Ma Pirangi and Jacqueline Macgregor both found their passion after completing Unitec’s New Zealand Certificate in Study and Career Preparation for Art and Design (NZCSP).
The 16-week full-time course focuses on practical skills and studio-based learning and offers a mix of classroom sessions, practical workshops, critique sessions, and guest speakers from art and design backgrounds.
Both Ma and Jacqueline are currently studying for the three-year Bachelor of Creative Enterprise after completing the Certificate course in 2020.
West Auckland life a catalyst for creativity
Nineteen-year-old Jacqueline Macgregor says she owes a lot to her West Auckland upbringing for her interest in art and creativity.
“I grew up in Titirangi, out in the bush,” she says. “I grew up with two photographers in my life; my uncle and my grandfather. My uncle’s a professional photographer, whereas my grandfather did it more for fun. He did lots of dive photography, and that inspired me to do my dive certificate which I’m halfway through.
“I always liked art at school, especially woodwork and making things with my hands,” she says.
In her final year at Green Bay High School, Jacqueline did a women in trades construction course through Unitec’s Pathways College, which offers vocational pathways opportunities for senior college students. She really enjoyed it, and it helped sow the seed for more study at Unitec. She said the proximity of the campus was another big deciding factor, and she enjoyed the mix of students in her class.
“Getting to Unitec from where I live is way easier than getting to town. I also find it’s a lot easier to get around here as well; everything’s quite close together which is great – there are no parking hassles,” she says.
“Having people of all different ages, everyone bouncing off each other was great. No-one cared how young or old you were.”
Jacqueline credits the course teachers with encouraging the class to think freely and openly when coming up with ideas, with an emphasis on recycling and reusing materials in their work.
“The sculpture I did was something completely random and different to everybody else,” she says.
“I work in a pharmacy and so does my mum, so I used old expired medicines, bottles, vials, all sorts
of things, and then spraypainted them.”
She admits there were challenges along the way, but the support that she got from her teachers helped her address them.
“I think the main challenge I faced was getting used to self-directed learning. It’s all on you to come in every day and get the work done.
“I also had to get my head around focusing on just one subject, rather than several like we did at school.”
“Once I’d got my head around study, doing the Certificate before the Bachelor’s definitely helped me get used to the workload, the research, the organisaiton, the deadlines, with actually getting the work done.”
Jacqueline says that she’s finding the practical business focus of the Bachelor’s programme incredibly useful; including learning how to brand your business, set up your studio, do invoicing and GST.
“If you don’t have that, you’re stuck,” she says.
Freedom from the 9-5 life
Auckland mum Ma Pirangi hadn’t studied in 30 years before she enrolled in Unitec’s Certificate in Study and Career Preparation, but she didn’t let that stand in her way.
Ma is Cook Island Māori, and she says patterns and colour have always been a large part of her life.
The 41-year-old former projectionist had her sights set on being a designer after doing well in art at school, but she didn’t know how to make it a career.
She was concerned that she was going to be one of the older students when she enrolled in the Certificate class, but she says age didn’t ever feature. There was a sense that everyone was in it together, and critiquing each other’s work was a large part of the course.
“I had a good group and we bounced off each other. I also met someone with a similar journey to mine, and we’re doing the Bachelor’s course together.”
She found the Certificate course the perfect springboard to the Bachelor’s programme, providing a practical foundation and for her, much-needed confidence.
“It gets you to first understand what you have, and to take stock of that,” she says. “With the Bachelor’s, there’s more of a focus on creating things, and seeing how things work.
“When I did art at school we used film; now it’s all digital and numbers. I thought I’d find it hard and intimidating using different mediums, but I’ve been suprised how much I’ve enjoyed it.
“I’m a practical person, I like seeing what I’ve made. You also control when you start your work and when you finish. I like that – being encouraged to think for yourself.”
Ma says the Bachelor’s degree has helped her know her worth.
“They’re things that you wouldn’t really think about, until you’re out there on your own,” she says. “Things like how to make sure that you’re being looked after, so you don’t get screwed over.
“Or when it comes to commissions – how are you making enough money to feed yourself and also making sure that the client is happy, without too much conflict.”
Ma says her return to study has been a huge lifestyle change for her, but Unitec has been very supportive in helping her fit study into her life.
“The tutors are great – they understand we have other lives apart from study. They always help you out and accommodate our individual needs as much as they can,” she says.
“Studying adds an extra layer of accountability and organisation – juggling kids and life at home. But I’m really pleased I took the plunge, and just did it.”
Ma says she wants to keep her options open when she finishes, but knows that she doesn’t want to go back into a 9-5 job. She’d love to be a freelance designer and control her own life.
“The great thing is, I don’t feel stuck anymore. The course has given me the freedom and confidence to know I can change.”