Ophelia is an artist, designer, and curator. She makes lovely textiles, drawings and spaces and seems to only be capable of putting beauty out into the world, telling me, “I try and approach things with a certain tenderness.” Ophelia is part of a special cluster of New Zealand women who have a quiet strength, easygoing nature, and purity about them— Yasmine and Carter are also in this magic circle. Ophelia lives in a small beach town called Tairua, two hours south of the main city Auckland. We talk a lot about ambition and hustle on OKREAL, and I think it’s important to be reminded that a gentler approach to life is equally as important, and that the pace at which you pursue your path is entirely up to you.

“My husband to be, Ryder, and I have been together for four and a half years. His family moved to the Coromandel from California about 12 years ago. Before we moved down to Tairua full-time we would spend our summer holidays and weekends here, so when we graduated from our Masters at the end of last year, we didn’t really discuss or decide that we were going to be down here, we both just knew. It’s only two hours from the city, and it gives me the ability to do my creative work full-time—the rent down here is much more affordable. Completing my Masters was a challenging time, because I had been in that environment for so long and really wanted a change. Ryder and I were living in Auckland during the week, and would drive down here on the weekends, staying between our parent’s houses. But my research and thesis were all about making a home—so I had this need to create my own and I felt unsettled living in other people’s spaces. I think that’s why I feel so good right now, in terms of having my own space and creating it with Ryder.

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It’s really important for the both of us to be close to the ocean and nature—it gives us energy and a sense of calm. It fills us back up. It helps me breathe. We have this path that leads from our backyard through an empty section over the sand dunes and down to the beach, so as soon as we wake up in the morning, we’ll walk down to watch the sun rise out of the water. We try and do that most mornings, which is a really beautiful way to start a day. This morning we both went out surfing. After that, I’ll make breakfast—I love toast and I’m really into cooking! I love making things and this translates into the making of daily meals. I try create a routine in my days. I think that’s important living in a somewhat isolated town, because it’s very different, socially and creatively, from being in the city. But, luckily, I’m really loving it, or at least I am most of the time. There are days I miss my girlfriends, but it’s fun when we go up to the city for a few days. We get this sort of renewed energy. It also reminds me of why we’re here. When you adjust to your own pace of living, there’s a reconditioning of the way you see and think. It’s nice to be reminded of that when you come back from a change like visiting the city.

Most days I’ll start my work after breakfast, which has recently involved creating content for some beautiful New Zealand brands. This can be anything from photography and creating imagery to helping brands curate their online presence. I probably spend from 9am to 2pm on that sort of thing, and then I’ll have a lunch with Ryder and go for a swim. Then I’ll work in my studio for the afternoon, or work in the garden. I really love to draw and take photographs and be outside. We usually end up back at the beach and sometimes that’s where we eat dinner. I’ll cook something in my cast iron pot and take it down with us, and we’ll hang out on the beach until the sun goes down. The days sound pretty magic, and they are in a way. I feel super lucky in that Ryder and I want the same thing.

We’ve chosen this way of living, gone for it, and we see no other way.

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I come from a really creative family, and was always encouraged to only put effort into things I love. My mum was like, ‘Pass 5th form math so that you never have to do it again.’ And I did—I got 50 percent and we danced around in the car park! I was taught to surround myself with people who inspired and encouraged me, and to only spend time doing what I enjoyed doing. Perhaps that has cultivated a kind of confidence within me, however I think ‘ease’ is the word I would use over confidence. But I’m a Pices—I need to learn to openly own my strengths. For primary and intermediate school, I went to Ficino School of Philosophy and it was incredible. We had philosophy classes and learned Sanskrit, and from 10 years old we got to choose if meditation was something we wanted to do. It was so interesting having an awareness of the mind and being present in your life from that age. It’s something that’s really stuck with me. The school’s motto was, ‘Rejoice in the present,’ and I still live by that. The present is the only thing we have, and it’s another reason why it’s so important for me to do what I love.

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My sock brand came about totally by accident. I had just started my postgrad, and was really into designing and thinking about the spaces that we live in and the essential things that we need. I had this thing about never wanting to be cold. At the university they use these amazing textile machines and I was like, ‘Can I make a sock on this thing?’ And the guy was like, ‘Yep,’ so we made this sock, and I’m pretty sure I screamed when I saw it. I showed my friends and my family because I was so stoked. So this sock arrived in my life and people started asking me if they could buy them. It grew from there, and I’ve since started making little t-shirts. I only use natural fibers in what I make. I think it’s important to let your body breathe. I guess the socks were almost like a natural extension of myself. I feel like that’s quite true in all my makings. I’m not really sure whether I’d call myself an artist or a designer, but I’ve never been afraid of sharing what I make with others, in any creative form. I don’t have any block with putting work out there. Sharing is so easy for me, and I guess that’s how I’ve come to do creative work with and for other people—in terms of helping others share their own creativity or brand through online and social media. I like to create conversations around beauty and aesthetics, and I try and approach everything I do with a certain tenderness.

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In terms of advice for someone who finds it hard to slow down… I think there’s something about rituals within our everyday living that help with that. Finding those small slots of time, whatever schedule one has. It was something I mentioned in my thesis, about how you wake up in the morning and you have about a minute and a half between putting your toast down and it popping up again (see, said I was into toast)—but treating this time as precious, and taking a moment to look out in front of you and breathe.

Finding those spaces within all of the things that filter through our days, and using them to be still.

Also, just being in awe of the world around us. I’m always aware of that, living in nature. Like every time we see the moon rise out of the sea, it blows my mind completely. The child in me is captivated by the smallest things, like growing vegetables or the sun setting. There’s something important about being inspired and excited by the ordinary. There’s something special in knowing that all of these things continue to happen, regardless of what kind of day we’ve had. We get to decide whether we see them or not.”

Ophelia’s OKREALTALK Tips

  • How are you creating space for yourself?
  • What do you need to live as the truest version of you? Be honest.
  • Find beauty in the ordinary.
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i. @opheliaafm
opheliamikkelson.com


As told to Amy Woodside, March 2016