Danielle Mann talks about her exhibition 'PNG Pop' September 24 2016

Danielle Mann is one of Australia’s premiere Tiki Artists, she is well known for her colourful tiki mug designs which have been featured in rockabilly festivals, kustom kulture events, clothing lines, rock bands, galleries and publications in Australia and the U.S. 

Danielle grew up surrounded by Papua New Guinean art as her father spent years living there before she was born, she worked as a ceramic artist since leaving high school and then went on to create Blue Lagoon Designs, specialising in Tiki Mugs, Primitive Pop and Mid-Century Kitsch creations

Outré caught up with Danielle before the show to ask her a few questions about her playful, Papua New Guinea inspired tiki masks - now available for purchase here.

Tell us about your background, and where you came to love the primitive tiki art of Papua New Guinea?

I grew up surrounded by Papua New Guinean art as my father spent years living there before I was born, when he returned to Australia he brought back with him an enormous amount of traditional art and some of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard.  I feel that the art from that area of the world has some of best craftsmanship and has such an original and often even spooky feeling surrounding it and I find it so exciting.  I believe Papua New Guinea is one of the last true primitive paradises on earth, with head hunting only outlawed in the 1950’s 

I have worked as a ceramic artist since leaving high school and initially started out creating ceramic jewellery which was sold in a number of boutique stores throughout Brisbane.   Ceramic has always been my favourite medium and I enjoy working with it very much.  The transition to larger pieces began when I fell in love with the Polynesian Pop art movement and began making hand built tiki mugs for my friends on Christmas, that absolutely exploded and I have now been privileged to have shown some of those works in galleries in Brisbane, Melbourne and Hollywood to name a few and have created tiki mugs for rockabilly festivals, clothing lines, rock bands and magazines. 

The series of tiki masks you have created for PNG POP are created out of ceramic clay, how did you transition from traditional pottery to creating tiki mugs and masks?

I guess I’ve never really created many traditional ceramic items in my life. I’m a believer that creating something that already exists is almost a perfect way to fail, if it’s tried and perfected already why not do something a little different and brilliant things come from trying something new.    I began my ceramic career making all kinds of quirky jewellery and that transitioned into making all kinds of things from ceramic hot rod pot plants, tiki cocktail mugs and masks.


It is an incredible skill to mould the clay into the tiki designs. Who taught you all you know about how to create tiki designed mugs and masks?

I’m largely self-taught and have been creating at home since leaving high-school, the only course I’ve ever attended was a short mould making class taught by an amazing man called Joe Ottaway in Brisbane, that really helped to take my art form to a new level.  I was still hand building all kinds of things from jewellery to tiki mugs until about 4 years ago.  Even though the mould making is definitely the most challenging part of the process (and the messiest! – my entire back patio is covered in a fine layer of plaster dust) it’s allowed me to build my brand on a much larger scale.   My inspiration comes from all kinds of places, a colour, a shape, a movie or a dream.

 Danielle Mann PNG POP Outre Gallery

Your work is described as having your signature color palate, of bright colors - how is this achieved?

The majority of my usual tiki works are created with a very pop-art feel with bright punches of colours, the brighter the better I say!, however I’ve tried to push this a little with this exhibition and I’ve blended my bright colour bursts with very mottled ‘element’ glazes which actually include melted fragments of metal and glass.

You are a Kustom Kulture and tiki aficionado, what role do these communities play in your life?

I enjoy anything that fits into the Kustom Kulture and Tiki lifestyle, the music, the cars, the fashion, the people and of course the art.   The house I live in with my wonderfully talented husband is adorned in art created by some of the worlds best Lowbrow and Kustom Kulture artists, eclectic music is often chirping away or we will have a vintage movie or artist ‘how-to’ DVD buzzing away in the background while we paint and create.    We are very lucky to have such a big group of talented Kustom Kulture artists in our city (Brisbane) and we catch up with them as often as we can.   However the thing I look forward to most each year is heading over to America to join our friends at the biggest tiki festival in the world – Tiki Oasis, it’s 4 days of art, music, friends and mai tais.  Living a happy and creative life is about as great as it gets and I feel so very lucky.

Could you speak about the work you have created for PNG POP at Outré Gallery?

The ceramic masks that I have created have been made by mixing different facial features seen in carvings from various locations throughout Papua New Guinea (so as to not directly copy any original carved designs) I find the Sepik River area art the most influential (This area is in the far north of the country).    I have also incorporated some beaded elements strung onto some of the masks where I have taken inspiration from images of different tribesmen and their traditional head ware.  The selection of art that I have created for my Small Wall project could never hope to come close to the craftsmanship of the Papua New Guinean tribesmen but this is merely my own interpretation of the art that I grew up with and adored which I have created out of my own favourite medium and fused with my own signature colour palette.