Hayley King, aka Flox, was a world ranked squash player in her late teens before enrolling in art school. Now she’s a critically acclaimed and commercially successful artist who’s a big believer in the power of collaboration.
Most of Hayley King’s teenage years were spent chasing a little black ball around a squash court. When she turned 21 she decided to pursue her other childhood passion and chose art school over a professional sporting career.
“Whatever I’m doing I need to commit to it 100%,” says King. “I knew I couldn't do both. Art was my passion but squash gave me a sense of competitiveness that has helped me in business.”
King never bought into the myth of the starving artist, the romantic notion that to create worthwhile art you must be poor.
When she registered the company name Flox in 2005, she also enrolled in a business course. She designed and sold clothes to bring in the bucks and created street art to build her brand in the art world.
The street art led to paid commissions to paint her native flora and birds motif in homes, swanky restaurants, and retail stores. She’s worked with leading companies including Air New Zealand, Cloudy Bay, Adidas, and TVNZ.
“Any commercial collaboration needs to work for me as well as for the client,” says King. “I’ve said no to lots of ideas because it doesn’t float my boat or I don’t think it would be a good look for my brand.”
Strength in numbers
The commercial side of the business helps finance the fun stuff, like the recent Painted Peacock Project in India.
King travelled to India with 3 other New Zealand artists to share their skills with underprivileged children at a small school in Udaipur and create a large scale mural together.
Working with other artists is something she’s done since 2006 when she formed Cut Collective with her partner at the time.
“There were 4 of us and we were all like-minded people dabbling in street art and playing around with stencils. We felt it would be easier if we pooled our resources and worked together.
“Collaborating really pushes your boundaries because most artists are not used to having someone else in their space and trying to nut something out together.
“It’s not a comfortable position to be in, but if you can get over the initial hurdles you get some amazing results that you could never achieve on your own.”
In 2011, Flox worked with New Zealand musical collective Fly My Pretties on their tour, creating artwork for the songs on their album.
“I had to come up with ideas for 16 songs, so the project really stretched me and helped me grow as an artist,” she says.
“The stencil cut style that is a huge part of what I do now came out of a logo I designed for Fly My Pretties.”
King’s most rewarding collaboration to date has been with Wellington artist Michel Tuffery.
“I thought he was a bit of a legend so I was blown away when we were asked to do an exhibition together.
“Out of that we started working together and we developed quite an intense colab. Because you’re working with one other artist, you really have to open up to each other. When you’re putting marks on the same piece of paper there’s this incredible sharing of ideas.
“You really have to put yourself out there and open up to each other which is not easy because you have to take on board criticism in a very direct way.”
Flox’s advice to anyone contemplating a collaboration is to do your due diligence.
“Suss out who you are going to be working with. Ask yourself if they are a good reflection of you and your brand.
“Once you’ve committed to a colab, let go of any preconceived ideas and notions and see what happens. Flexibility is key and if you can keep an open mind you’ll go down roads you never expected.
“It’s a little bit like standing at the bottom of a mountain. You think, ‘Whoa, how am I going to get up there,’ but once you get to the top the rewards are more than worth the effort.”