'Getting on' with art: Taranaki Daily News.

 Smiling skulls: Artist Jenny Bielawski with two of her knitted skulls.
Skulls are always smiling, that's what Jenny Bielawski likes about them. Bielawski and Dorothy Andrews became friends because they both decided, fairly late in life, they wanted to become artists. They completed the Certificate of Visual Arts at Witt then went on to do a bachelor of visual arts, finishing in 2011, the last year the course was offered. They now work out of studios down the hall from each other at the Witt campus. Having the support of each other has meant they can do more than they could - or would have the confidence to do - on their own. They've exhibited together at the Percy Thomson Gallery in Stratford and have an exhibition coming up at the Real Tart Gallery. And they both entered work in Puke Ariki's upcoming exhibition Home Work, showcasing the artwork of Taranaki artists. To their surprise and delight, both were accepted. Some people have asked Bielawski if the skulls she makes from materials like flax and wool are a result of her years nursing and working as a midwife, but she isn't really sure. "They're just a really powerful image. "They just appeal to me, any skulls, I love skulls." And they always make her chuckle. "Human skulls always seem to be laughing." Reactions to Bielawski's work are mixed. "But you usually get some sort of reaction, which as an artist, is good." She once had a woman point at her and say, 'I saw your exhibition in Stratford, yuck! It was awful. Clever, but awful'. "It's good that she reacted, she didn't just walk past." Bielawski is a little apprehensive about the arts tour but is glad to be sharing it with her friend. "I would probably be freaking out if it wasn't for Dorothy doing it, too. "We're a bit overwhelmed, really, we've only just started to think that we're artists." When you've gone through life not thinking of yourself as an artist, it's strange to make that change to your mindset, she says. "You have so much respect for art and artists you think, well I'm never going to be one of them." The pair are looking forward to the feedback from visitors and receiving constructive advice. Both the same age - in their words, "getting on" - Bielawski and Andrews were the eldest in their Witt class and older than all of the tutors. But they think the age may have worked in their favour in shaping their work. "There's all these memories in your head that come out in different ways, which if we'd done it when we were younger they wouldn't have done," Bielawski says. When Andrews was young it was her ambition to be an artist, but back then it wasn't taken seriously as a career. Then she grew up and had two children who turned out to be artists. "I thought if they've got it, they must have got it from me so I'm going to have a go." At first glance, Andrews' work appears to be colourful floral patterns, but on closer inspection you notice pieces of bone or little creatures - her commentary on the state of the natural world and the changes it has undergone and faces in the future. "I love everything natural, and the way the world's going now there's not much natural left. "I try and do my works from my memories but they're all jumbled up because that's how I feel the world is. "I don't know what's going to come and I don't know what will be left for future generations." That's what my work is really about; the things that we've changed, if we don't want it we spray it or get rid of it. "Whatever people want to see in them is there." Joining Andrews and Bielawski on the New Plymouth section of the Taranaki Arts Trail are Debrina Altered, Ian Axtell, Maria Brockhill, Alana Clarke, Barbara Clegg, Lester Earl, Jacqueline Elley, the Gables Gallery, Amanda Griffin, Amanda Hewlett, Anne Holliday, Derek Hughes, Jan Huijbers, Leila Hunter, Milarky, Barbara Mills, Rosie Moyes, Fern Parmentier, Te Henui Vicarage Gallery, Real Tart Gallery, Puke Ariki, Tony Rumball, Claire Sadler, John Schumacher, Dora Smith, Anthea Stayt, Renate Verbrugge, Min White and Joyce Young and her grandson, Geoffrey. - Taranaki Daily News [ISOBEL EWING]