Anna Church was not excited about moving to Toronto four-and-a-half years ago when her husband suggested migrating their family with two littles from their beach house in New Zealand. Fast forward to today and they’ve happily planted firm roots in their new ‘hood. They even sold their house back home in Waiheke Island (a retreat that’s just a half hour away from Auckland) and planning an extensive reno of their recent purchase, a Victorian villa in the city that includes coveted wiggle room for her studio. Amid the hoopla of changing time zones, her career has accelerated and her work has made the rounds at the Affordable Art Fair in New York, Art Basel Miami and are available at Parts Gallery (Toronto), Sugarlift (New York), Saatchi Online and boutique galleries in New Zealand and Australia. She’s packed in a lot of major life leaps into a few short years and as you’ll see, she’s done it with loads of style and a willingness to embrace change.
“We moved into a condo when we first moved to Toronto. That was a strange and new experience for me, especially after living by the beach for many years. There were neighbours that didn’t like it when the kids were running and making too much noise and there wasn’t as much space as I’m used to. I was lucky to find friends that helped me with the transition. Another Kiwi couple lived close by and they helped us get comfortable and introduced us to more people. And oddly enough, I never felt too lonely or sad or depressed. The move was stressful but we were so close to an antique market. That was my happy place and where I could centre myself. I would go every weekend and find things that would make the condo feel more like home or anything that I could use to inspire my work.
My execution changed, and I think for the better, since we decided to leave home. My vision before was based around New Zealand culture and nostalgia; I used iconic objects that would predominantly resonate with a Kiwi audience. While I’m naturally maturing as an artist, moving to Toronto and being so much closer to New York has given me an international perspective; it’s given me the chance to see what the world sees and reflect that in my work.
Today, I find my collections attract mothers, nesters and the next generation art collector, which isn’t surprising because they’re coming from the same place as me. Like me, they love a beautifully curated home and appreciate a conversation piece that’s simple yet striking. They’ve stepped up from framing a museum poster or print and have become more serious about choosing art that they’ll live with for the long-term—inside and out. I offer a deep sense of meaning and social commentary particularly about the environment, but my work is also livable and lovely to look at.
Now that both kids are in school, I’m blessed and have more time to get it all done. Three out of five days I collect the kiddos and take them to swimming or music or have kids over for an after school play-date. Twice a week the kids go to after school programs allowing me the extra time.
“My children don’t directly inspire my work but they do inspire me to open my eyes and see what’s possible.”
After school drop-off, I crack into work and begin with answering emails and following up on orders. One of those mornings I usually devote to invoicing and accounting. And during a lot of mornings I focus on my social content. Marketing is an important part of my growth and I even have someone who helps me manage my social media, which has freed up valuable time to spend in the studio experimenting or to visit galleries or someplace that will inspire me.
Most importantly, I also make time to daydream. I daydream a lot and when I’m with my children, I play and create with them as much as I can. Molly is so creative in a very imaginative, theatrical way. I give her imagination free reign—that’s what my parents nurtured in me and allowing her to express herself is broadening the conversations that we have and what we dream up together. She’s helping me with my creative muscles too. Observing them create allows me to filter through new ideas. My children don’t directly inspire my work but they do inspire me to open my eyes and see what’s possible.”
HOME TOUR A family home that mixes vintage finds with nature’s best
Anna is an interior environmentalist which includes a love of nature and found things. “I would much rather find a weathered piece of furniture that’s practical, useful and a piece of art in itself.” Bench, Smash Salvage.
“I don’t buy a huge amount. I buy consciously and am always looking for a good deal, and the thing I love about antiques is that they hold their value.” Lockers, Christie Antique & Vintage Show; washable paper bag, Hoibo.
“I lived by an ocean and a beach for much of my life; I’m attracted to things that remind me of that but arranged and shown in a contemporary way.”
Anna’s first career was as an interiors stylist explaining her innate and admirable knack for curation and spotting a must-have.
She also consulted for a textile company and her fine-tuned appreciation for colour, carpets and fabrics, especially linen, is sprinkled throughout the house.
“I’m collecting vintage flags that I find on ebay. Right now I’m thinking about how to use them. I’m finding a lot of inspiration in wallpapers by artist Deborah Bowness.” The rocking chair is a much-appreciated hand-me-down from a friend.
“Vignettes around our home take on new forms quite often…it’s another way to keep things fresh without feeling propelled to buy something new.”
“I guess my aesthetic is eclectic in a neutral kinda way with a few pops or accents of colour thrown in for good measure.” The childrens’ room features beds that Anna’s husband Nick made from wooden palettes, a lick of paint and casters. Antique letters and signs punctuate the artist’s commitment to upcycling.
The home was once a boarding house and when she took possession last summer, some rooms were painted a deep red. Anna’s first instinct was a fresh coat of paint in Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White to brighten it up until she starts a reno later this year.
A couch passed along from friends gets freshened up with an artist’s drop cloth and pillows with personality. (She’s saving her budget for breaking down walls and new lighting).
Her second floor studio lends her space and plenty of natural light to get inspired.
About the master bedroom and the entire house she says, “I gravitate to natural tones that you would find in corals, seashells or sea glass and the weathered-ness of an old wooden boat that’s washed up ashore.” Photos of Thomas and Molly are portraits Anna took herself. “I had them stand still against the wall for as long as they could and I started snapping while I was rotating the camera. Even though they’re still, there’s a sense of movement.”
MY FAVOURITE THINGS
Her beauty routine is as natural, pared-down and pretty as her home. Origins VitaZing SPF 15 Energy-boosting moisturizer with Mangosteen; Becca Mineral Bronzer; Becca Ultimate Coverage Complexion Creme; and the alluring wood and leather notes of Le Labo Santal 33. Bag, handcrafted by Hoibo. “That store is just gorgeous and everything is made with so much care and attention.”
“I love that a home can be a creative canvas too. It’s an extension of your personality and your family. The Inspired Home: Nests of Creatives resonates with me because I see this signified in the homes and people featured.” Also on her personal hit list, a necklace she found at Good Neighbour. “I’m drawn to things that appear ordinary but become extraordinary the more you look at them.”
A vintage Eames chair from Machine Age Modern is a prized possession. “I’m a hunter-gatherer and eclectic composer…the perfect flea market or mid-century find holds far more appeal to me than something straight out of a catalogue.”
Her grandmother’s pearls are an heirloom that jumped time zones with her. “She’s 97 years old and she was downsizing when she gave them to me. Funny enough, I think she thinks she’s going to go any day now but I don’t think she’s going anywhere.”
“My pink Converse are my old faithfuls. I don’t think I’ve ever met a shoe that could team up with nearly everything in my wardrobe!”