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Shelly Bay from Mt VicWheth­er you travel in from Kil­birnie or take the scen­ic route around Scorch­ing Bay, the drive to Shelly Bay on the Miramar Pen­in­sula affords you some of the most beau­ti­ful views in the cap­it­al. On a sunny day it’s sea­side bliss, while under rough­er weath­er it’s an invig­or­at­ing ride through the ele­ments. Depend­ing on your luck, you might spot some little blue pen­guins on the coast­line, chance across a seal splash­ing away hap­pily, or maybe even catch some cheer­ful dolphins.

Regard­less of which route you take, you’ll even­tu­ally pass through the former Shelly Bay Air Force Base build­ings and wharf. At a brief glance they might look dilap­id­ated and empty. Look a bit closer. If you stop and wander around, Shelly Bay reveals itself as a small-yet-grow­ing arts and crafts busi­ness hub. With­in a tight radi­us, you’ll find home­ware design­ers using repur­posed mater­i­als, a film/theatre props stu­dio, a bespoke fur­niture design­er, an art gallery/working stu­dio, an artis­an screen-print­er, a beau­ti­ful out­door sea­food café and more.

            At the end of September, I spent a day having a look around and talking with the locals


Whirlwind Designs

My first port of call was Nick Blake and Michelle Fyson’s Whirl­wind Designs. “We make things out of parts of things,” Michelle says. “We make robots. We make can­dle­sticks. We repur­pose things into fur­niture. Loosely speak­ing, we make home­wares.” Hav­ing pre­vi­ously worked from home, they relo­cated their busi­ness to Shelly Bay in Feb­ru­ary. “We wanted a work­shop that was a bit big­ger and a shop,” she con­tin­ues. Whirl­wind Design’s key­note item is their Tin­pot Desktop Robots. “People tell us about someone they love and we cre­ate a robot in that person’s spir­it,” Michelle explains. They also sell gen­er­al craft sup­plies and vin­tage French homewares. / 021 737 891

Propellor Studios

Propeller Studios

Next, I vis­ited Pro­peller Stu­di­os and spoke with their stu­dio man­ager Philip Sharpe. A prop, back­drop and sta­ging hire/build ser­vice, Pro­peller Stu­di­os is in the pro­cess of trans­ition­ing into a film stu­dio as well. “Even­tu­ally you’ll be able to make your entire film here apart from loc­a­tion shoots,” Philip says. “We’re talk­ing design, pre-pro­duc­tion, edit­ing, post-pro­duc­tion and everything else.” Helmed by a team with extens­ive loc­al and inter­na­tion­al exper­i­ence with­in the film and theatre indus­tries, Pro­peller Stu­di­os is determ­ined to add to Wellington’s grow­ing film industry in mean­ing­ful way. “I want to have even­ings where kids can come in and learn how to use all the high-tech machines we use to make props and mod­els,” he con­tin­ues. “It would be nice to have people come in and learn about our film industry.” / 04 801 8628


IRFD worshop

Wander a bit fur­ther into the artis­an vil­lage and you’ll stumble across Ian Rouse’s IRFD work­shop. “I have my own fur­niture design busi­ness,” Ian explains. “I’m a fur­niture design­er, not a join­er.” With his own range of cus­tom­is­able designs, includ­ing stools, tables and desks, Ian pro­duces beau­ti­ful bespoke work for cli­ents out of an old army lib­rary build­ing. He’s hotly tipped in the industry as well, as his status as a final­ist for Best Product Design at the 2014 Best Awards reveals. “Not bad for a guy in a dirty work­shop,” he says, with an equal bal­ance of pride and humour. Like many of the cre­at­ives in the bay, Ian loves the sense of dis­tance. “I think any cre­at­ive per­son needs a degree of isolation.” / 021 077 4337

Blackmore and Best

Blackmore & Best Gallery and Studio

Down the road from IRFD, it’s hard to get past the Black­more & Best Gal­lery and Stu­dio, the base of oper­a­tions for respec­ted and express­ive loc­al visu­al artists Jane Black­more and Juliet Best. “It’s a joy to come to work every­day,” Jane enthuses. “You feel the urge to paint no mat­ter what the weath­er is like. You couldn’t really ask for any­thing else.” With wall-sized sea-facing win­dows and an expans­ive and light room to make use of, the two cre­ate and sell their paint­ings under the pub­lic eye. “People can phys­ic­ally see us mak­ing,” she con­tin­ues. “Not many artists would be so hon­est about their devel­op­ment and progression.”

            “It’s a func­tion­ing, grunty place,” Juliet adds. “There is a bal­ance between magic and work here, and people feel that when they walk in. It’s about the exper­i­ence in total.” / 04 388 2357


Artisan Screen Prints

Back­track on your walk a few build­ings and you’ll come across Thomas Lynch’s Artis­an Screen Prints ser­vice. Inside a build­ing packed with pre-digit­al gear, Thomas screen-prints on flat­stocks and tex­tiles using eco-friendly water-based inks. Based in the bay for three years now, he works with a lot of loc­al small busi­nesses, be they craft beer brew­er­ies, heavy met­al bands or boutiques. “There is still a cer­tain cachet in work that is done by a per­son,” Thomas says. “What a lot of people in the art world like about screen-prints is the fact each one is slightly dif­fer­ent.” Along­side Artis­an Screen Prints, Thomas also runs his own cloth­ing label, Work­shy, and heads up the odd art exhib­i­tion. “It’s about bal­an­cing work with art.” / 04 388 2909

Chocolate Fish

Chocolate Fish Café

If you’re feel­ing hungry, John Pennington’s Chocol­ate Fish Café is just around the corner. Spec­tac­u­larly dec­or­ated with quirky tables, chairs and wall-fit­tings, it’s a won­der­ful place for cof­fee, drink or food, in par­tic­u­lar their excel­lent bar­be­cued sea­food sand­wiches and bur­gers. “We’ve been here for five years now,” John reflects. “We’re a sev­en-day-a-week oper­a­tion.” As great as the place is indoors, what it’s really about is it’s north-facing out­door seat­ing area, which aside from all-day sun includes a won­der­ful array of small vehicles and bicycles for chil­dren and adults to play on. “We have areas for every­one,” John says. / 04 388 2808

While talk­ing with the people in Shelly Bay, it becomes clear that what makes the place spe­cial is the envir­on­ment and the com­munity incub­at­ing with­in it. “Miramar Pen­in­sula is a real jew­el of Wel­ling­ton,” says Jane Black­more. “People are amazed when they get out here. It’s beau­ti­ful and it quickly becomes part of the fam­ily agenda for future visits.”

The com­munity is neat,” enthuses Michelle Fyson. “Every­one feels lucky to be here and liv­ing a cre­at­ive life. We’re all so sup­port­ive of each other.”

Earli­er this year, Wel­ling­ton prop­erty developer Ian Cas­sels brokered a head lease deal on Shelly Bay from the Port Nich­olson Block Set­tle­ment Trust. “It’s an under­u­til­ised part of Wel­ling­ton with heaps of poten­tial,” he says. While he likes its cur­rent dir­ec­tion, Ian would like to get a craft beer brew­ery in, look into a ferry and get more people liv­ing out there. “We’re work­ing to tidy it up and get the place going,” he con­tin­ues. “It needs to evolve. You couldn’t just turn it into a poncy com­munity out there. It just wouldn’t work.”

Shelly Bay’s future looks inter­est­ing. See you out there sometime?

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