From concept to the streets of Christchurch: Meet the mind behind Miles Toyota’s Sneaky Kiwi for Elmer’s Ōtautahi Elephant Trail

We’re thrilled to introduce you to Gemma Rae Artist, the creative genius behind Miles Toyota’s ‘Sneaky Kiwi’ that’s recently hit the streets of the garden city for Elmer’s Ōtautahi Elephant Trail.

We had a chat with Gemma who shared some insights into the symbolism you’ll find throughout her artwork, what hidden details to keep an eye out for in this design, and tips for aspiring artists. Keep reading for more.

Miles Toyota’s Sneaky Kiwi – one of over 60 elephants on Elmer’s Ōtautahi Elephant Trail

Hand-picked by the Miles Toyota team for its bright, playful, and quintessentially Kiwi design, our elephant features a variety of local flora, fauna, and playful characters. Throughout the design are twenty-three kiwis hiding amongst the native birds, bugs, and greenery.

Be sure to visit Sneaky Kiwi for a closer look at the incredible artwork. You’ll find our elephant located in central Christchurch near the entrance to Ballantynes.

Miles Toytota's Sneaky Kiwi elephant for Elmer's Otautahi elephant trail

Tell us about yourself as an artist and how you got involved in Elmer’s Ōtautahi Elephant Trail

I’m just an all-round creative really. I’m a professional dancer, performer, actor, painter, illustrator, makeup artist, and body paint artist. I’ve always been into art and was constantly drawing as a child having come from a very talented creative family.

I have been a dancer my whole life and have danced professionally for the past twenty years, which is where my love for makeup began – anything from stage makeup to full-body painting, I’m passionate about bringing any character to life. I love nothing more than to draw, paint, and create, whether it’s on a face, body, canvas, wood, or skate deck – so many different canvasses!

When I heard they were going to be doing another art trail I jumped at the opportunity to submit a couple of designs, and luckily enough one was chosen.

Can you provide an insight into the symbolism or significance of your design, and any colours, patterns, or symbols used throughout?

I’m definitely known for my artistic style, which combines very bright and bold colours with fun playful designs that feature heaps of detail. I’m influenced by urban culture, street art, and Japanese anime. For the Elmer design, I wanted to create something a little Kiwiana but also fun for the kids to look at and see what they can spot. There’s so much to look at!

Is this your first time participating in a Wild in Art Trail, and what does it mean to you?

This is my third time creating a sculpture for the Wild in Art Trail. The charities they support are all so incredible, and the Wild in Art Trails brings in much-needed funds to those who need it most. Going to the auction and seeing the amount of money being raised is such a special moment, and I’m so honoured to be a part of it all.

Are there any hidden details or elements in your design that participants should look out for while exploring the trail?

Definitely! There are over 20 little kiwis hidden in my design, and some of the bugs even have caps on!

Did you face any unique challenges working on this project?

Time is always the biggest challenge, I never make it easy on myself with the designs I come up with. I also had a battle with the varnishing part, just when you think you’re nearly done! But I worked it out and it all came together in the end.

Elmer's Otautahi elephant trail artwork progress

Aside from yours, do you have another favourite sculpture on Elmer’s Ōtautahi Elephant Trail?

Honestly, I haven’t managed to get around and look at them yet, even at the launch I was so busy chatting to the lovely guys at Miles Toyota that I didn’t get the opportunity. From what I did see the level of talent in the room was incredible! I will be taking my kids to see them sometime before Christmas.

Do you have any tips or insights you can share with aspiring artists?

When an opportunity comes up to enter a design or be involved in an event for charity, go for it! It’s great to get your name out there, and as long as you’re enjoying creating your artwork then it should show through what you produce.

How do you feel about Miles Toyota selecting your elephant?

I was really excited when I heard Miles Toyota were going to be sponsoring my elephant, and after meeting a couple of them at the launch I’m even happier about it!

I was fortunate enough to have my design “Sneaky Kiwi” selected by an amazing Sponsor Miles Toyota, and to be commissioned to bring it to life! Yes, it took me forever, there were a few challenges, I never make things easy for myself, but I am so happy with the final result. How many kiwis can you spot? This spectacular trail is in support of The Laura Fergusson Brain Injury Trust and the incredible work they do, it’s all for them. Make sure you download the app with the map and have fun finding them all! – @Gemmaraeartist

Thanks, Gemma!

We appreciate your sharing a peek behind the curtain at what goes into creating one of these incredible pieces of artwork.

Join Gemma on Facebook and Instagram.

Learn more about Elmer’s Ōtautahi Elephant Trail

Elmer’s Ōtautahi Elephant Trail is a public art trail running this summer in Christchurch, where a menagerie of playful elephants designed by local artists have descended on the garden city and surrounding towns. We’re thrilled to be sponsoring Sneaky Kiwi in support of our long-term partnership with the Laura Fergusson Brain Injury Trust.

Get involved

Join us and hit the trail by downloading the app, where you can tick off the sculptures, track your journey, and collect rewards! We’re excited to be giving lucky participants the chance to win the all-electric Toyota bZ4X for a week. Simply find our elephant and enter the code via the Elmer App to go in the draw.

Elmer Otautahi Elephant Trail
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