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Wellington’s Whirlwind Designs keeps nature at the centre of creativity

01 Jul 2020

Wellington and wind – a well-known duo and the inspiration for many of the city’s waterfront sculptures. The famous Wellington gusts were also the driving force behind Whirlwind Designs; a thriving local business that specialises in spinning wind sculptures for the garden.

Whirlwind Designs is a creative collaboration between Michelle Fyson and Nick Blake. The duo are based in Miramar where they have a popular retail shop, which is also backed up by a thriving online business.

The whirligig wind sculptures are still among the most popular of Whirlwind products, particularly the pukeko. “People know the wind sculptures. They’re unique and they go well in the Wellington weather,” says Michelle.

However, that hasn’t stopped the sculptures spinning in gardens much further afield. “During lockdown, we actually had a number of overseas orders for them,” she says.

Whirlwind Designs’ popular pukeko wind sculpture has a Resene Black base with Resene Monza legs. It is covered in a darker wash, using Resene Time Warp over a blue base.

The wind sculptures, like almost all of Whirlwind Designs’ creations, are finished in Resene products. Michelle has been a fan of the range since her days as a decorative painter. “Back in the day we did all sorts of things like marbling and experimenting with washes. Over the years I’ve really played with them and built up a bit of knowledge about what I can get away with; creative ways to use them.

“Some of those techniques aren’t so in fashion now, but they have a lot going for them! They can be great at hiding things – and ageing things. I think Kiwis like a bit of ageing on things, so I still use a lot of those techniques on our designs now,” Michelle says.

“Resene products are just superior to anything else I’ve used. They can be used in so many different ways and they have a wide range of eco-friendly products, which is really important to us. And the colour range is really big, which is fantastic.”

Resene White and Resene Pioneer help bring to life Whirlwind Designs’ lovely Kereru wind sculpture.

Other Resene products, such as Resene Aquaclear waterborne sealer and Resene Clearcoat UVS protective finish, also make their way into a lot of Whirlwind creations, particularly on the wind sculptures that need to withstand some harsh outdoor conditions.

“There was one gull wind sculpture on the south coast of Wellington that had lasted 15 years. The galvanised steel stand had corroded but the paint on the gull was still in really good condition. It is extraordinary how long the paint lasts.

“People have bought in others that have been outside for 20 years and they’ll need only a slight touch up. We do take care to prepare each one properly and use the proper layers so they do last,” Michelle says.

Whirlwind Designs also specialise in mobiles. The wings of this ‘Butterfly Flutterby’ mobile is coloured with Resene Colorwood Red Pepper timber stain.

And while Michelle makes good use of the Resene colour range, using everything from a Resene Black as a base colour for the pukeko, she also often mixes together colours herself using Resene testpots as she’s working on a project. At the moment she is leaning toward misty blues in her personal tastes – having just done some lockdown painting on her own home in Resene Dreamtime – when it comes to work, her colour choices are driven by whatever she’s working on.

“Most of our designs are in some way inspired by the natural world, with some influence from Japanese design in the background. We work from ideas that are derived from New Zealand, but that don’t veer directly into Kiwiana.

“Nick and I work very collaboratively on ideas and how to get the best results. When it comes to colour choices it really starts with the materials and what they inspire.

“Often that means we use natural colours. Although we are doing some big wall pieces that a leaves and we find people do often want some colour in those. I guess because a lot of homes have quite neutral walls.”

images Whirlwind Designs

Published: 01 Jul 2020