Real Life

Kiwi Mum’s colourful life

From alleyways to kids’ books, she’s got it covered

The words “graffiti artist” often conjure up the image of a teenager illicitly scrawling on a wall with a can of spray paint, but that couldn’t be further from the truth for Hayley King, who’s a mum of-two with a fine-arts degree.

Famous around the world under the name “Flox”, the Auckland street artist says her kids, Bo, nine, and Indiana, two, are the inspiration for her acclaimed murals and prints – and especially the illustrations of her new children’s book, which she completed while pregnant with her youngest.

The beautiful book, Tu Meke Tui!, a collaboration with author Malcolm Clarke, showcases Flox’s love for native birds, ferns and flowers, and she was determined not to give up on the painstaking work simply because she was pregnant. “For me, the thing that I find difficult is sitting down, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for a baby to arrive,” the 37-year-old tells, adding that she still needed to provide for her family. “I would much rather keep my head busy and my hands dirty doing stuff.

“Having kids obviously puts a spanner in the works. They make things a little tricky and they elongate the process, but it doesn’t stop things and it makes them more interesting. Both my pregnancies, I worked right the way through.” Originally from Kaitaia, creative kid Flox moved to Auckland in order to attend a high school that allowed her to take only arts subjects. “It’s hard to pinpoint when I knew I wanted to be an artist because I guess it was ingrained in me from an early age,” she explains.

After graduating from Unitec with a Bachelor of Design, she was sharing an artist’s studio with her uni mates when she first picked up a spray can and experimented with a stencil. “I’ve never looked back,” says Flox. But it wasn’t an instant success story. “In the beginning, there were ups and downs because I was really unaware of what was around the corner,” she confesses. “I have really had a very lucky and full-throttle kind of career, but there were definitely times where I thought, ‘Is this really me?’”

However, at 26, Flox fell pregnant with Bo and it was then she found her groove. “The kids are everything, really,” she smiles. “That’s sort of why you are put on this earth, I reckon, to have kids. They are inspirational beings. They’ve driven me to be successful.”

Clever mum Flox with her two gorgeous works in progress, Bo (left) and Indiana.

Global success

Slowly but surely, word spread about Flox’s work and she was commissioned to paint graffiti murals in Hong Kong, Berlin and New York, and here in New Zealand too. She was especially thrilled to create the artwork for Kiwi music super-group Fly My Pretties, which includes Hollie Smith and members of Fat Freddy’s Drop and the Black Keys.

It was while on tour with them four years ago that she set eyes on her partner, filmmaker and photographer Gareth Moon. Flox laughs, “When we met for the first time, I definitely felt something. He is certainly a great asset to me. He’s just awesome. Whenever we get the chance, we work together.”

Last year, in what she calls a career highlight, Flox was given the opportunity to spend three months as an artist in residency in Taipei to immerse herself in a new culture and create a new body of work. Gareth, 37, documented the creative endeavour in a two-part series entitled Made in Taiwan.

Flox says, “I took my baby, who was one, and Gareth and my nine-year-old flew up for the last month. The hardest thing was being away from him, but Taiwan really grew on me and I really learnt a lot from it. “It took me out of my comfort zone. In my 20s, I had my first child and started my business I didn’t really do any travelling. Taiwan was the catalyst for just wanting to do more and wanting to travel for my art. My big final piece that I painted outside, in front of a humbling audience, is now on display at Taipei Zoo.”

Now with the launch of Tu Meke Tui!, Flox is excited to see a new generation experience her work. “Creating this art has been a really long process,” she says. “The process of storytelling was very new to me and it pushed me, but it’s great. As Kiwis, we have a love affair with birds, so it was a natural journey for me.”

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