Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Home for No Mine

No Mine is an Island, a large embroidered sculptural piece made earlier this year, but never exhibited has sold to a private collector in Christchurch. The collector tells me she first saw it as a tiny thumbnail image on the Meliors Simms- Handmade Art Facebook page, which she had found through her sister who is also a collector of my work. She tells me "I was captivated straight away" and started following this blog. One day she was Skyping with her sister, and mentioned how much she liked No Mine is an Island. Her sister happened to be storing No Mine and some other pieces for me and showed her the work over Skype.

When I found out she was interested in buying No Mine is an Island, I emailed her some high resolution photos and links such as this. Eventually, to my great delight and surprise, she did buy the work, my most significant sale to date (and no gallery commission). She and her sister have sent me photos of No Mine is an Island hanging in its beautiful new home, looking very fine. It must be one of the best feelings for an artist, to see a piece she has poured so much of herself into becoming a treasured part of someone else's life.

Inspired by this over-the-internet sale, and chastened by the collector's comment that it was hard to find decent photos of the work she was interested in, I have been working hard to set up an online gallery. It's an interim measure until I can get a 'proper' website developed (and a few more sales are required to fund that project) but for now at least, it's a point of reference to see the best of my recent work in one place, and find out how to buy it.

Just click the 'Recent Works' link near the top of this blog to see a page of thumbnail images. Clicking on individual images will take you through to a page about each piece, with additional photographs and all the information you should need, including links to old blog posts with the back story. Not all my recent work is up there yet so if there is something you would like me to add, please let me know. I've also added a profile page with a link to my artist's CV and page of information about how to purchase my work directly from me.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Enamel, Pecha Kucha and Nancy Campbell

No Mine is an Island bleeding tailings into the sea

I was relentlessly positive going into the New Zealand's general election yesterday, but despite a great showing for the Green Party, we now have a new government keen on drilling deep sea oil and opening up new coal mines and a myriad of other ruinous policies. I'm trying to console myself with the thought that I will have plenty of local inspiration for making work about human hubris and folly in the environment. Cold comfort.

Rather than spending the evening following election results with increasing anguish, I dragged a bunch of friends over the hill to Raglan, a charming sea side village where I'd been invited to reprise my last Pecha Kucha presentation. It was my first PK outside of Hamilton and I was interested to see how Raglan's unique culture was represented. The emphasis was on environmental-themed creative projects rather than design per se. Rick Thorpe on his experiences bringing the Black Robin back from the brink of extinction (5 birds in the world in the 1970s, now over 250) and Jacqui Forbes on Raglan's hugely successful zero waste project, Xtreme Waste were highlights.

The Old School Art Centre was packed full of locals on a Saturday night. My own presentation which involved reading some of my poems accompanied by slides of my stitching projects, was well received.

"... a shimmering turbulence on the surface" or a lake of tailings

One of the poems was Cake, which has just been published in Enamel 3, a lovely little poetry journal published by Emma Barnes. Its about a dream I had involving cake and androids (the robot-human hybrids, not the gadgets) and I showed slides of work that looked a bit cake-like.

Ponting's Genius, about an early Antarctic photographer, was easier to illustrate with images from my Antarctic work. Miner's Cook of course has its very own illustrative piece No Mine is an Island. If Jellyfish Wrote History has enough linguistic imagery to sit with a variety of stitched pieces, none of which have anything to do with jellyfish really.

Evoking jellyfish with a couple of iceberg-colour test pieces

And speaking of being published, an interview I did with Nancy Campbell back in October is now up on her blog. Nancy is a writer and printmaker who is as into the Arctic as I am the Antarctic. Her blog is a delightful grab bag of Arctic, bookish and printerly topics all of which warm my heart.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I too was secretly taped!

This John Key-John Banks teapot tape scandal* reminds me of a time I was secretly taped. I dined out on this story for years and still find it amusing. If only the PM had a sense of humour, he could be getting hours of fun from the experience instead of feeling harassed and looking ridiculous.

I was about 17 and hitchhiking on the West Coast of the South Island with another young woman, both of us done up in full punk regalia. We got picked up by a well dressed man in a tidy car who said he had to make some deliveries and did we mind a few detours on our way? Since our appearance on the side of the road generally attracted much more insalubrious rides, we counted ourselves lucky and enjoyed a bit of sight seeing on back roads in the sunshine.

As our journey continued I noticed first that the man was wearing pantyhose instead of socks under his suit pants, and then that he had a bra on under his business shirt. When he stopped the car to hand deliver a document I mentioned these unusual sartorial details to my friend and we speculated on the implications. Meanwhile she riffled through his box of documents to discover they were a kinky sex newsletter for West Coasters swingers. We muffled our giggles as the driver returned to the car and carried on.

At his next stop I looked down by my own feet, saw a tape recorder and said to my friend, 'hey, here's a tape recorder... and he's left the recording button on...' as I turned it off. We looked at each other in guilt, confusion and amusement and decided as soon as we got back to the main road we'd ask to get out and try our luck with another ride. We feared he might be cross with us for turning off his tape recorder.

I was, and still am, ashamed for sniggering at the cross-dressing driver who'd kindly offered a us lift and feel far worse about him being hurt by hearing our prurient amusement than I do about him secretly taping me. I'd like to say that I learned a lesson about circumspection that I've never forgotten but of course I still sometimes say and do regrettable things like everyone else.

However, when I chose an action (such as mean gossip) I am choosing its consequences. Whether or not anyone records or overhears my ill chosen words I have to live with myself. I could blame or shame myself (or whoever records or overhears me, if they do) but ideally I would apologise, learn from my mistakes and move on with the intention of doing better in the future.

Making a mistake like being indiscreet is an opportunity to demonstrate one's ability to put things right. It's a chance to show you can take criticism, be apologetic, generous and compassionate. Most of all its a chance to show one has a sense of humility and humour. At 17 I failed to express those qualities in the moment when it mattered. By telling the story repeatedly throughout my life I have used it to learn and grow, as well as have some fun.

In the current 'teapot tape' situation I see a powerful public figure demonstrating hubris, defensiveness and arrogance. He looks angry and scared all out of proportion to this event. In an election campaign based on promoting his personal leadership qualities rather than party policies, his response to this event reveals (if you hadn't noticed before) that our current leader lacks resiliance and the ability to laugh at himself.

To my mind there are a myriad of other reasons not to vote this man back into power (asset sales, coal mining, deep sea drilling, beneficiary bashing, anti-arts, ridiculously old-fashioned education etc) but if one were chosing one's votes based on character rather than policy, then surely this is a deal breaker.

*If you are from beyond these shores, it might help to know that New Zealand has a national election on this Saturday and much has been made of the 'secret taping' of a media-staged conversation between the current Prime Minister John Key and a candidate from another political party, John Banks.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Red Billed Gull

While in Auckland for Art in the Dark last weekend, I stayed with Rachelle Wood who is the artist behind Birdspoke.   She lives in a rambling old villa set on a huge section planted to attract the birds that inspire her work. It is an oasis of birdsong and beauty near the middle of a big city.

Vintage lace 'window treatment'

Rachelle is doing some lovely renovations and her home displays her quirky, vintage and sweet tastes  perfectly. Her style might be called 'shabby chic' and I like it very much.   My mattress was in centre of the living room floor and when I opened my eyes there was almost a sense of vertigo under the extraordinary ceiling rose (complete with bursting pomegranates) set inside a large dome.  Like any proper home, its heart was in the large kitchen/dining/sitting area which opens out onto a deck with views of fireworks at night and trees in the daytime.

One third of the fabric stash

But my favourite room is her studio which is small, perfectly organised and crammed full of potential for creativity.Her huge stash of fabrics is neatly arranged by colour, her tools stored in baskets from Samoa, and her vintage lace in old suitcases.  I arrived feeling very annoyed to have left my crochet workbag* on the bus, but Rachelle quickly sorted me out with a hook and some ecru cotton from her stash so I could keep making throughout the weekend.

Bird embroideries and sewing machines

I've not met anyone besides Rachelle and me who crochets with this old-fashioned cotton that is so fine and fiddly. Rachelle shares my passion for slow making and hand stitching. She spends hours crafting each individual piece by hand to sell at craft fairs and on Etsy, Felt and Toggle.

A Huia plushie.  Huia because extinct over a century ago because their tail feathers were so fashionable.

She also finds time to make pretty things for herself and her home. I love this work in progress (below), to stitch together old lace doilies into a window hanging.  I can't wait to go back and visit again, to see the light shining through the lace.

*Complete with six precious completed spheres, two balls of cotton, crochet hook and second best scissors.   If you find my little blue and green bag, please give it back!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Art in the Dark

Stragagem Bilateral Carousel by Jasmax Grads was a nice spot to lie down and have a rest while gazing up at the lights

I caught the bus up to Auckland on Saturday so I could go to Art in the Dark, the second annual festival of lights in Western Park, Ponsonby. My daughter went last year (she is friends with the organisers and came over from Melbourne to see it) and I was so envious to hear her rave about its wonders that I had to go myself this time.

In the children's playground a long double slide was used as a projection screen to show film of children playing on that very slide, while real people also slide down. It was good fun to try and made me think I should play on slides more often.

It was fabulous, funky, fun to be wandering around an unfamiliar park in the dark with hundreds of other people, their children and dogs. Apparently for many Aucklanders this park (which I'd barely been aware of myself) is little used and perceived as threatening, even in the daytime. Art in the Dark reclaimed the space for two nights with light, sound and activities.

Rainbow Laser by Ben Clegg was best viewed from under an umbrella as the rainbow tunnel was projected through stage smoke and sprinkling water

I'm not very experienced at night photography and so my pictures are very poor compared to those on Art in the Dark's website and Facebook page. I recommend you follow the links to see better images than mine.

Some of the performances were so fleeting, so entrancing and so dynamic that I had no chance of capturing even a bad image. For example, Icarus by Celery Productions was a mysterious and marvelous swooping of enormous white angel wings worn by a man in a suit who flew utterly authentically up and down the gully. I found out later that the rigging is from the Vinter's Luck movie, and up the hill out of my view, a small poignant vignette was enacted between flights. Even without knowing any of that, Icarus was one of the favourite things I saw.

Another outstanding performance was When I Grow Up, in which a group of dancers with LED lights on their suits, danced on a dark hillside. There were no lights on their heads, and their arms were extended with lights to the length of their legs making for a very sci-fi, alien animal kind, yet with human movements.

Many of the pieces were interactive, perhaps none more so than the tree with envelopes by Ella Mizrahi. Envelopes hung from strings of lights draped around a big tree, and when we opened the envelopes we found dozens of different children and adults had contributed a drawing of what could grow on trees (sweeties, money, toys, fruit). We stuffed each drawing back in its envelope and opened another, enjoying the sense of connection with unknown contributors.

Black Gold- Memorial Tree Temple by Brydee Rood referenced my own current inspiration, the grounding of MV Rena on the Astralabe Reef in the Bay of Plenty and the oil spil.

Naturally I was very enthusiastic about the most textile-crafty work in the whole park: Knitting Luminaries. White (machine knit) fabric was stretched and twisted into sculptural forms like giant seashells crossed with fruit, suspended from a big old tree and glowing white white the tree was illuminated with blue. It was serenely beautiful and inspiring.

Knitted Luminaries by Kate Ramsay and Hyungin Yun

Western Park is very large and extends down a steep gully, with many big trees, so that there were surprises illuminating every twist and turn through the dark night. The whole experience was magical and entrancing and I walked around with a smile the whole evening. From high on the hillside, the lights of the Sky Tower and the almost full moon played along, becoming part of the Art in the Dark community, connecting our crowd to the wider city and outer space.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Paper pattern tree

I've started on my next and biggest oil spill embroidered blanket piece. I used up all my stash of grey blankets and had to buy more as well- its going to be big!

I worked out the design in sketches, then cut paper pattern pieces to make sure they would fit together and work on the large scale I intend. I have a big roll of heavy kraft paper which I bought at the dump shop for $10 three years ago. Newsprint would have been more appropriate for a project like this, where I don't need to keep the pattern for future use, but the kraft paper is what was big enough and available.

As I cut each piece of blanket, and unpinned the pattern pieces, I draped them over my lamp stand. I like the sculptural look of the paper pieces so much I've left it up all week. It takes up a lot of my tiny studio/living space and eventually I will have to put them in the recycling bin, but in the meantime, its like living with a beautiful dead tree.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Exploring oil

Since my visit to Tauranga, I've been exploring different ways to represent the tarry black oil sheening the ocean and washing up on the beaches of Bay of Plenty. Of my five recent experiments these three are the most successful; where I was working out concentric waves, waves lapping on the shore and an oily bird.

I find images of oily birds most heartbreaking, even as I grieve for all the other sea life and human lives damaged by oil spills. Seeing their graceful shapes and light as air bodies dragged down from the sky to be found as sticky black puddles on the sand is particularly agonising.

Working with wool seems to cushion my sadness a little. I'm planning a large installation piece that both responds to Rena's oil spill and cautions against plans for deep sea drilling off New Zealand. I'd like to honour each of the species on the casualty list, many of which are rare or endangered native species including petrels, dotterels, pengins, gannets, shearwaters and terns.

My bird experiment started off with layers of blankets felted into relief (above) with feather details stitched in (below).