Birds of Aotearoa / 2023
Illustration & Silkscreen Prints
This project is the love child of my affection for both silkscreening and birds. I took my first ever screen-printing class this winter and absolutely fell in love with the process—from watching the stencils emerge from the screens as they succumb to pressure washers, to squeegeeing the inks across the screens, not having a single idea what the print would look like until I lifted up the frame. The vibrant prints that layers of colors create are unworldly!
I’ve always wanted to do a project about Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique birds because there is such a rich history behind their correlation to the natural landscapes as well as the history of the country. I chose two birds that carry a lot of significance to Aotearoa's culture: The (now extinct) Huia and the Takahē. I combined their bodies with the landscapes of the habitats of which they reside(d) in: The Tararua Ranges for the Huia, a mountain range in the North Island where Huias were found in abundance; Te Rua-o-te-moko or Fiordland National Park, where the Takahē was rediscovered.
I was especially fascinated by the Huia and its tragic extinction. I came across the saying "Huia e huia, tangata kotahi!"(Huia, your destiny is to bring us together!) which I thought was incredibly moving and beautiful, so that inspired a third t-shirt design where I documented a collection of objects that painted a picture of the bird's life and death. I learned how to use special high-mesh screens to do CMYK printing with plastisol, where I was able to give the screenprints a photographic quality despite using only four colors.
To explain the significance of the birds as well as the various motifs in the illustrations, I designed and printed label cards to accompany each t-shirt.
In total I printed close to 100 tshirts and sold them at a RISD t-shirt sale, where all profits were to go to the Takahē Recovery Programme and Forest & Bird New Zealand.