Te Auaha presents new and exciting opportunities for visual arts and design students and staff

Peter Deckers has taught on the Whitireia Visual Arts and Design programme near enough to three decades and his enthusiasm as an educator and “jewellery activist” remains undiminshed. As well as being a highly-regarded educator, in 2011 he established the unique mentoring and exhibition programme, the Handshake Project.

Peter is also a published author of more than a dozen books and catalogues, and the latest is about to hit the bookshops.  Contemporary Jewellery in Context - a Handshake blueprint is a prelude to the discourse of contemporary jewellery in its widest format. Handshake has gathered much international attention and using the project as a lens, five renowned international writers shine a light on many areas of jewellery including concepts from current art-practices, conditions and interconnections of education and making, and marketing and networking in design and art.

The Handshake Project supports emerging New Zealand jewellery artists, allowing them to develop ideas and artworks for a succession of exhibitions with the assistance of a chosen mentor.  The Handshake recipients get opportunities to develop work for a number of exciting challenges, including collaborations and national and international exhibitions. The progressive nature of the programme aims to build independent makers with an innovative and energetic practice. Funded by Creative New Zealand and supported by Whitireia, these artists will exhibit at the Dowse Art Gallery in Lower Hutt later in the year.

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Peter’s teaching roles include Contextual Practice for the Bachelor of Applied Arts (Visual Arts and Design).  The course takes students through a progression where they are taught ways in which to express their creative talent beyond their specific area of expertise, to experiment and challenge themselves, ultimately to produce an exhibition of their ideas and works for public critique.  “Allowing students to develop and express themselves in an experiential way means they are continually testing their ideas to produce more advanced and refined pieces for their body of work,” says Peter.

“Our reputation is international and our graduates are represented on the world stage.

Moniek Schrijer, a recent jewellery graduate, won the biggest international prize in contemporary jewellery last year, The Herbert Hofmann Prize.  Graduates exhibit annually at national and international galleries, museums and in renowned jewellery outlets like Fingers in Auckland, AVID and Quoil in Wellington and The National in Christchurch.

“New Zealand is a pioneering country.  You learn to do things here.  We teach our students not be afraid to try new things and this is what leads them to innovate and express unique ideas through their original bodies of work.”

The move to Te Auaha is much anticipated by Peter and his colleagues.  “Te Auaha presents many new and exciting opportunities for visual arts and design students and staff.  It will allow us to continue to do what we do well, but in a more public, well equipped and purpose built space.  Industry is also helping to prepare for Te Auaha by working with us to plan and design the professional facilities and studios where we are looking forward to the merge of old technologies with new, like CAD design and hard stone carving. We intend to become world-famous for this at Te Auaha.”