Home' Greymouth Star : March 20th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
West Coast Arts
6 - Thursday, March 20, 2014
As Tom and Sue Starr s
daughters Nina and
Konni, were growing up,
the whole family worked
together on art projects
such as designing, making and modelling
wearable art outfits. ey encouraged one
another and shared their inspiration and
Nina is now in London where she is
screenprinting, airbrushing, painting, and
Konni is in Perth, Australia, working
with graffiti art, designing, and
photography and learning about natural
and spiritual healing.
Back in Cobden, Tom Starr still
works in a whole range of mediums
from screenprinting to stone carving,
photography and now digital
kaleidoscope and fractal art.
Starr was born in Hawke s Bay and his
family moved to Christchurch. He met
Sue at high school and they were both
"We worked, lived, played, travelled and had a
family together. We both did graphics at polytech
where we studied ticket writing, advertising, interiors.
Sue was going to do more study into interior design.
"I worked for Press advertising for a while and
was then a design assistant at Mana Carpets. We
made the design on paper, matched up colours and
so on and then went and looked at the carpet tufts.
You could see the process right through. I was really
interested in that," he said.
en the couple headed for Australia where they
had various jobs in art.
Starr especially enjoyed working for the National
School of Custom Painting which involved a lot of
"We used to airbrush and paint wraparound art
on panel vans and other vehicles. People would put
them in shows. Some of them spent huge amounts
of money on their vehicles. We also did fridges,
motorbikes, boards, cupboards, whatever people
" en Sue and I used to tutor airbrushing part-
time as well at nights. We would have 10-15
students. We did that in various centres. We would
stay for six weeks and then move on.
"At one stage, we worked during the day for a
screenprinter in Brisbane doing big pineapples , a
white t-shirt with five colours.
"We moved to Southport on the Gold Coast
and set up a small business
screenprinting textiles, and
airbrushing women s singlet-
type tops. We also sprayed
matchstick cane blinds and
supplied them to interior
shops. We might do 10 tigers
a day, or galahs or bamboo
sunsets and sell them.
"We did that for quite a
while and when there was too
much stress we went sailing."
When the couple returned
to New Zealand, they
decided to come to the West
Coast and made a home
in Blackball, then set up a
business in Taylorville.
"We were doing
signage, textiles, a lot of
work for Dellaca s and Postie
Plus, general work for clubs
and businesses and we had
customers from Taradale
to Milton. We also had
school groups visiting the workshop and we gave
He said the technology changed a lot with
processes like screenprinting as digital "direct to
garment" came in.
"Konni is still looking at that with her work in
Perth. We had good times in Blackball especially
with the Unwearable Art Awards there. We had the
first outfit from bubble wrap and the girls loved the
costumes we made over the years.
"One, e Pearl of the West Coast, was made of
papier mache, fabric and wood and we had to take
off a door to get it into the parade. It got first prize in
2003. We repainted and airbrushed it
and took it to the Wearable Arts in
" e Unwearable Arts in Blackball
was great. It got a lot of people
involved and being creative."
After selling the Taylorville
business, Starr became a full-time
operating theatre orderly at the
hospital and Sue had become
involved in teaching tai chi.
She was planning to go to China
to do more study into similar healing
exercise regimes and other practices,
when she was diagnosed with
"We were both into digital
photography and that s where the
present theme of Photosynthesis
began. Sue s last photo was about
life giving life . e photograph was
taken under the house with the sun
coming through the boards on to a
plant. en Sue changed around the
colours, including purple like her tai
chi outfit. She wrote I am. I choose
to paint my canvas with the intention
of loving expression of life...the
symmetry of who I am now ."
Now Starr is again taking
photographs and following up
on what he began with Sue,
"photosynthesis", through photo
editing, sublimation and transferring
the images on to tiles, fabric,
"Sublimation is the
process where you
transfer images on
to sublimation paper,
then on to polyester
coated white material.
en a substrate (such
as a tile) and image are
put together and heat
pressed so the ink goes
into a gas and goes
into the material.
"You can do large
formats like silk
scarves and bags," he
But he has now
"new". Starr runs
edits and changes
(reflecting) them and
making new shapes
and fractal images,
using several computer
set ups and a tablet.
"My plan now is
to find crystal type
shapes, such as on
glass dishes, take
photos of them against
different colours and
backgrounds and put
them into mandalas
and kaleidoscope them.
And, I have made a
photo booth so I can
put them in there and
back light them --- all
for different effects.
"Next I will
decoupage them on to
different sized boxes.
I m turning images
into fractals, distorting
them and transferring
them to different substrates like boxes, tiles and
"I still like screenprinting and I do marbling on
paper and then photograph it and I have projects
involving mosaics, airbrushing, papier mache
and plaster moulds and images. I also do some
marble and soapstone carving and I ve done a few
skateboards for people.
"I went to a papier mache course with Les Holmes,
along with a lot of other West Coast artists and that
was great, all learning from one another.
"Now I m doing some tiles in different sizes for
interior design, like splashbacks.
"Another thing I m interested in arose from a pastel
artist showing me her work but saying she didn t
want to sell it, so I made her a kaleidoscope pattern
from part of it which she can use on cards and such
like and keep her main picture. And there could be a
good use for it with quilting artists too.
"With this sort of art, you see quite different things
and start to look at things differently, and with so
many ways to make new images and use them on
products, I am very excited by the possibilities ahead
of me now."
Tom Starr has exhibited his work in a number
of exhibitions at the Left Bank Art Gallery in
Greymouth and most recently as guest artist at the
White Room Studio and Gallery in Mackay Street,
PICTURE: Jo Keppel
Greymouth artist Tom Starr works on a mould for a plaster head which he is planning to mount on a bed headboard as part of a funky art piece.
Tom Starr and his late
wife Sue learned about
art together and worked
collaboratively on a huge
variety of art projects since
they first met at high school
in Christchurch. So now,
three years after her death,
Sue s loss is still very deeply
felt and for Tom Starr,
making new art alone takes
a lot of getting used to.
Here he tells JO KEPPEL
how art is helping him to
take the next step.Steps
to new art
Daughters Nina and Konni. e family
were an "art foursome" when the girls were
e late Sue Starr practising tai chi in
her favourite place.
Some of the new art
developed from the original
train photograph, right, to
be used on tiles, scar ves,
calendars and cards.
e signal box on Mawhera Quay has "magically moved"
to the shoreline in this quirky poster called Beach House.
A hole with a view.
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