My Sun­day

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

Any chance they get, Gis­borne-based florist Holly Tong, left, and pho­tog­ra­pher Runa Kuru Kristjons­dot­tir round up their fam­i­lies and head to a quiet beach for a lazy week­end. But this Sun­day is different: to­day the artis­tic duo are fly­ing to Venice, Italy, where one of their strik­ing flo­ral pho­to­graphic prints is a fi­nal­ist in the Arte La­guna Prize, a pres­ti­gious in­ter­na­tional art com­pe­ti­tion. Laura

Baker hears more.

The close friends launched their suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion Runa & Holly al­most by ac­ci­dent when, in the mid­dle of wed­ding sea­son last year, Ice­land-born Kuru Kristjons­dot­tir started snap­ping Tong’s flo­ral cre­ations. Holly: For the past four years Runa and I have spent Sun­days at the beach with our fam­i­lies. We’ve got six kids be­tween us, three each, and both fam­i­lies have car­a­vans parked up on the coast over the whole sum­mer. They’re at this beau­ti­ful beach about 30 min­utes away from home and we try to get away every week­end we can. The kids run wild and we go surf­ing, snorkelling and ex­plor­ing in the rock pools. It’s so re­mote that we of­ten have the beach to our­selves – we’re pretty lucky. There’s just a small num­ber of peo­ple at the camp ground and it’s the same crowd who go every sum­mer. Some fam­i­lies have been go­ing since 1998.

Holly: Runa and I are both very op­ti­mistic in style. It was a nerve-rack­ing cou­ple of weeks won­der­ing whether or not our print Volu­cris from our sec­ond col­lec­tion was go­ing to be se­lected for the fi­nals of the com­pe­ti­tion. We be­lieved we’d make it through, but were still su­per sur­prised when we got the news. To cel­e­brate we went out for a meal to­gether and sprung for a beau­ti­ful bot­tle of Ital­ian cham­pagne. I first stum­bled across the awards when do­ing some re­search into how to get some good ex­po­sure for Runa + Holly in­ter­na­tion­ally. It was a spur-of-the-mo­ment de­ci­sion to en­ter. We said to each other: “Let’s just do it.” That’s of­ten our motto. Italy is like a sec­ond home for me, but it’s Runa’s first time so we’re go­ing to make the most of it. It will be awe­some rub­bing shoul­ders with other artists.

Runa: We first met when I was 21 and Holly was 16. I came to New Zealand in 2002 for a year and we met at a restau­rant where we worked as wait­resses. We had a different re­la­tion­ship back then be­cause Holly was at high school, it was al­most like I had a big sis­ter role. Af­ter my year in New Zealand I went home to Ice­land. Then, six years later, we re­united when I moved back to Gis­borne. Our kids were very sim­i­lar ages so there were a lot of play dates and hang­ing out and we’ve been close ever since. The awe­some thing about liv­ing in Gis­borne is the work-life bal­ance. Spend­ing time out­side and en­joy­ing life is a real pri­or­ity.

Holly: We had talked for years over cof­fee that we should do some­thing to­gether. It fi­nally came about when I was in the mid­dle of wed­ding sea­son last year. I wanted a way to ap­pre­ci­ate the beau­ti­ful bou­quets I worked to cre­ate, but never have time to en­joy be­cause I’m al­ways in such a rush to get them out. So Runa came over on three sep­a­rate morn­ings when I was mak­ing bou­tiques for lo­cal wed­dings and she shot them in less than a hour be­fore they were sent off to the bridal party. We made some prints of the pho­tos Runa took and just loved them. We called the pho­tos Col­lec­tion One and from that Runa + Holly bloomed quite nat­u­rally.

Runa: Our prints feel re­ally ro­man­tic and lux­u­ri­ous. I pho­tographed the flow­ers with a very spe­cific look in mind. We wanted our prints to look like paint­ings. They pur­posely don’t look like ar­ranged bou­quets, the point was to make them feel wild with a real sense of move­ment. We are very drawn to dark spa­ces, it is al­most about what you can’t see than what you can see and what floats in be­tween that vivid and deep spa­ces in the im­ages.

Holly: Peo­ple ask Runa and I if we have a favourite print, but they are all our favourites. We’ve just re­leased our sec­ond col­lec­tion, named Col­lec­tion Two – we like to keep things sim­ple. This time around we specif­i­cally shot for our art­work, rather than flow­ers

“We wanted our prints to look like paint­ings. The point was to make them feel wild with a real sense of move­ment.”

des­tined for wed­dings. We had the op­por­tu­nity to put a lot more thought and prepa­ra­tion into th­ese prints. We took hun­dreds of pho­tos, which we whit­tled down to 70 that we just loved. Then we had to fine tune our short­list to just 10 im­ages that re­ally spoke to us. So we re­ally love all 10 pho­tos you see in Col­lec­tion Two. Col­lec­tion One has been sell­ing well overseas. Most of our prints are sent to Aus­tralia, that’s our big­gest mar­ket, and we also have cus­tomers in Amer­ica, Sin­ga­pore and of course New Zealand.

Runa: It wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble to cre­ate the col­lec­tions with­out each other. Holly and I have different styles, but they are also quite com­ple­men­tary and we ad­mire each other’s work. One has what the other doesn’t, so we work to­gether re­ally well. If one per­son ever has doubt, and there is a lot of self-doubt in art, the other per­son is there to be sup­port­ive. It’s way eas­ier to put your­self out there and be brave with some­one there be­side you.

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