TORI VEYSEY - Journeyman Creative

Tori Veysey is a Graphic Designer by trade, brimming with all kinds of crafty talents. She lives in Cambridge, NZ with her husband Brendon and their two boys (three year old Van and baby Cruz). She always has a creative project or two on the go. For this feature, I photographed her through the process of making an animal plushy soft toy.

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When and how did you gain your love for drawing and craft?

I have always been encouraged in my artistic endeavours. My Dad is a very creative person and growing up I remember him constantly teaching me new skills and broadening my scope of creativity. He did a lot of drawing and woodwork with my brother and I when we were kids. And though my Mum would not consider herself an "artistic person" she was always sewing, knitting or crafting too. Somebody in the house always had a project going on.

Tell us about your creative style and what you like to create?

I think I'm pretty eclectic with my projects and creations. I am a graphic designer/illustrator by trade and I work a lot on the computer, so when it comes to my hobby projects I like to branch out a little. I dabble in photography, sewing, typography, interior design and painting. I'm fairly self-taught in these areas and I think that is part of the enjoyment for me. I like a challenge and problem solving, so figuring out a new craft whilst in the middle of the project is fun for me. I've been known to bite off more than I can chew technically speaking so its real learning curve!

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Talk us through the process of making a plushy.

Generally I start with a pencil sketch of what I want to create. Nothing fancy, just a reference for proportions and colours or patterns I want to use. After that I rummage through the fabric that I already have collected over the years, which is usually followed by a trip to the local opshop to hunt for a specific fabric. I like to use second hand items where I can with my crafts which keeps costs down and is better for the environment. After I have collected my materials I will draw and cut out a pattern on paper. I use the same shape for the arms and legs, followed by the body and head which is one piece, and then the ears, and this case antlers. Once I have the main pieces cut I play around with how the clothing will look on the body. This process is generally a make-it-up-as-I-go-along type scenario. Then I get to sewing! I do all the main parts on a sewing machine and any smaller details or finicky bits by hand. I usually sew on the eyes and face details last, stuff it and close it up! I have made 6 of these now and each time I do things a little differently.

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How does your stage of life inspire or conflict with your creative expression?

Because I like to try my hand at lots of different things, I quite like a change of pace or situation. As a mum of young boys (Van 3 and Cru 7 months) I have found that I want to create things for them. So in recent years, lots of my crafts have been centered around toys or clothing for kids.

I'm lucky enough to work from home and for myself so I have an office which is my "creative space". It helps for me to have somewhere separated from our "living" space where I can go to create. It also means I can make a mess, which I often do when I'm in the throws of a project, and then shut the door and forget about it – not stressing that the main living area is a tip and that the kids will get into a half started project.

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How do you balance your efforts and time with family / work and creative projects?

I'm someone who always needs a side gig. Big or small. Just something to keep my creative brain active. And something that is for myself. In my day job I can make suggestions and often I have quite a lot of creative control, but at the end of the day the client has the final say and it's nice to have a project where I am the boss and get to make all the decisions. Since becoming a mother I have found my side projects to be more valuable than I would have thought. Initially I thought I would no longer be able to do projects for myself (who has the time?!) but as I began to find my groove, balancing motherhood and work, I discovered that it was really important to me. When I am up in the middle of the night and feeding the baby I daydream and scheme about things I want to make and do. In many ways it keeps me sane! These ideas can be brewing for a long time before they are actually brought to life. So when life is too full and there is no time for "making", I figure out the details in my head, and slowly chip away at an idea. It also means that when I finally do have some time to create something, Im ready and rearing to go.

What would you say to other creative mums who need some encouragement?

Don't feel guilty about doing a project for yourself! As mums, sometimes we think our entire lives have to centred around our children in order to be good parents. But I’m a firm believer in "happy mum, happy kids". I think it's important to find a balance and to give ourselves a break every now and then. I find it helps to take on small projects that can be completed in a short amount of time, or larger ones that can be picked up and put down as time allows. Whatever project it is that you are doing, make sure you have fun and enjoy the process of it. It shouldn't feel like a chore, it should bring you joy. 

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Since our interview, Tori has embarked on a number of new projects… You can see more of Tori’s professional work and creative ventures on her website

ABBIE COSSEY - The Little Darkroom

Abbie Cossey lives on a farmlet in Huapai, NZ with her husband Glen and their two children (6 year old Henry and 4 year old Mabel) .  Abbie's love for analog photography led them to convert a wood shed and sleep-out on their property into a studio space and Darkroom that's become Abbie's creative haven. Abbie also intends to open up this amazing tiny space as a resource for others, in which to learn and create.

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When and how did you gain your love for photography?

I was given a pink 35mm camera and a roll of film when I was quite young. I remember loading the film and getting quite a thrill from that process alone. My best friend and I went off on our bikes exploring the neighbourhood snapping away. After we had saved enough money to develop the film, it was like Christmas opening up the packet to discover the printed images inside. 

I love the way a great photograph tells us a story almost instantly. There is a lot of power in it.  When I left school, I didn't know what I wanted to do so I took a job at a professional developing lab in Hawkes Bay. Here I learnt everything to do with developing negatives and printing, struck up wonderful friendships with the local photographers and took local photography courses. This is really where my passion of the "whole process" came from.

What does it mean to you to have your own dedicated creative space at home?

It is a breath of fresh air. The rest of the property is busy, messy and muddy. But my space is still. The studio is light. Sometimes I will go days without getting out there to work but I will find time to take out a cup of coffee to just sit, think and plan. My daughter often follows me out there and puts on the radio for impromptu dance parties. When I get out there to actually work it is such a buzz.

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What inspired you to create your own darkroom? and tell us about your ideas for using it as an education resource.

We live on the edge of Auckland on a teeny tiny farm. We have plenty of space to stretch our creative itches. We had this dinky little woodshed with a sleep-out attached. I always thought the woodshed was destined for greater things than stacking piles of wood and pinecones. One day a friend told me her friend was a selling up her darkroom equipment and would I be interested in buying it. That was it! That was the missing piece of the jigsaw. The woodshed was already pitch black and the sleep out next door had lots of natural light for a studio office. Over the Christmas holidays my husband lined the walls, put on a door that he had picked up off the side of the road a few years earlier that I had been using for a desk, plumbed it and the kids and I gave it a paint job. 

Once it was finished it was an amazing experience to take my six year old son out there and show him how it works. Kids live in such an instant and technological world that the whole process was fascinating for him. I had already known that I would love to offer children this "original" experience, and his reaction to the process cemented it. There is nowhere I have found in Auckland that hires out darkrooms. Everyone seems to have ripped them out when digital arrived. I want people to have access to a space where they can print their work and get the thrill of doing it themselves like I do. I'm also going to explore experimental techniques that I think like minded people will be really interested in.

How does your stage of life inspire or conflict with your creative expression?

My surroundings and family are a constant inspiration but finding the time to feed my creativity is tricky. I find working in the darkroom needs more than the 10/15 minute slots my life often allows. Once I've mixed my chemicals, set up the job and get rocking and rolling I need at least three hours for a good session.

I am a much better mother and wife when there is something creative on the go, even if it is just a thought whizzing around my mind. At this stage of my life, my time is spent mostly as a mother, but over the next year I can see my time expanding to allow more for my creative ventures. 

What would you say to other creative mums who need some encouragement?

Take the snipets of creativity when you can, try and involve your family and be kind to yourself. Write down/draw all of your ideas, one day you will have time to come back to them!

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A website and business plan for The Little Darkroom is still a work in progress. Keep an eye on for further developments. In the meantime you can follow Abbies' journey on Instagram .

ERIN COLE-BAKER - musician

Erin Cole-Baker is an American born singer songwriter who lives in Northland, New Zealand with her husband Bruce and their two girls (5 year old June and 2 year old Florence). Erin is celebrating the release of her latest album, "Till the Feeling's right"  with a small tour, starting in her home town, Whangarei this month. I've asked her to share a bit about her creative process and her current season of life. 

What does song writing and playing music mean to you?

Music is so deeply intwined with who I am made to be.  At this point in my life I feel so clear that this is who I am made to be.  It's a blessing but also scary to know that!  Nothing about the career of being a musician is straight know?  I find my mind sometimes getting in a loophole sometimes about ahhhhhhhhhhhhh why can't I just have a 9-5 JOB!  That would be so EASY!  But I feel like being authentic to who I am created to be is essential for my wellbeing and the world around me.  I need to play it and the world needs creativity and music in a BIG way.  

How does your current stage of life inspire or conflict with your musical expression?

I feel like the music I am making at this point in my life is the best yet.  It's more full.  Having two kids makes logistics and dreams of travel to play music seem crazy, there is conflict there when I feel guilt for leaving the family.  All the mother stuff is right HERE for me............but it also drives me to be super creative and make what I do count!

When and how did you gain your music skills?

As soon as I could pull myself up I was grabbing for the piano keys.......I continued on my love for piano with classical training, which turned into jazz.....I dabbled in guitar which my brother taught me chord from early double digits and when I left home for uni I took a guitar with it's naturally portable aspects shining high on the list!  I wrote a few songs behind the closed doors of my room and gradually built the confidence to want to share them publicly, which then lead to my dream of moving back to my roots in USA to explore this being a musician thing!

How do you balance family time and creative projects?

I have a super supportive husband, he is everything to me and backs me 150% to go for my dreams.  This album is the first thing I've done in six years, so it'll be a bit of taking things as they come and being a bit gentle with travel plans etc..... family comes first and that's something we will have to juggle and feel out as we go.  I'm so excited to get out and play live again, it's been a long time waiting and it's something I don't take lightly.  I'm so thankful to have made this album and have some gigs on the horizon! 

What would you say to other creative mamas who need some encouragement?

Creativity is ESSENTIAL to life.  For awhile I thought it was bottom rung, but right now I feel an uprising of the importance of creativity in life.  It's ESSENTIAL.  Being creative is easy to suppress and put as low priority in life...........especially with all the other hats we wear in's pure medicine for the soul and vital for us as humans.  Time.  Time is the hardest thing to get our heads around and create some space to be able to be creative.  There are seasons that need to be more quiet, and believe me I've been there.  I had some huge struggles when my children were babies......sometimes we need to cocoon ourselves and get through and be gentle with ourselves.  But boy does it feel good to have a little more freedom now!  So keep dreaming, and take creativity in little chunks where you can get it.  Little chunks, even though they might not feel like much at the time become a bigger picture when we look back!

Lyrics to a fave song on the album.

Get me a ticket

Sitting on the back step trying to take a deep breath, staring at the pale moonlight

Praying for a breakthrough when you going to come through hoping it will be alright

I really need a friend like you tonight  all my dreams seem so out of sight

Take me, get me a ticket to anywhere

Send for me, show me that you really care

Gotta put the washing on and get the dinner done and put the kids to bed

And try to get a little sleep before I get woken up it’s really doing in my head

I really need a friend like you tonight  all my dreams seem so out of sight

Take me, get me a ticket to anywhere

Send for me, show me that you really care

Day in, day out feels like I’m doing time.  I know it looks like I'm coping fine

I could really use a friend to talk it through, to be the voice of reason tonight

I’m at the bottom now, never been this low before.  I’m at the bottom now, can’t take it anymore

Take me, get me a ticket to anywhere

Send for me, show me that you really care.

A statement about that song…

I wrote the first verse to this song in a real parenting pit, and showed it to my friends, we laughed and I said how it sounds like it could be a huge country anthem for parents, but it's not my style of song.  Funny that it came out so groovy.  The content is heavy but it comes across as a light fun song.  One of my friends said it makes her simultaneously laugh and cry - I'll call that a songwriting win...

You can find out more about Erin Cole-Baker's music and her tour dates on her website