Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Arts

Mapping Creative Hustle

Melissa Cole

– Melissa Cole


Mapping Creative Hustle is a series of interviews with creative entrepreneurs connected to the Māngere Ōtāhuhu area. The interviewed were conducted by Ema Tavola with portrait photography by Vinesh Kumaran. 

In your own words, what do you do for a living? 

Create! I create what I see in my mind’s eye, which will always involve textiles of some description. 

What I love creating is my unique one-off creations for women who are fierce fatties like myself.  Everything I create I want to impart my JOY into. Each creation has distinct hand-made elements you won’t find anywhere else. My clothing is vibrant, colourful and unafraid to stand out… I want to express my love of life through everything I make. I also really adore making funky, quirky pieces for the home.  

My customer wants to stand out in a crowd of three!  They value and understand what it is to buy something made by a local artist, versus cheap mass-produced items.   

Why do you do what you do? 

JOY, pure and simple… When I am creating, I feel pure joy in my spirit and in that moment, I know I am fulfilling my soul’s purpose. That’s powerful! I feel a deep connection through my creativity to those gone before me, those standing with me now, and those yet to come. I know I am tapping into something much deeper than just me.

Creativity runs through both my mother and father's side. With both of them now passed away, I feel a real connection on a soul level, especially with my father, every time I express my creativity. I really feel him beaming with pure joy for me. When he was alive, he showed me how beautiful it was to express that inner joy through creativity.

I want to set that example for my whanau, and show them that creativity is in their DNA and it can be a way of life for them if they choose. I want them to see the expression of creativity as deeply fulfilling and possible!  

Have you had an epiphany that has led you to this path in life? 

All my experiences in life have brought me to this point. I have been so fearful in my life about being creative full-time. Will I make it? Will I be successful? Will I fail? Can I do this? I left a 9-to-5 job last year after feeling so incredibly unhappy and unfulfilled knowing deep in my soul I had so much more to be and do and give. Then life found a way of conspiring to make my deeper desire and need to create happen! Hooray!

I’ve always known in my heart and soul my higher purpose, it just took a bit of time and courage to get there. Timing is everything.  
If there was one thing you could outsource to help you do more, or be more effective, what would it be? 

The dream would be to have someone to take care of the business side of things! In my perfect world, I would make all day, every day, and have someone else taking care of everything else. 

What is something you wish you could do/find locally that would support you as a creative entrepreneur? 

A safe space or collective where you could make and/or sell in the same place. Definitely the ability to be around other creatives, in some way, shape or form, sharing ideas and energy.  

What do you wish you could change in societal attitudes that would enable you and other creative entrepreneurs to thrive? 

Seeing the value of locally made artisanal products that haven’t come from a factory in China. I wish we understood more about how powerful it is to buy from the owner/maker/creator/producer. How it could enable conversations to happen in our local communities and create meaningful relationships and partnerships between businesses to thrive and network with each other. We’ve lost the personal touch and the passion you get when you buy from the maker.  I believe this would empower our communities and make us happier.   

What do you love about living and working in the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu area? 

It is a beautiful and unique part of Tāmaki Makaurau. The people here are so diverse, the food, the energy and the fact that we are so close to the ocean. There is such an alive feeling of brownness here which I connect with, like the joy that overflowed onto our streets with the Rugby League World Cup… that vibrancy and passion is what makes this place so beautiful.   

Would your work or practice be different if you lived somewhere else? 

I don’t think so. 

What inspires you to keep going when the going gets tough? 

I’m inspired to keep going when it’s hard through my deep knowing in my soul that I am living my purpose. It has taken me a long time to understand and know my purpose and I have had many fear filled moments of my day when the doubts creep into my heart and mind, but I have learned through much practice to be kind and loving to myself in those moments.  

I pray and meditate and deep in my soul, I know that all is well. I trust the process of my life and take each day as it comes. I’ve found that just when you think it’s all for nothing or ‘what am I doing?’, something great happens. You make a sale, someone you would least expect gives you encouragement or you meet someone important to your journey. It’s amazing how that happens.  

What’s coming up for you this year, what are your goals? 

To create more JOY! I know that by experiencing the joy right now through my creativity, my future holds more joy and contentment.  My husband and I are working on manifesting our dream of creating and working together full time. Our wish is to be fully self-sufficient with our art which includes working with my daughter to create a thriving whānau business.  

So for now, it’s selling and making, making and selling! And crochet street art! In the past year and half I discovered the art of crochet and I’m obsessed with it! The colours, the shapes, the magic of what you can do with thread and a hook. In June, I started The Joy Project in Ōtāhuhu during Matariki with the purpose of bringing joy to my neighbourhood through my crochet bombing which has been immensely satisfying. I have more exciting crochet projects in the pipeline! 

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