Auckland's second best-known goat farming aeroplane flying ad agency owner Vaughn Davis drops into the new but definitely not ostentatious offices of newborn events company Celery Productions.
Their ideas range from the conceptual to the commercial, and their creativity touches everything from the snack menu in a musical experience they’re designing for a bar, to the rubber-stamped logo that peppers every square inch of stampable space in their wildly cluttered shared office.
They’re young, they’re energetic and they’re leading the charge to fuse art and business in New Zealand’s creative capital, a city they see as having a potential equal to any in the world.
The weird bit? They’re not in Wellington – they’re in Auckland. Ella Mizrahi (25) and Celia Harrison (25 and three quarters) are Celery Productions, and if a fraction of what they have on the boil comes off, they’re set to become a major force in the business of creativity.
Celery has something not a lot of businesses 10 times bigger have, and that’s a vision not just for their company, but for their city. They see Auckland as being caught up in a time of exciting change and are determined to make a living being part of that.
When Mizrahi returned from a job in the London arts sector for the Rugby World Cup she was struck by the shift in just the few years she’d been away.
From a transformed Auckland Art Gallery to the Wynyard Quarter redevelopment and the opening of the Q Theatre, here was somewhere that finally seemed to be placing arts if not at the same level as sport or business, at least on the same podium.
It was at the Rugby World Cup, helping stage-manage the opening and closing events and a bunch in between, that Mizrahi and Harrison first realised they wanted to work together. So when the last fragment of cheaply-made team bunting had washed into the drain- to-ocean gutters, they turned their focus to Harrison’s passion project, Art in the Dark.
“We both wanted to make a giant silver angel fly through the dark and land in a field of light,” she says.
But giant silver angels, no matter how well funded (Art in the Dark received Auckland Council money and brewery sponsorship), don’t keep the lights burning, so Celery was born, creating and executing “ingenious ideas and unique experiences that are fully immersive and theatrical for both audience and client”.
It’s a testament to their skill at making ideas come to life that I’m listening to their story before they’ve really got many runs on the board (as Celery, anyway) but their balance of enthusiasm and pragmatism has me feeling like I’m talking to a successful company, rather than the barely started-up startup that Celery Productions really is.
I leave their shared Grey Lynn office impressed and excited for them. They’re hard not to like, and it’s hard not to wonder what the next few months will hold. Their energy has inspired me and left me wondering just where I’d be today, if I’d had the same vision and drive when I was 25-and-three-quarter years old.