Instinctual and romantic are two words I would use to describe New Zealand artist Ophelia Mikkelson. She is always bare feet and with salty hair, something is usually happening in her kitchen, and she bursts with excitement upon telling you her latest discovery.
After a day with Ophelia, I feel positive and my senses are heightened — an affect I believe is also prevalent in her own work. Whether it is sock-making, painting, taking photographs or writing, Ophelia approaches each of her creative outlets with supreme tactility, warmth and curiosity.
Interview with Ophelia Mikkelson
Artist and Sock Maker
You have a big family that seems very close knit. Can you tell us one of your favourite childhood memories?
I grew up the youngest of five — a girl after four boys. If I had been a boy, I going to be called Hugo Romeo! Our family house was always full and warm and near the ocean.
You've recently moved to Tairua beach. How are your days spent here?
The days are long here. My boyfriend, Ryder, and I get up to watch the sunrise a lot. We have a path from our garden that leads onto sand dunes and from there we can see the sun lift itself out of the sea.
I spend my mornings making creative content for others (photography, image making, art direction and writing), and in the afternoon I work on my own projects in my studio. When it's cooler in the evenings, I garden, cook and we walk on the beach.
What are some of your most treasured items?
My cast iron cooking pots, the lamp that I remember being in my parents room as a child, and a small smoothed piece of rose quartz that Ryder slipped into my sock, four years ago, when we first met.
Your studio feels warm and busy. What are you currently working on, or experimenting with?
I've been drawing a lot! I like to draw from 'still life’s' around my studio: drawings of objects sitting next to other objects, things like eggplants and bowls, floating on the page. I've been painting too, mainly flowers, and fruit and vegetables. Beside that, I've been planning this winter’s socks and researching natural dying in Morocco for a trip we are taking there. Also, Ryder and I have been working together on my second line of knitted linen T-shirts.
Whose work do you admire whom you wish you could meet?
My pen-pal Laura from Pansy Co; we trade each other my socks, her cotton knickers! We are meeting each other in California this August. Also, Jamie Oliver. Big time.
Ryder and yourself seem to bounce ideas off each other beautifully. What are some projects that you two have/are working on together?
We work together a lot, whether it's on our creative projects or making dinner. We just finished designing linen T-shirts together and are planning the photography shoots we have coming up over the next few months.
Your socks make feet all over the world very happy. What is your connection to weaving and textiles?
The connection and relationship with fabric is hereditary. I was brought up surrounded by fabrics. My mother only wears white. I've never seen her in another colour (she brought the palest pink silk dress once, I've never seen her wear it!)
What are you reading/watching at the moment?
I can only read stories about love. I am reading a book at the moment with, so far no kissing, but it is beautiful. It's called The Lucuna.
What do you wish you had less of?
Sand in the sheets.
What do you wish you had more of?
Fruit trees in the garden.
And lastly, can you tell us about your travels plans coming up. What are you most excited about experiencing/seeing?
Ryder and I have just booked a world tour. When we first started going out we would play this game were we would describe our home(s) together. What they would be like, feel like, how our days would go. We described four houses: one would be here in New Zealand, one in Japan, one in Europe somewhere and another in California.
Our trip is in June. We fly into Japan first, then Greece, Morocco and California. I am so excited to see and feel every aspect of Japan, to experience their daily rituals, their food, clothes, temples and coastlines. We've planned to go out to a few islands.
We then fly to Greece to see a sculpture in Athens that Ryder has closely studied within his practice, and then we will ferry to a small, unpopulated island in the Aegean Sea. After that, we'll spend about a month in Morocco and make our way down the coast, surfing and going to markets. This is wear I plan to dye yarn for my next summer’s socks.
And finally we fly to California to see friends and Ryder's family.
I am so excited to be filled up by each of these places, to take one hundred rolls of film and to watch the sunrise in every place we go.
Interview and photography by Yasmine Ganley