Sometimes all we need is encouragement from the right person at the right time to unleash latent talent and turn it into a business. By Katherine Robinson.
At least that’s what happened with good friends and business partners, Nikki McIvor and Marina Adams, who opened The Wild Grey Fox Shop on Main Street, Greytown in June this year.
The shop celebrates Nikki’s love of nature and wildlife with her well-observed drawings and watercolours produced in prints, cards, tea towels, and other homeware. Nikki’s work is not only sold in over 70 outlets in New Zealand and Australia, but she has also regularly exhibited at the New Zealand Art Show in Wellington. In 2015 she won the People’s Choice Award at Aratoi Museum.
Nikki remembers having a talent for drawing at school. Intending to work in advertising, she left college to do a foundation year in design.
“In hindsight, what I should have done was apply to Art School instead of doing Graphic Design, but at the time I couldnt see how I would support myself as a pure artist,” she says.
Instead, Nikki spent 10 years working in the banking industry, before settling down in Greytown to work first as a wedding co-ordinator then as events manager for the Martinborough Hotel.
Then one day Nikki picked up a pencil and drew a hare.
“I looked at it and thought, actually it isn’t too bad, and I did another one, and another one until I just got progressively better,” she says.
Nikki admits that at this point, her drawings may not have gone much further, but her friend Marina, a business consultant and project manager originally from the US, stepped in.
“I’d go to Nikki’s house for coffee and she’d have her beautiful drawings there. I sometimes think that people who are super talented are not so good at presenting their babies to the world. But I could see all the potential so I sort of nagged her,” says Marina.
Eventually, friendship developed into a business partnership and the creation of Wild Honey Art.
The pair say they make a good team with different strengths that go beyond Nikki’s creativity and Marina’s business nous.
“One of us is yin and the other yang but we each take turns at coming up with ideas. If one of us comes up with a wild idea we just let each other work through it without being too negative,” says Marina.
One thing they both agree is that all the products should be created with as small an ecological footprint as possible. All the printing is done in Greytown, products are organic where possible and plastic and packaging are kept to a minimum. This does raise the price, but Marina says, these things all make a very special gift for someone.
The prints are a bestseller, but it’s hard to look away from the soft, organic cotton tea towels . “In fact, one of the challenges for us is that the tea towels are so beautiful that people don’t want to use them. We encourage them to use them as hand towels or even a canvas that you can frame,” says Marina.
Nikki’s original, thoughtful moon hare is still one of the best sellers, but she is adding new wildlife all the time. Kookaburras and cockatoos have joined the flock of Nikki’s native New Zealand birds for the Australian market as this spring, the business has recently expanded over the Tasman.