IDEAschool graduate Anna Potton-Grapes’ educational journey has led her to a job that she had secretly dreamed of for her whole life.
Feilding was where it all began. Growing up, Anna was always busy making things, painting and writing songs. She loved to watch her dad, an engineer, fixing things around the house with whatever he had available to him. “We didn’t have a lot of money but my parents were enthusiastic renovators and really clever at re-purposing things. My mum also taught me to be an excellent op-shopper.”
At Feilding High School, Anna studied both and art and design. Her quirky art teacher encouraged her to experiment with ideas and to think outside the box of current trends. He also got her involved in wearable art and performing arts events. Everything around Anna was art and a source of inspiration.
Anna then completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English at Massey University. While she was studying she worked part-time at a Bendon Lingerie store and loved to be surrounded by beautiful, feminine materials and patterns.
After graduation she moved to Hawke’s Bay and started to teach English. “I thoroughly enjoyed it, however, after four years I felt that I had got stuck in the daily grind of working and following the same routine. I recognised that I had completely lost my creative drive.” Where had all her ideas gone? Anna came to the conclusion that she had to refresh her creative soul.
However, returning to study took a lot of effort. “The first module was very nerve-racking for me as I hadn’t studied an area of arts for years and it was rather humorous to be working alongside some former students I had taught.”
She started off with the Diploma in Arts & Design that allowed her to dabble with multiple media forms. She then realised that fashion was the direction she wanted to explore and completed the Diploma in Fashion in 2019. It took Anna quite a while to rekindle her creative playfulness, and to eventually evolve as a designer.
One of her highlights was entering the World of Wearable Art (WOW) in 2018. Her piece, a bra made from various objects such as metal hanging pot plants, door handles, anchor points, fish hooks and earrings, made it into the Bizarre Bra section.
After graduation, Anna was offered her dream job at Sacred Heart College as a textiles teacher. Anna says she puts her heart and soul into teaching. Anna also wants to get her students enthusiastic about performing arts and wearable art. “I would love to influence the next generation to become avid up-cyclers. When you buy brand new, you use very little imagination. When you shop second-hand, you never know what you’re going to find and can create your own trends.”
“Fashion is a language in its own right and I use it as a platform to speak with a feminine voice about real world issues close to my own heart in a soft, playful way.”
Anna doesn’t consider herself fashionable or trendy. She prefers to buy second-hand clothes to support local charities and extend the life cycle of garments. “I love it when someone compliments my outfit and I can tell them, ‘I got this dress for five bucks at the op-shop’,” she laughs.
“Looking back, I’m so grateful for the way I grew up and for everything I was able to learn and study. It has shaped my aesthetic and ethos for fashion design,” Anna says.