A young Northland wāhine defies gender and age stereotypes by successfully airbrushing and car painting.
Skye Sigley (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) has just started an automotive refinishing apprenticeship at Kamo panel beaters Shield Bros – one of less than 10% women in the male-dominated industry.
While the 18-year-old from Ōpua enjoys learning the right way to apply paint to make wrecked cars look like new, Sigley is also learning the intricacies of artistic airbrushing.
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To help out, she received a scholarship of up to $3,000 from Smart Trade Solutions to attend one of New Zealand’s most prestigious airbrush courses, Airbrush Venturi.
Tutor Julia Tapp said Sigley was the only person she knew to have received a scholarship for the course, other than herself.
“I don’t think artists have enough communication skills to go out and apply for scholarships,” Tapp said. “But Skye, as quiet and shy as she is, when she focuses her mind on something, she will do it.”
Sigley is also her youngest student, by decades, but is already showing skill beyond the units she learned.
“Her talent is amazing, she’s just going to skyrocket,” Tapp said.
Sigley has always had an interest in art and has received numerous accolades, including an honorable mention at the 2021 Kiingi Tuheitia Portraiture Award.
She thinks car painting will be a good career.
“I don’t know why more girls don’t – you don’t have to be strong, you don’t lift anything.”
Sigley said she loved airbrushing, but time and cost kept her from taking the Venturi course.
Smart Trade Solutions director Rick Lunn said the organization helps young apprentices be the best apprentices they can be, while improving their skills.
It provided a variety of supports, including funding – which was needed as apprentices earned a minimum wage until they graduated, he said.
Sigley has a lot of talent in airbrushing, which will only add to his skills as an automotive bodybuilder, Lunn said.
“You can just see that talent, passion and drive in someone. You would hate to think that they couldn’t be developed further due to obstacles like money.
Sigley will study airbrushing during the evening, with the course lasting up to two years and the apprenticeship up to four years.
Once completed, she would like to follow in her tutor’s footsteps and do custom airbrush work for cars, caravans and motorcycles.