I recently had a nice chat with Todd Zaner from Coast Access Radio about moving to the Kāpiti Coast from Sydney, and the different aspects of my creative practice. You can listen to the interview by clicking below, or reading an abridged version of the interview transcript. Thanks for having me, Todd!
Conversations radio show chat
Todd: Welcome to Conversations on Coast Radio. In this programme, we have conversations with people about their interests, their lives, the things that motivate and excite them. So relax and enjoy this conversation.
I’m Todd Zaner. This is also heard in Hawke’s Bay on Radio Kidnappers. It’s always great to find new people in the community that you have never known about or never met before. We have another lovely person who wears several hats relatively new to the area, but the local nonetheless. Her name is Jordan; Jordan Harcourt Hughes, Jordan. Welcome.
Jordan: Hi Todd. Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.
Todd: You wear several hats in this area. Everything from communications to well, you tell us..
Jordan: Yes, I do have several hats! I’m an artist, so I have my artist’s studio in Otaihanga. I work in communications. I also write, I teach workshops and courses at Wellington Community College and at my studio. So everything creative is my happy space. I love coaching people to explore creativity because it’s such a nourishing practice and everyone has creativity within them.
Todd: You have been part of the Arts Trail.
Jordan: The Arts Trail is lovely. So this has been my second Arts Trail. My studio has been open for just over a year now. My husband and I moved here three years ago from Sydney, and Otaihanga is just heaven for us. It’s just the most astonishingly beautiful place. Being able to open up the studio and have people come in and have a chat, being able to talk about the way that I work and the artworks that I produce has been just lovely. And the Arts Trail is just a wonderful way to connect with people in the area.
Todd: So you married a Kiwi, which I did. Was he a Kāpiti Coaster or did you decide that this is the area you wanted to live?
Jordan: My husband’s a Kiwi who moved to Sydney about 25 years ago, swearing that he’d never returned to Wellington. And of course, we started coming back once every year or so, and we just loved it and we just decided that we couldn’t live anywhere else. We travelled around New Zealand looking for places to live and we came across the Kāpiti Coast and we’d never really spent much time here before. But we just fell in love with it and we found a beautiful place near the river and near the ocean. And it’s just heaven. So we’ve just been happy as anything since we’ve come.
Todd: So you describe yourself as an artist, so maybe elaborate a little bit. When you think of an artist, you think of Rembrandt but there’s a little more to it than just putting paint on a canvas.
Jordan: Yeah. I’ve had a funny journey. I studied fine arts as a mature age student. I originally studied journalism and then went to do a fine arts degree. And actually, I worked on a very big scale as a student. So I used to do metal working and sculpture and installations that were huge and I had the best time. I just absolutely loved it and that was in Sydney.
But what I found when I left uni is that it’s very hard to go and set yourself up as a metal working artist. So I just drifted to painting and I’ve been painting ever since. I paint in an abstract style. I use acrylics on canvas and foam core. Sometimes my paintings are small. Sometimes they’re up to a metre in size. And for me, it’s a very intuitive process. Being an abstract painter, it’s a very it’s an organic process. I essentially have no idea what I’m painting when I turn up to a canvas. I literally just turn up and see what happens.
And it’s a really fun thing to not have a game plan; to just play and explore and see what turns up. So that’s the way I paint. And for me, it’s quite meditative, so it’s a very relaxing process. It’s almost like doing yoga. It’s just a time to tune out, to stop thinking, to just relax and have some quiet time, and it’s very nourishing.
Todd: You talked about sculptures and metal working. Would there be anything that we would recognise, say in Sydney? You didn’t work on the Harbour Bridge?
Jordan: Ha – no, I didn’t. But yes, I used to weld at one time. I did spend a year in Scotland. And that’s how I started doing sculptural metalwork. I was living in Edinburgh and spending my student days just tucked away in the metal working studio. It was a lovely entry into creative practice. I had originally always thought that I’d become a writer, but I needed to go and do creative work and actually be an artist before I could get into the real writing practice that I wanted, which I do now, which is fiction. But I think that’s much more about being in touch with your creativity than actually thinking from a logical or rational perspective for me.
Todd: And some of this artwork, for example, you do cards and you’ve got these lovely cards. Based on Jordan in the Studio, original art and design. Something that people can purchase and use just Christmas cards or whatever.
Jordan Yeah, exactly. It’s a nice way to expand the opportunities with my art. I photograph or scan my artworks and then they get printed on things like cushions, cards and so on. It’s just a nice way to give people the option if they don’t want to purchase or have space for a large artwork. They can buy some little gift cards or a mug and just have something beautiful and colourful to take around with them.
Todd: So the art is one aspect of what you do. And then you talked about writing books, you’ve written a couple of science fiction books.
Jordan: I love writing. It’s one of my favourite things. I get up at four o’clock in the morning and that’s my writing time. It’s a wonderful time because I’m still in this dream state, so I haven’t quite woken up yet. I’m still in a quite imaginative space. I’m a very slow writer, so it’s not my main thing, but it’s always ticking away in some corner. I published my first science fiction book a couple of years ago. I’m working on the second one and it’s just a lovely pastime. It’s so nourishing and it helps me. It’s another one of those just relaxation processes where it’s just fun. It’s cool.
Todd: I wanna hear more about these books. I mean, I like science fiction. You know, I like the old Star Trek.
Jordan: I wouldn’t call it hardcore science fiction. It’s really probably more in the general fiction or speculative fiction space. But I always loved this idea of being able to commune with the universe and connect with different realms through silent sound. So sound that you can’t hear, but that your body can perceive in different ways.
Todd: I mean, that’s an oxymoron – sound you can’t hear.
Jordan, Well humans can only hear certain sounds, and in all living creatures only have a range of sounds that they can hear. But that’s not to say that there’s not a huge amount of sound going on outside of our perceptive capabilities. I love this idea that the human body potentially has other ways to hear or feel sound or vibration and potentially can interpret that. And the body may actually be able to process that kind of intelligence and actually service it from the subconscious into the logical mind side. And then we can understand maybe what’s around us.
Todd: That sounds really Mr. Spock. Yeah. I mean, I can remember going for hearing tests, for example. I couldn’t hear the tone, but I could feel it.
Jordan: Yes, exactly. I think we can feel a lot without realising it. We feel with our bodies.
Todd: Well, that’s that’s interesting. So what are the books called? Where do we find them?
Jordan: You can find them on Amazon. The first book is called Bitroux. And actually, the first book is about a metal smith, who learns to tune metal to other world frequencies. And of course, the metal smithing inspiration came from my early days in the sculpture studios working with metal. So it’s all kind of connected.
Todd: Wow. And the second book you’re up to now?
Jordan: That’s book two in the trilogy It’s continuing the story of Merouac, who’s this metal smith, who’s developing his skills to understand how to connect with other beings across different realms. He’s raising his five year old niece at the same time. It’s a story of children learning to help guide their their elders and elders learning from children.
Todd: I’m going to guess, and this might be a really stupid thing to say. Are you left handed?
Jordan: Yes, I am.
Todd: Isn’t that interesting that I say that? Let me explain why I asked that question. I think a lot of creative people are left handed. That’s my understanding. What do you think? Fascinating. Do you find that the writing and the artistry connects together?
Jordan: They do, but I don’t do both at the same time. A lot of people say to me, ‘Oh my goodness, you do so many things and you’re so busy’. And what I always stipulate is, actually, I don’t do all of these things at the one time. I pace myself and I spread these things out. So if I’m in the studio, I’m working on the visual things and if I’m writing, I’m working on the words.
But I do find that actually language sits in our logical mind space and art sits in our subconscious. Our subconscious works with imagery much more than it does with logical words. It is actually connecting the two and finding a way that they both speak to each other and can influence and back each other up I think.
Todd: Yeah, the question sort of in my mind is where the heck do you find the time?
Jordan: Well, like I said, I get up at 4:00 in the morning. I do go to bed early, so it’s not like I have these very long days and I don’t do everything at once. So I just rotate between lots of things, and I think it’s that rotation that I really find enjoyable.
That’s what we’re finding now with people at the moment. There’s lots of news in papers about the Great Resignation. People are leaving their full time jobs and turning away from just doing one thing. They don’t want to just have a job where they just go to and work a nine to five. They want to have a nourishing life. They want to have meaning. And I think creativity for me is one way that we can explore what’s meaningful, what’s meaningful for us, how can we have purpose? How can we explore and, find new things that are fun, rather than just doing the old nine to five?
So for me, having this kind of a creative spread means that I’m excited about so many things and it actually, I think they reinforce each other so that excitement bleeds from one thing into the other. And so I’m always excited, I’m always inspired, and I think I’ve just got so many balls in the air. It’s a lot of fun.
Todd: Speaking of the inspirations, who has inspired you as an artist, as a writer? Have you had mentors along the way?
Jordan: I’ve had lots of great mentors. But when I run courses and workshops, what I always say is that teachers are everywhere. So I can be the one person leading the workshop, but everyone in the room has incredible knowledge and wisdom. There isn’t a single person that I’ve met that I haven’t taken something from. I think we can all inspire and teach each other and help each other, do new things and find new ways because we’ve all got incredible life journeys.
Todd: Do you have a favourite author?
Jordan: Dolores Cannon is not a well-known author, but she’s fascinating. Back in Sydney, there was this amazing bookstore called Kinokuniya, and I found a book of hers just sitting there, and it was this huge big volume and I’d never heard of it before, but I walked back and forth amongst the shelves and kept coming back to this book and it was just speaking to me, so I had to pick it up.
And she’s incredible. She has passed away now, but she was someone who was a military wife and then she started doing hypnosis with people and started exploring previous life journeys with people. And just she was just this amazing woman who just had all these phenomenal ideas and is very interesting. And so she’s probably been an inspiration for my fiction and my science fiction writing because it’s all kind of sitting in that space of how we connect with broader intelligences out in the universe.
Todd: And there’s got to be some out there. Yeah, by logic and, you know, just sheer statistics. There absolutely must something out there. And as far as artists are concerned, is there one particular or do you take your inspiration from?
Jordan: I take my inspiration from nature I think more than anything, so I don’t I don’t really have a favourite artist, but I am inspired by a lot of artists. You probably know that Hilma af Klint is coming to Wellington in December. She’s an incredible artist, and you can look up and see these amazing artworks. But generally, I think nature has incredible artistry, so I’m constantly out walking around Kāpiti and Otaihanga and taking pictures of flowers and taking pictures of the ocean and that’s what I take back into the studio
Todd: Oh, that’s beautiful. That’s great. And another hat, as we talked about; you’ve got your own communications business. You’ve got courses you run at Wellington College.
Jordan: Yes. I run courses out of the studio. I run them online. Wellington Community College is a great place. I’m always amazed and inspired by the people that turn up to do the courses because I think adult learning is this incredible space where people really want to be there. They really want to learn new things and new skills, and they’re ready to experiment and again, they bring so much life knowledge. It’s such a joy to teach them. We have great times.
Todd: I mean, without going into the huge specifics of what you do and so on, because it’s essentially a business, but what essentially do people want? Do they want to know how, for example, to advertise their own business? Do they want to know how to talk to groups of people? You know, is it the old fashioned idea that you imagine people in their underwear sort of thing, and that’s how people can be comfortable?
Jordan: Look, I don’t do everything, but what I what I like to do is help people find their authentic voice. I work with people and I’ve got one person that I work with who is an incredible person who used to work at a very high level in the Australian public sector and has since gone out to be an Ethical Leadership consultant. And he’s just one of the most wise people I’ve met. I saw him speak at a conference once and I looked him up and I couldn’t find anything. I followed him up afterwards and I said to him, “Look, you, you’re amazing. But how are people going to find you? How are people going to hear all this wisdom that you have to share with the world?” And so I like to work with people who inspire me, who I think will inspire others. I helped him set up a website. We now do a podcast. I do whatever I can to help him get his wisdom out into the world because I think he’s a very powerful motivator and speaker. That’s the kind of thing that I like to do.
Todd: So you have your own podcasts, don’t you?
Jordan: I do. And again, it’s about being able to share the inspiration that I get from creativity. The podcast is 168 Days of Magic . It’s an adjunct to the studio programme that I run, which is 168 Days of Kāpiti Magic, which is an opportunity for people to come to the studio and take part in a six month journey, which is about exploring creativity and potentially exploring their own project or side hustle.
And again, this is coming back to the idea that lots of people are looking for new ways to enjoy life. And this is a great way to enjoy life because your creativity can mean so many different things to so many people. What we do in the 168 Days of Magic Studio programme is we do morning exercises which are around painting, exploring mark making techniques, intuitive writing, journaling, work shopping ideas together. And then in the afternoon, people can work on their own creative project with encouragement or coaching from me and just also enjoy to hang around, just be in the garden.
We have we’ve got a beautiful half acre place where the studio looks out onto a beautiful garden. So there’s lots of corners to just sit and enjoy the sun and write or plan your ideas. It’s just one of those things that’s inspiring, I think, for people to have that ability to just have some personal time to enjoy their own ideas about life and explore what creativity is.
So the podcast has the same pillars which the studio programme does, which is mindfulness, productivity and creativity. So mindfulness is something that I’ve been bringing into my programmes more and more because I think with the way of the world at the moment, it’s very easy to be stressed. It’s very easy to be busy and it’s very easy to be distracted. But mindfulness is a great technique to start de-stressing, to start getting back to a less distracted place where we can focus, we can look inwards, we can think about what we want for ourselves in our lives. And that also leads us into a better place to explore creativity because we’re relaxed, we’re open and we can start to have fun and play. So that’s some of the things that we look at in the programme.
Todd: So you run these courses in relatively small groups. Not one on one, is it?
Jordan Yes, small groups. The studio fits comfortably around 10 people. The studio programme, which kicks off in February, is open for a small group. And it’s perfect in in this Covid environment where some of the big events can quite easily be cancelled. There’s a lot of uncertainty. But this is a nice small number, and we run it across six months in in two different ways. Once a month, we have a half day studio workshop where people come and just relax and enjoy the studio environment. And then we also have Zoom tutorials once a month as well, where people can workshop their ideas and it gives it a little bit of resilience in the current environment. So you’ve got the option of coming to the studio and the option of working and connecting online.
The third elelment, in addition to the studio and Zoom sessions, is creative coaching with me. So that is a one on one thing, which we do, but it’s also about being in a group. And it’s amazing when these groups of people come together that they may have completely different life experiences. They may have completely different ideas about creativity. But just even talking about creativity and sharing that experience of exploring ideas and thinking about what creativity means to you, what you want to do, how you want to express yourself and have a voice in the world, it leads to wonderful conversations, actually.
Todd: You’re funded? You get funding through Creative Communities and so on?
Jordan: Yes, 168 Days of Kāpiti Magic has some funding from the Creative Community Scheme, which is great. I think that the Council is looking to support creative work that helps us relax and enjoy the nourishing parts of creativity. So it doesn’t just have to be for artists. It can be for anyone who wants to explore their own creativity. I think what the Council has particularly liked in assigning this funding is the fact that it is Covid resilient – so it does have the ability to be online on Zoom and in the workshop and in small groups as well.
Todd: What an amazing creative person you are with, as we say many, many hats. I hope it will be a big, success Jordan.
Jordan: Thank you very much for having me.