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Grand designs . . . Kathryn Swann is in her element as the graphic designer at Oamaru company Acucut. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

Kathryn Swann’s curriculum vitae makes for ‘‘eclectic’’ reading, but she says it’s a reflection of the community she is living in. She talks to Ashley Smyth about the latest string to her bow.

Oamaru precision-cutting company Acucut’s new graphic designer is perhaps more recognisable to locals as a friendly face formerly at Riverstone Kitchen restaurant.

Kathryn Swann grew up in the United Kingdom, and came to New Zealand ‘‘for six months’’ in 2010 to look after her cousin’s children and help out on their dairy farm.
Then she met her husband-to-be, Jason, and thought, ‘‘I don’t need to rush home, we’ll see where this goes’’.

‘‘As they say, the rest is history,’’ she said.

The couple married at Riverstone in 2014.

Mrs Swann has a degree in graphic design and illustration, and had worked in the marketing department of a publishing company in the UK.

‘‘I decided I’d come over here for a period, thinking I’d do it before I settled down, get mortgaged, all those sensible things, and yeah — stayed.’’

After a stint in farming, she found herself as manager at Riverstone, where she managed to exercise her design flair, helping owner and chef Bevan Smith produce his third recipe book Another Helping.

‘‘Then I went back todairy farming with Jason for a couple of years, but then sort of decided that actually, it was quite good at Riverstone.’’

She returned to the restaurant to take on the marketing and design side of things, and the role evolved.

‘‘I sort of became the operations manager. The good thing about that was, I was doing hospitality, which I’ve always done in the past, but doing design work as well.’’

After seeing Riverstone through the design of a fourth cookbook, Modern Classics, and a restaurant revamp, an opportunity came up with Acucut last October.

‘‘Living in Oamaru, job opportunities don’t come along, not in graphic design. I’ve done bits of freelance myself . . . but to do it fulltime again, it’s awesome.’’

Acucut is owned by Matthew Melton and is also where his wife Abby creates her jewellery brand Lover Lover.

Mrs Swann had dealt with Acucut through the renovations at Riverstone. The company created, among other things, Riverstone’s new logo and lights.
She began her new job in January.

‘‘My CV probably reads very eclectic, with the farming and hospitality and stuff, but they’ve all meshed together and I think that’s actually a reflection of this community here as well, as how this community does work within itself.

‘‘I’ve enjoyed all my jobs and I always get a lot of satisfaction in getting quite a few different strings to my bow, but it is nice to be back designing.’’

There had been a settling in period with Acucut, and a lot of learning to do.

The biggest change was the quiet, she said.

There was no ringing phone or constant questions, and she had to adjust to working mostly on her own, but it had been an ‘‘eyeopener’’ seeing all the different projects that came through the door.

‘‘I hadn’t appreciated how much Matt does here, and the different aspects of the business.

‘‘Even though you live in Oamaru and you know Acucut, you don’t necessarily, unless you are working for the business. You don’t realise what they’re able to do . . .It’s awesome. I love the fact every day is different.’’

It was also different to be involved in seeing a design through to completion. Acucut had three machines which cut or etched into almost all materials, as well as a new printer which could print colour images on to any surface, she said.

‘‘I’ve always done graphic design, where you design something on the screen, you send it away and it gets printed or produced, and you will see the finished product. But here, you’re doing the whole process.’’

Having gained her degree in 2006, when design was in the process of moving towards digital, Mrs Swann still did a lot of her illustrating by hand, before completing the process by computer.

‘‘That’s kind of my comfortable way to do it.’’

The variety of the job was vast — from creating car parts and tools to making trophies and signs. Mr Melton was behind the more technical aspects of projects, and she would ‘‘prettify’’ things.

Outside work, Mrs Swann does a bit of drawing for herself and some freelance design work. She enjoys going to the gym and walking her three dogs — a labrador and two cocker spaniels.

After six years working at Riverstone, she enjoys visiting now as a paying customer.

‘‘It was hard to let go — that was my baby for a long time. I did take a long of pride in working with Bevan and running that place, but it’s lovely going back and having a chat and seeing them all.

‘‘But it’s nice to be using what I trained to do, because I think my mum was pleased, and I know Jason is as well. I think he’s enjoyed seeing that I’m actually doing what I trained to do.’’

Mrs Swann has not been back to the UK for six years and said it felt strange not knowing when she would get there next.

While her mother usually tried to come to New Zealand every two years, it had now been four years, due to the pandemic. She was hoping her mother would be able to visit next year.