Hamilton sand artist designs sand-patterned sculpture for WWF’s Whale Tale Project



Nancy Tschetner is hosting an open studio event at her Pukete gallery this weekend. Photo / Supplied

Hamilton-based artist Nancy Tschetner has a unique technique for creating art using over 60 different shades of natural sand and crushed glass.

Usually working on canvas, she has now created her first sculpture as part of WWF’s Whale Tale Project 2022, a public art trail in Auckland featuring 80 whale tail sculptures designed by different artists from across New Zealand.

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The love of art ran through Nancy’s family, with her uncle and father also being creative minds. Originally from Germany, she says she has always been in the art.

“I have always drawn or worked with acrylic paint. [In] New Zealand, I discovered black sand and started sprinkling it on acrylic paint. “

Nancy usually works on three paintings at a time as she has to wait for the layers to dry to prevent the different areas and colors of a work of art from blending together. She should also pay attention to the layers of adhesive that make the sand adhere better to the paint.

“[They] need to be equal. And I need to sprinkle the sand carefully [to] don’t drop too much … in one spot as this makes an area darker or more intense in color. “

Nancy says some people fear the sand will fall.

“But that won’t happen. The sand is stuck and [when finished] the work is varnished or I put a clear coat or resin on it. No one ever asked me to do anything again. “

She started using Taranaki black sand.

“Everyone says that Raglan has black sand too, but if you hold the two side by side, you see that Raglan sand is more of a dark gray with brown, while Taranaki sand is actually black black and brighter. Each beach has a different shade of sand. “

When she arrived in New Zealand in 2003, Nancy focused on using New Zealand sand only, but over the years she has added internationally sourced sand, gold leaf and crushed glass to add more vivid colors that are not available in sand.

“I also offer commissions [pieces] and some people sent me sand from a place that was special to them, like where they come from or where they got married. “

Hamilton-based artist Nancy Tschetner uses over 60 different shades of pure, natural New Zealand sand in her artwork.  Photo / Supplied
Hamilton-based artist Nancy Tschetner uses over 60 different shades of pure, natural New Zealand sand in her artwork. Photo / Supplied

She has exhibited her work around the world, including Germany and Australia. In 2018, she was invited to Dubai to represent New Zealand at the International Women’s Art Exhibition on World Women’s Day.

Although Nancy says it’s hard for her to name a favorite piece of art, the Ensemble piece she created for the Dubai exhibition is definitely in her top pick.

“I had no image, I only had words after which I designed the piece. I created a circular work of art with [a character] it is half lioness half young girl. Each piece of this work of art has a different meaning. “

For the Whale Tale exhibition, she is the only artist from Hamilton whose design has been selected for a sculpture. It took him about 120 hours over about a month to complete the design of his whale tail.

“It was a unique project [for me], I have never done a 3D sculpture before. It was certainly difficult, but very exciting, ”said Nancy.

To give Waikato residents a little glimpse of her whale tail before heading to Auckland, Nancy will be hosting an open house weekend at her studio this Saturday and Sunday. Aaron Kereopa of Raglan is another artist from Waikato whose design was chosen for the Whale Tale project and whose tail will be on display at Nancy’s open studio.

Nancy is involved in WWF's Whale Tales 2022 project and created her first sculpture with sand and crushed glass.  Photo / Supplied
Nancy is involved in WWF’s Whale Tales 2022 project and created her first sculpture with sand and crushed glass. Photo / Supplied

“Originally, [the exhibition organisers] didn’t want me to show my whale sculpture before the official opening, but due to border restrictions I asked them to allow me to take a look.

“The Waikato doesn’t really know the art of sand and I’ve been in Hamilton for about four years now, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to introduce myself.”

For her open house weekend, Nancy also hosted live music and a coffee cart “to give people more to discover than [just] Art”.

After the whale tail art trail closes, the tails will take center stage at a charity auction in May 2022 and will be sold to bidders. Proceeds will go to WWF New Zealand for their efforts to protect and restore the Aotearoa marine environment in and around the Hauraki Gulf.

For more information on the Whale Tale project, click here.

To learn more about Nancy sand art, click here.

The details
What: Open house weekend at Nancy Tschetner’s studio
When: December 18 and 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free entry.
Where: 22 Tupelo St, Pukete, Hamilton.


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