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Last modified: 05 Oct 2021 11:51am

Two women in a radio studio leaning together next to a microphoneThe Council’s Faces of Selwyn series featuring the stories behind the many faces of our district has returned with 13 podcast episodes, including the story of Malvern artists Soon-Lee Spicer and Asako Ridgen.

Living in Selwyn came as a bit of a surprise for Malvern artists, Soon-Lee Spicer and Asako Ridgen.

They first met through their shared passion for art, joining the Selwyn Artist Collective group in August 2020.

“Asako didn’t know any artists in Selwyn and I only knew one other person – so we started up the Selwyn Artists Collective and I think we’ve got about 50 members now. It’s just this really vibrant, exciting thing,” says Soon-Lee.

Asako said after joining the group last year, she made lots of friends, often bumping into them at the fish and chip shop or kindergarten.

“It’s just so easy to connect to people [in Selwyn] and wherever you go there’s familiar faces and I love that,” says Soon-Lee.

Soon-Lee and Asako haven’t always lived in Selwyn. Asako is from Japan and Soon-Lee has lived in many places in New Zealand and spent her childhood in Malaysia.

“When I was a little girl living in Malaysia,” says Soon-Lee, “if you’d ask me, I probably wanted like a metropolitan lifestyle of high rise apartments and lots of glamour, and bright city lights.”

But after studying mathematics and law in Dunedin where she met her husband and working as a lawyer in Auckland, Soon-Lee found herself, a few years later, living in Darfield with her husband and two kids, working as an artist and art teacher.

“We have a lifestyle property with cows and chickens and sheep, just nowhere near where I thought I’d be at those other points, but what a cool surprise to have ended up here!”

As a teenager Asako dreamed about being an animator in America because of her love for Disney movies and drawing.

Asako first came to New Zealand as an exchange student studying at Darfield High School, which she says was very different to school in Japan.

“So when I came to New Zealand first, I was 15, but first time I lay down on the lawn in barefoot, it was just an amazing experience, I still remember that is my highlight in my exchange student memory.”

Upon returning to Japan, Asako attended art university for two years but found it really hard, especially the 13 hour art exam.

Asako then came back to New Zealand, living in Dunedin for three years, before returning to Selwyn to live with her kiwi husband and their two kids in Greendale, where she continues her art journey in linocut printmaking.

Tune into PlainsFM 96.9, 5pm Tuesday 5 October to hear Soon-Lee Spicer and Asako Ridgen or visit our Faces of Selwyn page to listen to the podcast.
Also on Plains FM and coming as a podcast this week are the stories of Monika Rastogi, and Ritodhi Chakraborty and Aline Carrara.