Sunday, 27 September 2020


Tairua's Dessa Bluu is ready to open her doors for Art Escape debut

The mosaic surfboard recently installed outside an otherwise ordinary looking Tairua property is hard to miss. The fun statement piece is vibrant and welcoming, and features some intricate skills, suggesting to a curious passer-by that there could be something rather interesting to be discovered at the top of the driveway.

And those who take the time to venture in will not be disappointed. This is the home studio of emerging mosaic artist, Dessa Bluu, who has worked simply and steadily over the past six years and is now ready to open her doors and share her unique voice with anyone who would like to take the time to listen. Her evaluation of her own work is honest and reflects her style and how she approaches her art.

“I focus on the things that inspire me, that make me happy. I can’t do it any other way, I just do me and if that makes someone else happy too and they see something in a piece I have made that touches something in them, that is the best feeling in the world,” she says.

Born and raised in Grey Lynn immersed in Pasifika culture, thanks to her Samoan mum and maternal grandparents, Dessa’s connection to people and place is evidenced in much of her work. Uplifting with its colour and energy, and yet calming and inspiring as the patient and contemplative hours spent hand cutting and placing each tiny mosaic piece becomes evident. 

“Everything is done by hand, mainly with just one small tool. I don’t use any machinery. Working this way allows a work to evolve. Often the finished piece is quite different to what I originally envisaged. I love that, it makes it exciting and it’s always interesting to look back and compare the original design with the finished product and see the journey that has taken place,” says Dessa.

The draw of mosaic began for Dessa more than 20 years ago. “I was in my early 30s and a friend of mine was doing mosaic and she asked me if I’d like to do one. I did a piece and someone bought it. But I was raising a family at the time and had other things going on, but it never left me. I always knew this was what I wanted to do, live at the beach and create my own art,” she reflects.

Moving to Tairua six years ago was the catalyst for Dessa to take those first tentative steps into a creative career. “I knew I was ready to leave Auckland. I had never been to the Coromandel before and I saw this place online. We walked in and I said, I want to buy this house. We made an offer on the day, we hadn’t even looked around the town. I just knew it was right and so we moved in and immediately it was just home,” she says.

The slower pace of life, the vibrant creative community on the Coromandel and her own sense of contentment, meant Dessa felt ready to make the transition to full-time artist. “I’m just doing it in my own time and in my own way,” she says. Her own way has been subtle and without fanfare, yet with some noteworthy achievements. Her current favourite medium, glass mosaic, saw her take first place in the glass category at the 2017 Franklin Arts Festival. Her work now features in a number of galleries, including Waihi Beach Gallery and the recently opened Therapeutic Glimmer in Coromandel Town. And she is now about to open her studio to the public as one of six new participants in the Mercury Bay Art Escape Open Studios Tour.

“I’m really excited. It’s been a lot of work but I’m ready. I’ve been busy transforming my garage to give it a true Pasifika feel and the pieces that I have really represent who I am. If people are taking the time to come and see me and my work, the least I can do is make them welcome and do all I can to help them get to know me and what my art is about,” says Dessa.

Ready to welcome Art Escape visitors over the coming two weekends (8 and 9 March, and 15 and 16 March), Dessa is looking ahead with quiet optimism. She is currently working on designs for new works to feature in the New Zealand Mosaic Art National Exhibition at the Pātaka Art & Museum in Wellington in September. She is also building connections with other artists through Tautai, a New Zealand Trust dedicated to the development and promotion of contemporary Pacific Arts. “I’m still growing, I’m still evolving and I still have a lot to learn,” she says.

Surrounded by her beautiful creations and in her own words, happier than she has ever been, there’s a warm glow of self-belief that suggests Dessa is ready to take that next step and embrace whatever challenges the future may have in store.

Pictured: Tairua artist, Dessa Bluu’s studio will be easy to find for Mercury Bay Art Escape Open Studios Tour visitors thanks to her eye-catching mosaic surfboard.


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