2023 Hot New Things: Eva Meeuws, Otago Polytechnic
Each summer DA profiles a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions. We welcome these talented emerging professionals to our industry, learn about their passions, final projects, developing creative confidence and ambitions for the future.
Today we speak with Eva Meeuws, recent grad of Otago Polytechnic. You can find out more about Aotearoa NZ creative study options by visiting our design schools page.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Kia ora, my name is Eva Meeuws & I’m a new graduate from the Otago Polytechnic (and one of the last given the ministerial change) I’ve lived in Dunedin for 13 years after moving back from Europe (I was born here but moved aged three months old) where I spent most of my childhood growing up in France and a year spent in Wales. I’m what you could call a South Pacific fusion of Maori (No Ngati Awa raua Ngati Maru ahau; No uri o Ngati Porou raua Ngati Kahungungu), Tongan (Vava’u, Haapai, Nukualofa), Samoan (Falevau, Falefa Malietoa & Tofaeono aiga) Dutch (Opa was from Den Haag) and New Zealand European (Scottish, English, Irish, French, Italian, German).
I’m clearly from a long line of global adventurers!
Both my parents came from large families ; Mum has SO many siblings, Dad is one of 6 and I too am one of 6 children. The middle daughter
If you were a typeface what would you be? OR if you were a pantone colour what would you be?
I have never been good at figuring out or choosing what element or object best describes me or represents my personality. So, here I am admitting to taking a quiz for what typeface I would be. The algorithm spat out that my answer was Futura.
Not sure how I feel about that yet. May work on colour instead. I’ll get back to you.
What did your graduating project focus on?
My graduate project solely focused on the exploration of my cultural heritage throughout the Communications Degree at the Otago Polytech. Having indigenous bones, it felt right throughout my degree to explore the various facets on approaching design through a bicultural lens.
Why did you choose to study at Otago Polytechnic?
Ever since leaving high school I’ve always known I wanted to pursue a career that involved a level of creativity. I had ideas about dentistry, prosthodontics because I wanted to sculpt the teeth, bridgework and such-like. I’d also toyed with attending art school too… but I came across the Bachelor of Communications and Design which sat really well when I realised you could achieve a career in the creative industry using a whole new medium, Technology!
I realised that I could pursue being creative and use my visual painting skills in a new way as well as taking a new approach to contemporary art.
What did you enjoy most about your course, or what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed it?
In general I really enjoyed being able to explore multiple design techniques within the course. From typography, photography, branding, game & web design, illustration, client based projects, etc. Having these options and opportunities helped me as a designer to explore the multi dimensional aspects in design which the Polytech supported and enabled me to explore and find where in design I wanted to focus on. Throughout this exploration, I found that my skill set increased and was broadened therefore enabling me to find my passion as a young designer & creative.
Passion was fired in the first year with the typography paper; the process of creating the Tahanga design unfurled the first frond of exploration and cultural identity.
Second year had me exhibiting my thoughts around cultural heritage & beliefs, focused on the appropriation of traditional Ta moko. To round out my degree I discovered a passion for illustration design in two parts; Firstly, with my collaboration on the mural project ‘Haumanu’ for the Otago Polytechnic Wormporium and secondly; through an awesome internship with an NZ company where I was able to really sink my teeth into designing.
When looking back on my course and the achievements; the key things I can take away from the degree are all the skills I’ve learned throughout each process of the programme but also the relationships I’ve made with classmates, clients, tutors & lecturers.
Were there any exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your studies?
The most exciting thing to come out of my course would have to be, in second year, the collaborative project ‘Haumanu’ that I worked on with the most talented Bella Maresca (a year ahead of me). Haumanu was a collaborative mural, focused on Mãori creation stories to help bring the working space to life by including Mãori principles revolving around kaitiakitaka / kaitiakitanga. It was such a privilege to be asked to collaborate on this piece by Bella, because she really wanted to incorporate and capture tikanga maori art and values within the finalised project. I feel that we managed to do that as we were recognised for our efforts by becoming finalists in The Best Awards, NZ. We were delighted!
What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was on a personal level; finding my voice and passion through the duration of my time with the Otago Polytechnic. It continued from the first year of my degree to the last and was yet another facet in the challenges of a global pandemic. Covid-19.
The lockdowns meant that the right environment wasn’t available for me when it came to creative space as everything was moved to an online learning platform. Not having these spaces for expression, creative bouncing, collaborating and finding inspiration, took a toll on my learning during the initial and subsequent quarantine period (s). I was dispassionate at this time. Resources such as software and applications were limited at home and far too expensive for a poor student to outsource.
Something had to give. What was hugely beneficial for my creative block was stepping outside, taking long walks and grounding myself with a combination of nature and fresh air.
It gave me freedom to explore my thoughts and offered clarity, especially when it comes to creative processes.
Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick Communications and Design as a career path?
There’s no specific designer or design element that inspired me to study communication design. I’ve always been drawn to the creative world from such a young age. Both my parents are creative and I have grown up in and around creative people and spaces.
I really started to explore my creative side in high school with both my late, visual art teachers who helped me find my skill in painting. It was from there that I knew the career path that I would choose, then had to have a creative aspect to it in order for my brain to be fully engaged. That’s when I came across the Bachelor of Communications at the Otago Polytechnic.
In terms of exploring my heritage, both Maori and Pasifika, through my design work; I can thank my father for lighting that pathway for me and essentially inspiring me. Dad studied art at the Elam Art School of Fine Arts, in Auckland and found a passion for contemporary Mãori art. On reflection, having grown up surrounded by contemporary & cultural art from around the world and having collected them whilst travelling, without doubt, this is a massive factor for me pursuing and exploring bicultural art within design.
Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?
I’m proud of all my work so far. It’s all part of a path, stepping stones if you will, into the process of where I’m at and where I’m meant to go. I do have a HUGE soft spot for Haumanu though…
I’ve also been working with Ghost Partners with my internship and throughout my time there I was asked to create the website illustrations for Moana’s annual report. That was yet another amazing opportunity and now that the site has gone live and being able to see my work on a live site is confirmation of sorts for me.
What’s next for you?
A rolling stone gathers no moss. In 2023 I’m furthering my study and acquiring further knowledge around Tikanga Maori and traditional Maori art. I’ll be immersed in Toi Maruata at Te Wananga in Dunedin for the first six months of the year whilst working full time as a designer for Ghost Partners. I’m also hoping to complete an instructors course for a local fitness class as well (a fusion of pilates, yoga and ballet) so there will be some serious juggling of my time and creativity but, it’s nothing I’m not used to and can’t handle.
How can people get in touch or see more of your work?