WHS Visual Arts Alumni - Stefanie McKnight

We have reached out to some of our VISUAL ARTS ALUMNI to answer a few questions and will be posting their responses periodically.

First up STEFANIE MCKNIGHT at WHS from 2003-2007 where she took Art, Art Design and Photography...

What have you been doing since you left Whanganui High School?

It has been 14 years since I left WHS so I’ve done quite a bit. Some it has been amazing and then some of it has been absolutely awful. Good bits include doing well in my studies and receiving a scholarship to AUT to do my Masters in design, winning Cult Couture Fashion Fantasy category for my UCOL fashion school collection, winning a Gold award at Graphis New Talent annual (https://www.graphis.com/entry/2c31ad3e-4b32-11e2-a2c9-f23c91dffdec/?fbclid=IwAR33w_nmeTkw8qJjc9HW3cpGVH-lqVwjtGgI8gAHXCSs8LxOh5bIfRYn1sk) being hired by my current employer of 7 years, coming runner up in 2019 Miss Burlesque Aotearoa, and being able to study a variety of subjects. And bad bits include having to deal with unemployment for quite awhile due to the Global Financial Crisis, a rough few months in London, working in the meat works, losing my mum to cancer and having to make some quite tough decisions for the wellbeing of my family, notably my dad who I care for with the help of my sister Savannah.

Do you continue to pursue your creativity in your own time?

Burlesque is where I continue to spend most of my creativity these days (and money). I absolutely love the fact that burlesque combines all my favourite things – fringe subculture, lingerie and corsets, shiny things, glamour, pseudonyms, feminism, and the rainbow community. I perform mostly in Wellington and I make all my costumes – it is addictive creating new ensembles and dancing fans and I love starting from scratch. Right now I’m setting up a small online business with my sister Savannah specialising in burlesque dancing fans and other burlesque accessories. Our business is called Fanatic Burlesque and my sister Iona designed our logo because I don’t like designing logos!

How do you support yourself?

I work at Inland Revenue as an Insight and Intelligence Specialist level 3. This is a fancy way of saying I am a qualitative researcher specialising in Service Design.

Which Arts subjects did you do at school?

Graphic design, art, photography at school. Fashion and sewing at home with my mum.

What skills, learnt in the Arts, have been useful in your career since WHS?

Graphic design has been a massive skill for me. I use it everyday in my role as a Service Designer. Service Designers work throughout government and the private sector and bounce between strategic design and operational implementation. Being able to write, and more importantly, create diagrams and infographics has been incredibly valuable.

What other life skills did you learn in your Arts subjects?

Prototyping and learning through doing. I also found doing dark room photography incredibly helpful in understanding how cameras work and being able to set my own aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Learning the Adobe Suite has also been highly useful, particularly InDesign and Illustrator. The Adobe programs are not easy to learn so starting young and building up the skills over the last decade has meant I feel confident using this tool.

What advice would you give to our current arts students?

Be smart about your choices. Studying art/design/fashion is more than fine but make it actionable. Combine your studies with business studies or something that makes you more than just an artist but a creative business practitioner. And do art for yourself – I never went into my studies wanting the best marks, rather I wanted to feel satisfied that I learned something new and that I did it my way.

WHS ALUMNI, 2003-2007


(*) Last Reviewed: March 4, 2021

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