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From junk to jewellery: Design Junkies search for second crop of designers

Design Junkies represents a side dish from the buffet of reality TV, sport and food based shows fed to night time television consumers. Instead it steers away from drama and puts impetus on design and craftsmanship. Thus, because of its originality and fresh approach to reality television, as well as tapping into a design sector that’s becoming increasingly relevant and interesting to more people, it was given the primetime 7:30pm Thursday night slot.

The format of the show sees creatives across a range of industries and age groups work in collaboration on various weekly challenges centred on salvaging abandoned items and repurposing them into functional – moderately artistic – installations.

Hansen says, “We pulled it off quite quickly to be honest, the funding came in from NZ on Air and then there were only a matter of weeks when we had to pull the contestants together and formulate the briefs.”

Despite the quick development, Design Junkies was applauded by the NZ Herald as a ‘surprise and delight’ and  ‘a rubbish show worth watching’. Additionally, it received a modest average audience of 265,900 viewers. Hansen says the audience response was pleasing to see because hardly any funding and advertising had gone into the show.

Although the contestants varied in skill sets, the show presented some fairly discerning humans. Notably its winner, Leilani Krans-Tunnage, a Wellington based product and furniture designer, who took out the first season and won a trip to the Milan Furniture Fair.

Hansen mentions a big part of the show was the balance of personalities. “People became loyal to the contestants they liked. They got behind people like James because they felt like he was being hard done by every week. Or Craig because he was over ambitious and every week he would take on far too much.”

Hansen also mentions there is a requirement to have a ‘high-level’ of competency as contestants will be challenged to work with machinery and do largely functional industrial designs.

Currently, the production team is on the hunt for its next crop of contestants – in particular women designers – among an industry typically littered with male representatives.

“We had Kate and Leilani for the first season. They were both so skilled and precise with everything, Leilani’s talent was amazing, and her craftsmanship and ability to work with different tools was evident. We need to encourage that. The industry is populated a lot more by males, it’s been difficult to find females, but it’s important to try and open that up more.”

Although the second season looks to retain the same formula, it will see a portfolio of new briefs, where Hansen hopes to inject more cultural heritage into the challenges.  

“One thing that i’d like to do is to bring more M?ori flavour into it, maybe one challenge could be an interpretation of landscape, or flora and fauna, something more unique to where we come from, as opposed to the generic projects.”

Hansen is currently placed in Northland’s serene Tutukaka Coast, where he says, the show has rubbed off on local community and encouraged its local school to partake in a similar competition. For Hansen, who is an acclaimed New Zealand artist, graphic, furniture and fashion designer – having done work for the likes of Air New Zealand, BMW, Te Wananga o Aotearoa and the New Zealand Olympic Committee – the show represents the strong shift of appreciation for New Zealand’s art scene.

“One thing i’d say is I feel encouraged. It’s nice to know that so many people out there are involved with the arts and working in creative fields.  It’s great to have a show dedicated to design and art because there are so many people out there doing it.

“I’ve been doing my art for almost ten years now and, over that time, there has been a definite change of support. New Zealanders are feeling more proud of where we are from  – and they want pieces of work to represent that. It’s a good time to be an artist, because you can make a living out of it, which has always been the struggle.”

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