28 Mar 2017

The Joy Project: Lara Marshall

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From THE JOY PROJECT, 8:40 am on 28 March 2017

Lara Marshall, 27, runs a co-sharing office in central Christchurch. She put it together using recycled materials and items from her happy place - her family farm on the South Island's West Coast.​

Join us through March as a diverse group of New Zealanders share what makes them happy.

"If I think of joy, where your heart fills up with warmth and you feel excitement in the pit of your stomach, every time I think of the West Coast I get that feeling. I grew up as a typical Coast kid, running around with muddy feet and crazy hair. A little bit wild, but happy, running amok in the paddocks. My parents have a grazing farm by Lake Poerua, between Inchbonnie and Rotomanu, near Lake Brunner. 

My dad, Grant, was a bit of a nomad. My mum, Fran, is half Malaysian. Their house is like a tree house. It overlooks the lake, the paddocks and the mountains. My brother, sister and I grew up with no television reception, because Mount Alexander was in the way. We'd entertain ourselves inside or outside, with whatever we could do.

As an adult, I'm still having adventures on the Coast. Every Waitangi weekend I take some friends over to jump off a bridge and float down the river on a raft for three hours. If I dream, it's always in adventure. It stimulates me to get out there and do interesting things. 

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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

I started The Collect after working for several years in Sydney as an event producer. After the 2011 earthquake, I felt a pull to come back to Christchurch and do something creative and meaningful in the central city. I didn't know what that looked like until this space in Kensington House came free. I wanted to make it a space that would inspire me, where I would be happy to go to work every day. Somewhere relaxing and homely. For me, homely is the Coast. 

On the farm, we have this big shed full of paraphernalia from collecting things over the years. They are in the shelves in the office. The tables, we made on the Coast. We have a living wall as you walk in. All of the moss, we collected from the back of the farm. We have some antlers, from when dad shot a deer. They are sitting in the boardroom. People ask, "How did you get the moss there?". Nature did it. 

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Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Collect has been open just over a year. My secret wish is that the office will allow me to step away from producing events and focus more on my art and illustrations. It will free me up from having to jet off overseas all the time for work. I work as a freelance producer for events like Australian and Hong Kong fashion weeks. It is full-on. Afterwards I always head to the Coast and chill out. 

When I go over, I take magazines, art supplies and a good book. If it's raining, I watch the rain over the lake. It's just beautiful. You could sit there watch the weather change for hours. It's inspirational for art purposes. If I start a book, I'll read it through the night to finish it, so I read on the Coast because I have the time to do that. It's blackberry season so I'm already planning my next trip.

As told to Joelle Dally

* Join us through March as we talk to more New Zealanders about what makes them happy. And if you want to share what makes you leap for joy, join the conversation on Facebook.

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