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Otago Polytechnic Design lecturers' moth project takes flight

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Inspired by a series of iconic New Zealand postage stamps depicting New Zealand moths, a pair of Otago Polytechnic lecturers have given wings to a project that mixes cultural history with design research, Product Design pragmatism and artistic flourishes.

Design lecturer Gavin O’Brien and Hannah Joynt, Lecturer in Art, Digital Media and Design at Otago Polytechnic, have produced a limited run of wooden butterflies inspired by Enid Hunter’s 1970 iconic design of a New Zealand postage stamp featuring a Tussock Butterfly.

Supported by the copyright owners of the image, New Zealand Post, Gavin and Hannah produced limited run of plywood moths before Christmas "to test the market" with several being as gifted as "koha".

Recently, they received permission from NZ Post to do a second, larger batch of around 30, which will be completed later in the year.

"As a young stamp collector in the 1960s and early ‘70s, I was always taken by the highly stylised design," Gavin reflects.

Made from laser-cut bamboo laminate and utilising a limited palette of sustainable Resene paints, the project is an exercise in applied research in sustainable design and is linked to a community outcome.

"It is supported by New Zealand Post as - in their words - ‘the official issuing authority of New Zealand stamps celebrating our culture, heritage, arts, stories and people’," Gavin says.

The project also aims to raise funds for Landcare Research’s Ahi Pepe/MothNet project.

"We are donating 10% of sales to Ahi Pepe/Moth Net, a citizen science project that aims to enthuse students and their whanau about the natural world."

Gavin and Hannah are hoping to present their work at a research symposium to be held at Eastern Institute of Technology - Te Aho a Māu in April.

The theme of the symposium is community-centred research, demonstrating the key role that New Zealand’s institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) play in ensuring that research has a tangible impact and benefits our communities.

Gavin says other designs could well take flight, too.

"As well as the Tussock Butterfly, Enid Hunter’s stamp designs of 1970-1971 featured the Red Admiral Butterfly and the Glade Copper Butterfly, so watch this space."

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