Not many of us get to know the stories behind our clothes. Sure, perhaps there isn’t all that much to know about the jeans you’re sitting in, but sometimes what we choose to wear has a real meaning to the person that designed it.

We know that’s the case for Katie Eshelman, KORI’s fantastically talented Wildlife Artist. She is the person responsible for the design that features on our t-shirts, hoodies, posters and cards.

If you want to know what inspired this young American artist to put pen to paper in the name of Kaikōura’s marine wildlife, read on

Katie Eshelman - KORI Wildlife Artist
The design was created by Katie Eshelman, KORI’s Wildlife Artist


Katie arrived in Kaikōura as part of the Creation Care Study Program (CCSP), an American study-abroad initiative with an emphasis on ecology and protection of the natural world.

During the course she was taught by KORI’s very own Dr. Jody Weir, a native of Canada who now calls Kaikōura home.

“I remember during the first week of CCSP, Jody took us on a peninsula walk”, Katie recalls “She told me about her favourite shirt that allowed her to take all the animals of British Columbia with her wherever she went.”

The seed was planted – “From that point in time, I couldn’t get it out of my head to make such a shirt for Kaikōura.”

And it didn’t take much persuasion when Katie brought the idea to KORI. Jody presented her with a list of species to include, and so began the process of bringing these animals to life.

“At first, I tried to do one creature a day, starting with whales. The larger, more detailed creatures averaged 30 mins each, but as the days went on I upgraded to three… and then up to nine creatures a day.”

All told, Katie’s masterpiece involved over 40 hours of painstaking work – with no detail left untouched. And the result, as we’re sure you can agree, is powerful.

tshirt design.jpg
The design features 62 of Kaikōura’s coastal species.

From the giant blue whale down to paua, the design is the ultimate who’s-who of the species that grace our coasts – with a total of 62 animals represented.

For Katie, “Each of the creatures on that shirt has a rich past, filled with quirky habits and complex behaviours, and a relationship to mankind.”

However, there was another reason she was so keen to create this momento of her time in New Zealand:

“I wanted to give back to the greater community of Kaikōura. I’ve learned and grown so much from the 3 1/2 months that I have spent here, and this community has welcomed me, and so many other CCSPers, so warmly. This drawing is a small token of my thanks for all the priceless gifts the people, places, and creatures of Kaikōura have given me.”

KORI director Jody Weir looking at a pod of six Hector's dolphins from the research zodiac.
Money raised from sales of the t-shirt helps KORI continue its research and protection of Kaikōura’s marine wildlife.

But we’ll leave main  reason until last:

“I hope increased awareness will bring about a greater effort to protect the amazing world that exists around us. If this design helps one person fall a little more in love with the ocean, and be that much more interested in protecting it, then the whole project will be so worth it.”

KORI will be selling t-shirts and taking orders for hoodies at the Kaikōura night market on November 16th. All garments are printed on materials from organic, Fairtrade sources, and are printed in New Zealand.

Posters featuring the design are available from Little Rock Kaikōura and as greetings cards from the Alpine Pacific Holiday Park.

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