Joy Bell’s home

Artist Joy Bell lives in the past and does so very joyfully indeed. The only obvious modern intruders in her tiny Victorian home north of Auckland are a TV, washing machine, CD player, a couple of kitchen appliances – and of course, electricity and hot and cold running water.

Apart from these modern touches, Joy and her children Alec (15) and Rose (14) inhabit a perfect time capsule, filled with fascinating and intricate treasures from times gone by, all lovingly collected by the former antiques dealer, who’s now a full-time artist.

The house itself has a very interesting history. Built in 1886, it served as a schoolhouse and then as a church, although it’s now deconsecrated. By 1919 it was derelict, and was only re-occupied later that century.

Its proportions are tiny, but Joy assures us it’s much bigger than it used to be, with all the various owners having built onto it along the way.

Joy, a bubbly redhead, came across the property 15 years ago as a single mum with two small children. She’d left behind a relationship and a five-bedroom villa in the city in favour of this quiet place where she could enjoy and indulge in her art- and even hopefully make a living from it.

“I love Victoriana,” she says.

“All those darks reds and greens are so lovely, and once I had the colours all sorted my antiques and curios looked right at home.

“Of course I had to leave a lot behind in Auckland though,” she reflects.

Most of Joy’s treasures are covered in cobwebs.

“No-one dusts here,” she laughs, “They’d never know where to begin.

“My kids say they hate my clutter, and I suspect they might turn out to be utter minimalists when they leave home, but their friends love coming here.

“They all think our house is cool. “I’m surrounded by things I love,” she declares, proudly showing me the patchwork quilt made from skirts she wore on her hitchhiking OE in the 1970s.

Beyond the house, with its resident family of rainbow lorikeets on the veranda, lies Joy’s studio. Here she weaves her magic, turning discarded china and other materials into amazing mosaics, and gilding vases with intricate designs.

Recently she finished her first book, Mosaics, which she coauthored with her friend, neighbour and fellow artist, Liz Atkins-Hood, whose own house featured on these pages recently.

“I only sleep four hours or so at nights,” Joy explains.

“Every morning I wake up excited and energised, thinking about all the wonderful art I’m going to create!”

Joy’s vases and other artworks are available from Warkworth’s of Hand & Heart Gallery.

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