Kerrin Tilley

Opotiki

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I’ve always loved the outdoors and had an avid interest in farming. Leaving school I gained a trade certificate in farming and as a kid we spent a fair amount of time hunting and trapping possums, so I decided to trap possums full time in the Te Urewera National Park where a block became available. This was a great life living off the land as much as possible and it lead to a job with the Department of Conservation, which entailed culling goats in the Raukumara Ranges out the back of Opotiki. This was a wonderful job and I saw many great sights. This job lasted for about a year until government cutbacks left me without a job. From there I found employment in the forestry, planting and thinning pine trees which was hard yakka but enjoyable with a good bunch of guys.

Unfortunately, all of this came to an abrupt end when at the age of 21 I injured my neck while playing rugby for the Opotiki colts in 1988. The injury occurred while engaged in a scrum, resulting in a dislocation of the vertebrae 4 and 5. This left me with very limited feeling and function from the neck down.

While rehabilitating at the Otara Spinal Unit I met four mouth painters who gave me encouragement to have a go at painting. There was also an excellent tutor, Doreen Jones, who came in once a week to help. In 1992 I was accepted into the Mouth and Foot Painters Association as a student. In 2005 I was accepted as an associate member; this was fabulous news as I was able to earn an income from my art. The Mouth and Foot Painting Association reproduces our work as cards, calendars, gift tags and various other products. They handle the marketing and distribution allowing us to concentrate on our artwork. My main interests are sceneries, wild life and flowers.

My hobbies include rugby, painting, reading and fishing, which I can still participate in with the adaptation of an electric fishing reel. I joined the Opotiki Art Society in 1992 and have enjoyed being part of their colourful group. We hold regular exhibitions throughout the year. I have also been part of the Opotiki Art Society committee for many years and currently hold the position of treasurer.

I have a small lifestyle block with a few sheep, steers and avocado trees.

A keen fisherman, I occasionally I get down to the beach to put the longline out with the assistance of my helpers.

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