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State Of FLOX - Hayley King’s Tips For Taking On The World

20 May 2024

One of Aotearoa’s most active visual artists shares insights on collaboration, using technology to your advantage and staying true to yourself.

From walls to websites, galleries to drink bottles, murals to umbrellas - there’s not a surface that FLOX doesn’t excel at.

The woman behind the moniker - Hayley King - has built a formidable reputation for her world-class murals, her intricate hand-cut stencils, her vibrant and colourful depictions of native birds, ferns and flowers as a celebration of Aotearoa’s environmental taonga.

King is one of the first interviews released on The Big Idea’s newly launched platform, the Learning Network, designed to help creatives across Aotearoa - and beyond - get the leg up they need to succeed with a series of insights, learning modules, resources and access to digital communities.

Speaking with much-admired broadcaster and creative advocate Sacha McNeil, King opened up on her career to date and advice to other creatives looking to carve out their own foothold, no matter their chosen genre.

Old school meets new school

Classically trained at art school, King was a stickler for tradition.  But as she told the Learning Network, the demands that work of her scale produces forced a rethink.

“Handmade is definitely important to me but my philosophy has absolutely shifted from the early days, which was so staunch… ‘it's got to be handmade. It's got to be hand cut’… until I got to about 2018, where my body actually said to me, ‘No, you can't keep doing this. It's just too much’. 

FLOX at work. Photo: Supplied.

“That was many, many years of hand cutting and spray painting these big murals -  it's a real physical job.  So I had to find new ways - and I really enjoy this - discovering new methods and new processes where I can work smarter, not harder.”

That led to the biggest shifts in her career - bringing in technology to streamline her processes, “to make my job easier and just give my body a bit of a break.” 

King elaborates “Now what I do is, instead of hand cutting and hand drawing my stencils… I'm drawing those on my iPad. And you know what, I'm sending those files to a laser cutter now. So for me, that is still handmade because that's coming from my hands. I'm creating its design, it's coming from my brain and my hands but I'm taking the absolute labour part out of it. 

“I’m just thinking more clearly and I'm giving myself the gift of longevity, basically. So I'm going to be able to do this for more than 20 years.”

Get tech taught

King admits that when she graduated art school in 2013, she was “a bit of a tech phobe” - but that changed a few years later when she bought her own laptop.

“Everything that I do in my practice, whether it's Photoshop, or now my journey with AI, iPad Pro, the small amount of photography that I do… is self-taught,” she explains.

“I use Photoshop every day in my life - I couldn't cope without it - and it was from there that I started branching out and I'm able to use these other smaller programmes on the iPad and whatnot. 

“Technology plays a massive part in my process, I'm not afraid to let it in and I'm not afraid to combine it with my analog hands-on processes. It makes me really excited to see what else I can do with bringing those two forms together, especially with what's happening with AI.  

“I’m not afraid of AI - I want to explore it more to see what it can do for me. I do feel like there's a lot of anti-AI going on out there with some other artists that I've talked to around it, but it is here to stay.

“My advice to other artists would be to find a way to make it work for you - because it's not going to go away.”

Collaboration stations

Finding the right balance has been a key part of King’s success when it comes to picking the right projects. That happy medium between staying true to yourself and getting out of your comfort zone.

For King, that comes through collaboration.

“Collabing is one of my core philosophies as an artist because it really pushes me down roads that I would never dream of going on my own - I really would recommend it to any artist or creative out there. You've got to really let your walls down too, because you're working with someone else or another company. Whether it's a brand collab or you might be collabing with another artist. 

“By the way, you have to make compromises. You really have to kind of lay yourself bare and that's a really cool process - a real rewarding process - and one that you will come out of a better artist, I believe. Lots to learn. 

“I will be very selective with who I collab with. I have certain brand philosophies and brand guidelines now that I adhere to. It's important to me how I am perceived in the market so it's important for me who I align with and vice versa."

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FLOX's brand guidelines. Image:

King gives the example of popular umbrella company, Blunt.  “They are an incredible New Zealand brand and they're just such a trusted brand. They make a fantastic product - like hands down the best umbrella in the world, let's be serious. So yeah, I would collab with them for the rest of my life -  I'd be happy to do that. 

“We've done a few umbrellas and they've always been the limited edition style. So once they're gone, they're gone.”

Finding the social media ‘sweet spot’

For someone who takes as much ownership of their own brand as FLOX, there is no choice but to embrace the imperfect platform that is social media.

King tells McNeil that she has a “love-hate relationship with it, personally” but concedes that it’s ‘hugely important…that's basically your marketing tool in this day and age. 

FLOX creating in Dunedin. Photo: Supplied.

“You should be doing all that you can online - Instagram is massive for visual artists for sure. And Facebook, even though it's been around for a while and it does tend to be an older age group. I mean, I'm still on there. 

“For our company, it's a goodie. We can really connect with people and yeah, have had good conversations there.”

King’s top tip for social media use - find the balance between selling and providing a narrative.

“It’s about showing people what I'm up to, what I'm doing, the murals that I'm creating, new artworks. - that sort of thing. Then we'll slip in like ‘Hey, this is new or this is for sale”, that sort of thing. So we don't like to go ‘sale, sale, sale, sell, sell, sell’. It's more about getting people engaged and talking with them - just having friendly conversations, as opposed to really just pushing things down their necks.

“The other really useful platform that we use is MailChimp. Whenever someone comes into the showroom, if they email us or if I work with them, we will collect names for a database, we've got a sign-up on the website. 

“Names on your specific database are hugely important because they have actively signed up especially for you - because they want to know more about you.

“We absolutely don't bombard people with (newsletters) either, we'll send it out every now and then. If you can get yourself a database and a place where people can sign up then yeah, that's worth its weight in gold.”

What’s next

Hayley King/FLOX. Photo: Supplied.

King is never short of things on her to-do list- including next month’s chance for the creatively minded in Hamilton to take part in a FLOX one-day workshop (22 June) in partnership with Boon Arts, where she guides participants through the fundamentals of stencilling and spray painting.

But her gaze is going much further afield.

“I feel like I'm on a little bit of a precipice at the moment,” King explains. “I’m wanting to tap into some other markets. 

“I’ve been doing this New Zealand thing for quite a while - and I love it here, I still want to service this market which has been so incredible for me. I'm so grateful but we are looking at ways in which we can get FLOX products into other markets, either the US or Australia at the moment. 

“The brand is going through a bit of a metamorphosis. It's maturing. We're going through a bit of a growth spurt - there's a lot going on behind the scenes.”

“As well as a promising upcoming trip to China, King’s already thinking several steps down the road. “I'm having to think so far ahead. At the moment, that's where my head's at - I'm working on the FLOX 2025 collection, and just starting to think about 2026 stationery.”


Find more of FLOX/Hayley King’s interview, along with fellow creatives Sarah Foster-Sproull, Lissy and Rudi Robinson-Cole and Henry Hargreaves - as well as learning modules on finding your own roadmap and how to sell yourself at the Learning Network.