This month’s inspiring woman is Jenny Mehrtens, chosen because her journey is so interesting (and of course, inspiring!): She’s had two clothing labels, a family, and has become an internationally collected full-time artist with her own look, plus everything else that goes in between. She is also a customer of Wilson Trollope and has a great sense of style.
Jenny describes herself as an artist driven to explore and communicate ideas. Not as a hobby, but as a serious artist. Her strong curiosity about her cultural identity as a New Zealander led to her looking back on early New Zealand; driven by her fascination with the extraordinary artistic creativity of Māori and how that reveals in our people, and how both Māori and Pakeha history and interaction has shaped us. And still shapes us.
WT: How do you describe yourself when people ask you what you do for a living?
JM: I’m a visual artist. Mostly as a painter. I convey ideas; challenge thinking and tell stories - not just paint pretty pictures. It’s not a hobby, but a serious business for me. I’ve combined my passion for art with business. It is hard work but rewarding on many levels. I love it.
WT: Do you have a go-to outfit that you put on when you need to feel your best?
JM: I love clothes. It depends on what I’m doing. In the 1980s, I designed and made clothes in my own label clothing factory in Dunedin. I had five staff and was a Benson & Hedges Fashion Finalist.
Clothing impacts on how I feel. Colour and fabric matter to me. I love natural fibres and great design, which is what I like about the WT label. I don’t know if it’s the artist in me, but I feel uplifted by wearing certain colours and dull in others. For me, black is for funerals! Wearing the right clothing for whatever you are doing enhances your performance. I have “uniforms” in my life.... I wear my husband’s old shirts when painting; active wear for walking and biking; and I can’t do anything in the kitchen without one of my long navy and white striped butcher’s aprons. Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good!
WT: What’s the proudest moment of your journey so far? What’s something really brave you have done that in hindsight you can’t believe you did but are really glad you did?
JM: I’m proud that I forced myself to actually do it – I put myself out there to become a real artist that creates, produces and sells art all over the world, and to develop and run a successful business myself. My overnight success has taken over 20 years – I’ve “done my 10,000 hours” - and know what I’m doing and who I am as an artist, to share with others, and this makes me a better person. I’m in a happy place. When you show and sell your work as an artist, it feels like you’re stripped bare. It is terrifying. Then it is liberating when you let go of the “what will people think” fears and get on with what you want to do. For years I dreamed of having my own quality studio space, surrounded by paintings that I am proud of, good enough that others will buy them. With the vision and support of my husband Richard, we achieved that. Mid last year I moved into a new purpose-built private artist studio in the heart of the historic miner’s village part of Arrowtown, with quality exhibition and working spaces. I have met so many interesting and fun people.
Jenny's Arrowtown Studio
WT: What women past/present most inspire you? And why?
JM: I think your most formative years are when you are growing up, and the people who inspire you are usually quite close to you. At that time it was my mother. She showed me that if you really want something and are prepared to work hard and not give up, anything is possible. As a single mother in the 1950s, she went to University and got a degree in dentistry. A pioneering, empowered woman. She was intelligent and creative and could do most things well that she put her mind to... most things except drive a car! So now, when I paint, her voice is in my ear.... I can do this… and do it well. I go over and over my work and never sell anything unless I am 100% happy with it. Works have to be quality, in artistic content and construction, like the materials and paints used. I’m also thinking about the future, I want my works to be around for a long time, so there are many layers to what I do.
WT: What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
JM: I’ve received many great pieces of advice. Some that come to mind are:
”I’ve decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear.”
For myself, I really try to be positive about people, to be inclusive, as there is always room for one more, and you don’t always know what people are going through. There is good in everyone. And everyone is talented, it is just a matter of encouraging people to develop and use it, to blossom, to be empowered. And that’s how I feel.
Wilson Trollope is all about inspiring women to be their confident selves. Each month we are interviewing confident women to share their stories as inspiration to us all.
Jenny was born and raised in Dunedin and her natural creative talent and love of visual arts was nurtured by her family (some of whom were artists) and the Dunedin community. In the 1980s, she had a successful clothing design business based in Dunedin under the labels, “Jenny Haggitt Originals” and then “Verve”. She moved to Wellington in 1989, and studied painting at Inverlochy Art School while raising a family, and now lives near Arrowtown where she has a private artist studio in the heart of the small historic town.
If you have an inspiring story to tell, or know of other women who do, please get in touch, we’d love to interview you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below
Reading is something that always helps to keep me sane. It can be great to help us understand more about the world and people around us, or to escape them entirely! Personally I’m a big fan of escapism…
Grace shares her favourite lockdown reads (and listens) for you all to enjoy.
|Size||Bust (cm)||Waist (cm)||Hips (cm)|
There are three body measurement points that you need to know to ensure a great fit – bust, waist, and hips.
When taking your body measurements, wear the undergarments you normally wear for the most accurate results. Use a flexible tape measure, or a piece of string and ruler, and hold it around each body point so it is comfortably snug. If the tape is cutting into your flesh, it is too tight.
To ensure an accurate measurement around your body, keep the measuring tape as level as possible from front to back. We recommend measuring yourself in front of a mirror so you can check this from a side view. If you can, get a friend to help you to ensure the most accurate measurements.
Bust: Wrap the measuring tape around your back and where the tape meets across the fullest point of your bust is your bust measurement.
Waist: Wrap the measuring tape around your natural waist, the slimmest part of your torso, pulling the ends to the front. Where they meet is your waist measurement.
Hips: Wrap the measuring tape around the widest part of your bottom – this is usually low down towards your thighs. As with your bust and waist measurements, where the tape meets is your hip measurement.
Length: To measure the length of individual garments against your body it is best to measure down the centre of your back. To do this, start the measuring tape at either the base of your neck for dresses and tops, or at your waist for skirts. Measure down your body to the measurement listed in the garment description. This will show you where the garment comes to on you. When you are measuring for length, remember to make sure you are standing completely upright – it is best to have someone help you with this. Alternatively, compare the measurement with the length of a garment you already have.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Annabelle – email@example.com, she is here to help.