Ophelia & Ryder, Tairua NZ
New Zealand-based artists Ophelia Mikkelson and Ryder Jones are a great example of what can happen when you listen to your instincts. Driven by the idea of shaping their own world to best suit their desired lifestyle, the couple recently decided to escape the city of Auckland, opting to spend their days making and dreaming up new projects from a small bach-style home that backs onto the golden dunes of Tairua beach. It is here that these two lovebirds are realising their intuition has served them well. Finding a quiet groove in their own daily rituals, consisting of morning swims, plenty of reading, encouraging a slower pace and experimentation, their newly adopted environment is naturally offering up a lifestyle in which they are positively thriving.
How would you describe what each of you do?
Ryder: We are both artists and designers. In recent years Ophelia has focused on textile design and image making, most of all cultivating a sensibility that is at the forefront of everything we do. I am an artist and designer with a focus on sculpture and furniture – like Ophelia, everything I do revolves around chasing a tone that is essential to what I do.
Ophelia: We are interested in designing the texture of our lives by creating a lifestyle where there is a balance between making and living, and where the two are constantly overlapping.
How did you two meet?
R: I saw her walking out of an elevator, she had no shoes on.
O: We were at university studying visual arts. The first time I saw Ryder he was in his studio, I went over and talked to him. He wore a heavy silver wallet chain and showed me things he had collected on the beach.
Tell us about how it is finally living together?
O: It is the best. We lived together for three-and-a-half years between our parent’s houses whilst we were completing our Masters degrees so we are really excited to have our own space, to be able to curate our own home, just the two of us.
R: Now that we have our own space we can be alone together.
Does this house encourage any daily rituals?
R: I try to wake up early. I’ll read for half an hour, then check out the waves, if the waves aren’t good I’ll work in my studio.
O: From our bed we can hear the ocean. Our back yard has a trail that leads through the dunes and down onto the beach. We walk this path a lot to check the waves and go swimming. During the day, I garden, write lists and read.
The house is an old bach. The lounge is angled to watch the sunset over the mountains. We have dinner around this time, when the sun is sinking out of sight.
What is it about living in Tairua that you love?
R: I can go swimming when I am feeling bad. My family and some of my best friends are here – I’ve spent enough time away to know it is important for me to be here.
O: The proximity to the ocean and being submerged in nature.
As well as having your own separate practices, what are some of the things that you guys like to do or make together?
O: Recently we’ve been working on photography projects together. We talk about a particular tone of what we want to emanate though an image and attempt to make that by creating an atmosphere. Ryder will often make some sort of situation with objects and furniture, we pick the garments together, the location, everything. Then take the photos. When we take photographs of people we often make them do things like eating an orange or doing a handstand.
Ophelia, I know you love to cook and make beautiful lunches! What would be your favourite dish to cook if you were having friends over? Are there any ingredients you can’t live without?
O: I make a lot of toast. When I have friends for lunch I often make a tower of toast and put it out next to homemade hummus and pickled onions, kraut, halloumi, chopped herbs, greens and toasted nuts.
I can’t live with out:
Being in my kitchen.
What are some of your favourite pieces in your new home?
O: The surf posters that the men in Ryder’s family have given him, our Moroccan water glasses, our linen duvet cover and the collection of necklaces Ryder makes for me.
Ryder, I loved hearing you speak about ‘making something out nothing’ in relation to the necklaces you made for Ophelia. Is this a concept you explore through your own work too?
R: I am interested in the idea of chance, and in some ways all my work attempts to surrender itself to the coincidences and happenings that unfold before it.
I like to set a framework to make artwork within, chance is one, and something else outside of my own control determines its shape and consistency.
I used to find these bendy sticks on my way to school and everyday I’d make a circle out of these sticks, then I’d find a rubber band or a piece of wire to connect the opposite ends. I think this is where I became interested in making something out of nothing.
Tell us about some things you are collecting at the moment.
R: I’ve been interested in collected money – I am working on some different methods on how to do this.
Do you have any before-bed or bedtime rituals?
O: Ryder’s grandparents live in California, his grandma Ingalil sends us this tea called ‘breathe deep’. Before bed we sit in the lounge, read and drink this tea. Each tea bag has a fortune written on it. They are really good. This is a good one: “Joy is the essence of success”.
What is coming up for you both this year that you’re looking forward to?
R: I am excited to make things in my studio and not show anybody for a long time.
O: I am excited to look after my garden. I am growing a lot of tomatoes, zucchinis, chilies, beans — all good things to have on toast. Over winter we are planning to visit Greece, Morocco, California and Costa Rica.