October Feature

October Feature

October Feature 2560 1707 The Flyer Magazine

Number 8 Wired

A Woman Reborn

Kiwi ingenuity and, literally, lots of Number 8 wire have helped launch former Queenstown tour guide Lee van der Geest’s successful new artistic venture, creating amazing wire sculptures and teaching her craft. When she and husband Jaap were suddenly left without an income from their tourist transport and guiding business after the Covid crisis closed borders worldwide, they had to think outside the square. Tussock Cottage guesthouse on their property, another source of income, also came to a standstill during lockdown.


Lee smiling through one of her workshops

A former Perth florist, Lee had owned her own flower shop for 14 years and taught floral art there, before the family moved back to Queenstown, in 2001 and launched Resort Transport. Among Lee’s guiding clients were Abercrombie and Kent and National Geographic. That was in a different time. Post lockdown last year the furniture was pushed aside in the van der Geest lounge to make way for art work benches. Son Noah, who had resigned from his job as an accountant and was about to go travelling, got busy creating his mum a website. Everybody in the family pitched in and word soon got out.

Lee already had a growing reputation locally for her amazing wire sculptures, including Lola, a grape trunk lady riding a bike commissioned by Rob Hay at Chard Farm. She hails from local creative talent with her mum, Noelene Horrell, starting the first Flower Barn in the Wakatipu on Speargrass Flat during the 1980s. As a teenager Lee attended Wakatipu High School. She’s now not only in demand for her own sculpting work, which also includes grape vine and willow artworks, but in just over a year she’s taught hundreds of others, including visiting art groups, how to create wire artworks. Focusing more on her art and teaching was always something she’d talked about doing, but hadn’t had to.

With another avenue of Lee’s art work decorating venues and table tops for weddings, events and conferences also hit hard by the closed borders, she says her hand was forced. Resort Transport would not be returning to its heyday numbers for some time.  “There was a huge push to do it and everybody has been so supportive,” she says. Friends spread the word and before long she had groups of Millbrook property owners filling her wire art master class workshops, as well as many locals. “My son ordered me the wire from China. Laurie Scheib, who had always been my welding man, said, ‘You can’t afford to use me anymore so send your husband round and I’ll teach him how to weld for you,’” says Lee. “That was so kind. People have been so supportive.”

Orders continue to roll in as her eye-catching commissioned pieces turn heads locally, like the wire pig with its wine barrel torso, created for the last Akarua Arrowtown Autumn Festival. Lee also sells her wire works at the Athol Gallery. Workshops are now a huge part of her business and she’s taught after club and group invitations around Southland and Otago, even as far away as Golden Bay. Lee’s now getting requests to teach even further afield. She and Jaap are now thinking of taking the show on the road  to teach wire art in the North Island. “Friends and the community have really been behind me,” she says. “Jaap is my right hand man and has been an enormous help to me. Without him none of this would be possible,” she says. “It was a big risk but I’m really thrilled I did it. I didn’t have any choice but to give it a go really and it’s all been such a positive experience, like a gift really, and I can do what I love.”

To check out Lee’s work stop by her studio and workshop at 48 Rutherford Road, Lake Hayes, or visit leevandergeest.com.

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