For art's sake

Louise Risk finds it difficult to pin a single label on David Lloyd: artist, art collector, teacher, mentor, entrepreneur, talent spotter, grandfather and family historian. They all fit. 

When David Lloyd commissioned a friend's 14-year-old daughter to compose a song about two pieces of pottery he had made, he had little idea of what a bargain he was getting.

The teenager? Kimbra.

The price? $100.

Lloyd rang Kimbra the day after she visited him with her family to ask her to do the song. She accepted, and said no, she didn't need to see the pieces of pottery again to write about them, for she remembered them clearly.

"Two weeks later, she handed me a CD."

Wearing a paint-splattered shirt and socks with his Crocs, Lloyd pours coffee into handmade mugs as he relaxes in his home studio.

He knew by the time Kimbra was 5 that she was destined for a career on stage, but he originally thought it would be acting, not singing. A couple of years after she wrote his song, and when her star had really started to rise, Kimbra mentioned Lloyd's commission during a performance in Hamilton.

A friend leaned to Lloyd, who was in the audience, and asked how much he paid.

"He said, 'You miserable bastard, is that all you gave her?"'

While many titles fit Lloyd snuggly, "miserable bastard" is not one of them.

Lloyd, who spent 16 years as a primary school teacher before seeing an opportunity and opening David's Emporium in Hood St, Hamilton, has an unwavering enthusiasm for supporting young people, particularly artists.

The deadline has just closed for his third annual art competition, in which primary-school-aged Waikato children are invited to submit a painting, the top eight winning a weekend of tuition in Lloyd's studio, with their works displayed in his gallery at the end of it.

"The children get a thrill to see their work in the gallery.

"This year they are going to be displayed in the Wallace Gallery [in Morrinsville] as well."

Lloyd, who through the building of his studio, gallery and storage space has doubled the size of his lake-view home since he moved in 12 years ago, has artworks everywhere.

The formula he uses for deciding what makes it into his collection is a simple one.

"It has to speak to me and I like supporting young artists.

"Young artists? New artists? Young artists? New artists?

"New artists I think is better.

"I'm not into purchasing art as an investment."

And in some cases he doesn't pay anything at all.

A current favourite is a sheetmetal offcut he found dumped from a profile manufacturing place.

With its interesting shape and patterned cutouts, it could have come out of a high-end modern art gallery.

Various other dump finds have been put to good use around the property too.

The front gate is made from metal that Lloyd sees as a nod to the Maori heritage of three of his "cross-pollinated" grandchildren.

He has eight grandchildren in total – three also have Cook Island heritage – and reciting family history, his grandchildren's and his own comes easily.

With delicate-looking glass sculptures, pottery, paintings and other priceless looking artefacts adorning every room, it would be easy to imagine Lloyd might opt to visit his grandchildren at their homes rather than have them in his, but his doors are always open.

"There's nothing precious here," he says.

"There are a lot of beautiful things, but nothing is precious."

Lloyd's latest project came about after a visit to Hamilton West School recently to talk about the Mesh city sculpture project he is involved in.

While there, he was asked whether he would lend some of his art to decorate the new board of trustees room.

But after the principal showed him some graffiti-marked boards that were rescued from a shed demolished on the schoolground, Lloyd decided to make an artwork for the school instead.

In 1996, the Waikato Times reported the discovery of the graffiti-ed boards, which were left by soldiers who were treated in a makeshift hospital on the school grounds during World War II, and said at the time the school had not decided what to do with them.

Lloyd seized the opportunity, and has diligently set about tracking down the relatives of the men who wrote on the boards in the hope of being able to get photographs to be displayed with his art.

Searches of births, deaths and marriages registrars and page after page of handwritten lists of crossed-out phone numbers show the lengths Lloyd has gone to in tracking down the soldiers' families so far. He is still trying to locate two more.

The families of Private David Alfred Salt, from the 1st Battalion of the Waikato Regiment, who was in hospital in December 1940, and Private Henry Sydney Kenneth Ryder, who Lloyd believes lived from 1915 to 1974, remain elusive.

"I have rung 58 people by the name of Salt, but I cannot find the missing chap."

He has a list of 140 Ryders in the North Island alone, so he still has some calls to make, unless someone can help him with information. Not that Lloyd has a problem with phoning people.

A decade ago, as he approached his 60th birthday, he decided to it would be fun to track down as many of the children he had taught at his last teaching post, Cambridge East School, as he could.

He managed to talk to 158 of the 202 surviving children, who were by then adults living throughout New Zealand and around the world.

"I ended up shouting 75 of them to a local cafe to see what they've been doing with their lives."

Lloyd is undecided about what he will do to mark his 70th birthday this year, but he plans to make a record of the past 10 years for his grandchildren to go with older records he has compiled.

Trips to China and the Amazon are also on the cards, but they would be happening, 70th birthday or not.

"Eight years ago, I sold the shop and life has been one big adventure since."

Waikato Times