And just how it starts…

Whangai is an idea that is more like a graft of one plant onto another. It begins with two personal realisation and approaches to my life.

One is that by the end of my degree in illustration I was struggling with the idea of not having the printmaking facilities so readily available. Over the course of that last year, print became a core part of my practice. When it came time to leave the space that had helped me grow so much over the course of three years I felt out of my depth. Where would I have access to a printing bed or press? Well, Cardiff is a good place to live and it does have a space I could pay to use (the Printahaus), and while that is a possibility I still wondered what if I owned everything? Having my own equipment would give me that little unreal mental freedom to experiment to my heart’s content and all liabilities would be mine. But then I realised that as long as I kept renting terrace houses as a living space that would be a no-no. So the impasse was reached: I needed the equipment, but I didn’t want to go into another’s space just yet without knowing that I could succeed and fail on my own terms.

The second realisation is on the subject of the family as a central pillar of society. Coming from a country whose main social unity is the nuclear and extended family, it made me wonder as most people between the ages of 20 and established relationships and household do, what if the main social unit is that of a community of colleagues and friends? I imagined something very much like being lost in J.V. Jones’ Marshes of Stillwater, an interconnected waterway of a hundred thousand little streams. We are all like-minded individuals on different boats navigating different lengths of the same water system. The thought comes easy when, for four years, you’ve lived with friends and colleagues and sometimes mortal enemies. It has helped me, to say the least, to share space with people on a similar boat but on different rivers and either up or downstream from me. What, then, if I lived in a space that allowed for us to work and live in comfort and freedom? Or one of the other, really, money depending.

Come May of 2016, applications for Cardiff School of Art and Design’s Incubation Unit opened up. I thought to myself that there was my solution to my studio problem: as a resident, not only would I have access to space but to the printing equipment my practice needs for me to improve and move forward. And then it suddenly clicked. The Incubation Space would allow me to have a business mentor, a personal mentor, and through those maybe I could realise the studio idea. Maybe.

To apply as a business, and not just as a sole trader, artist-practitioner, but as a business owner; could this be the kick in the ass I needed to get on with opening a studio? I applied standing on the idea of opening up a studio space simply to fill in the demand for studios in Cardiff. It just so happens I am about three years behind everyone else, as others have already realised this and in the last year alone three spaces opened offering facilities (Rabble Studios, Sustainable Studios, Inkspot Studios expanded, the Boneyard).  I got in, I did. And my process has been confusing and slow and I am oh so out of my depth. There are other spaces and people with more experience than I do, indeed. But the more spaces there are the better, right? And not every space is the same, no matter how much they try. Some people work by hot-desking, others need to blowtorch metal. The more spaces there are, the more wonderful things can be made and everyone benefits. The difference for my idea would be, indeed, that eventually, we would be able to work and live in the same space (separated by a wall, at least, one goes insane if you spend too much time in the same room).

The idea is still developing (that is the whole reason I am in a business incubation unit), and what will it end up as is just beyond the trees in this marshland.


Author: IanCookeTapia

Ian Cooke Tapia is a great many things. Check them out at

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