcanic Valley Sustainable Art Award Rotorua Museum New Zealand

It was not my intention to become an artist, it just happened. Being the baby of the family, I was nurtured by older siblings and Kuia so early on I was surrounded by an abundance of creativity. I would collect objects from the beach at Cape Runaway with my Kuia Queenie then we would make shell and driftwood ornaments. I learnt to weave bowls and mats from harakeke (flax) planted by my grandmother. I always had an enquiring mind and I think the artist had always been there, but it was a matter of finding her. In 2000 I enrolled in a Certificate in Art course to learn a craft where I excelled in the arts and graduated with an art degree in 2004. In 2007 I gained a Master of Fine Art with 2nd class honors from Whitecliffe College of Art & Design, Auckland. In 2012 I completed Postgraduate studies in the field of Material and Visual Culture through Massey University. I have been a practicing artist since 2004.

IMAGE: 2010 Waiariki Institute of Technology

My creations are from a thought that transpires into an idea. I do prefer the hands-on approach to creating by manipulating materials and by getting stuck in and doing it for me is where magic happens. My creative practice and teaching practice seamlessly traverse a variety of art disciplines and media. I enjoy transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.

IMAGE: Johnson-Matua, J. (2006) Unfired Wild clay wall painting installation Whitecliffe College Randolph Street Gallery, Auckland.