Saturday, August 2, 2014

the raw materials

A new Pania Press project is brewing - two in fact, and I'm hugely looking forward to getting busy crafting again after a busy semester of teaching. I've been invited to present a paper on bijou publishing at the Art + Book Symposium, which is taking place in October as part of the Dunedin Festival of Art. You can click on the link above for details. 

I'll be talking about two new publications from Pania Press, the first of which is a poem by Michele Leggott called "matapouri". I've had the poem printed on unbleached cotton, and I'll be using the stash of vintage flags (above) that I found in the basement (aka the treasure trove) for decorative details.

The use of flags in the design is not purely decorative. You'll see that the first stanza of the poem makes reference to a figure on a flag hanging on an orange wall. The work being referred to is the flag poem "Macoute" by Leigh Davis, which Michele saw hanging in Davis's Matapouri home. You can see a selection of Davis's flag poems by clicking on the link.

I've started playing around with the design and I'll have more to show you soon.

It's mighty nice to be back! Have a lovely weekend.

Friday, April 18, 2014

felt abstractions

I'm slowly getting somewhere with my felt abstractions inspired by Sean Scully (see last post). The pieces are sewn together at the back so that the stitches aren't visible at the front. I've attached a narrow cord, not too long, so that it sits flat when worn. These first pieces will be trialled by my trusty prototype wearers - Therese and Celia to see how durable and comfortable they are.

Have a lovely Easter everyone!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

felt experiments

It was the first crisp autumn day yesterday after a long balmy summer. The chill in the air made me feel like making felt, so I spent the morning making the two striped pieces above. It's pretty physical work turning fleece into fabric, so my arms are feeling a bit sore today. 

I'm still experimenting with trying to make interesting and wearable jewellery from felt. Whenever I see felt jewellery in craft galleries it always smacks of the 70s, with raggedy edges and rainbow colours. What I'm after is something more geometric, abstract and precise - something like the work of Irish-born abstract painter Sean Scully, only in felt! 

 Yellow Seal, 1995
 Rock Me, 1986
 The Bather, 1983
 1.9.91, 1991
[Images from Sean Scully: A Retrospective (Thames & Hudson) 2007]

I played around making a neckpiece, threading together little shapes from my stash of felt off-cuts. It looks quite cool on my tailor's dummy, but the individual pieces twist around when you wear it, so I haven't quite aced it yet. 

Abstract brooches with inserts in contrasting colours might be a better way to go. More felt experiments to come...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

two guesses where I've been...

No doubt you'll recognise these familiar attractions along Napier's iconic Marine Parade. I've just returned from a weekend in Hawke's Bay, the place where I grew up. The weather was incredible, with the bluest sky and lovely dry heat, just as I remember it. 

This is an image of one of the many Art Deco buildings that are the major tourist attraction in Napier. It's certainly in need of refurbishment, and it isn't one of the snazzier examples of Art Deco architecture the city has to offer, but I have a sentimental attachment to this old building - in it's former life it was the Central Hotel owned by my Dad in the early 80s. 

The reason for my visit to Napier was to attend the opening of the Autumn season of exhibitions at the newly refurbished MTG, which reopened to the public last September. Two exhibitions were launched on Friday night: a survey show of Bronwynne Cornish's work called Mudlark and an exhibition of cleverly adapted op-shop furniture called the Transmogrifier Machine by furniture designer Katy Wallace. 

Both shows are brilliant - beautifully displayed and wonderfully refreshing, so you should definitely go along to see them if you are planning a trip to Napier.

I've been asked to write a review of Mudlark for the 150th issue of Art New Zealand, so I won't write a great deal about the exhibition here, except to say that I'm a huge fan of Bronwynne's work, so composing 1800 words about the show will be a privilege and a delight for me. 

I wanted to give you a teeny glimpse of the gorgeous publication that accompanies the exhibition. The book contains a series of engaging essays and photo-narratives by curators and private collectors that testify to the joy that Bronwynne's works bring to the lives of the people who own them. Her Oracles and figurines, temples and reliquaries have something magical about them, and it was wonderful to see so many of them in the exhibition, and then to see them in situ in people's homes in the photographs in the catalogue. Here are a few of the images from the book:

I'm a bit of a sucker for exhibition merchandise, so I couldn't resist buying a couple of thick cotton tote bags with drawings of Bronwynne's works screen printed on them. There are five designs in terracotta and blue. Stocks are limited, so get in fast if you want one!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

the yellow balloon

My sister tells me that I have very particular tastes when it comes to jewellery. She's right. I like jewellery that has something to say for itself and I like jewellery that is a bit unusual. That being said though, I still think that jewellery needs to be wearable. I'm not a fan of the dominant trend in jewellery production in recent years, which favours the sculptural over the wearable, and makes use of found items, often rubbish, as the primary material. Uncharitably perhaps, I call this sort of jewellery 'crap made from crap.'

I gave a lot of thought to how I was going to spend my small art budget for 2014 and I decided to buy an electroformed yellow balloon pendant by New Zealand jeweller Renee Bevan. The deflated balloon cast in metal and then painted is called Lighthearted and I love it.

For one thing, I like the idea that a human breath is trapped forever inside the balloon and I also like the pathos of this deflated little heart shaped piece. There's something a little bit sad about it, but also something hopeful.

In addition, Renee is one of the sweetest and most refreshing people I've had the pleasure of meeting in recent years. The photograph of Renee above is from the cover of her exhibition catalogue published by Christchurch jewellery and object gallery The National  in 2012. In the image you can see the way that the necklace she is wearing touches the pavement. She calls this piece the world is a giant pearl so you imagine the whole round world as a pearl connected to the end of her necklace. How gorgeous is that!

Parting Breath (2012)

Smile (2012)

I'm sure that when I wear the yellow balloon I will receive the same kind of smart-arse comments that I get when I wear my Sharon Fitness Blob necklace or my Rachel Bell Willow Spoon, but I'll shrug them off as I always do. It's a mighty good thing to support the work of young artists in this country, and the galleries that represent them. The best way to do this is to invest in their jewellery and wear their work out and about with confidence and pride.

Friday, March 7, 2014

the juggling act

The new teaching semester is well underway and the struggle continues to juggle priorities and get the right balance right between work and home. I must have been thinking about this when I went into my neglected studio this morning to partake of a bit of relaxing paper-craft. A juggling puppet made from wallpaper was the result.

Inspiration for the puppet came from Jacqueline Groag's 1953 fabric design Puppet Ballet.

I'd love to arrange a whole lot of dancing puppets like these on the wall of my bedroom.

Crafting with wallpaper is very enjoyable!
Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Over summer we became the custodians of Jack's family home. His parents lived here for 55 years and raised their four children under this same roof. It's quite strange to find myself living in a big old house where so many traces of the family remain. After removing a cabinet in the dining room I found layers of patterned wallpaper (above) and shadows on the walls that hold the memory of the framed prints and plaques that hung in the same place for decades.

On the back of the wardrobe door in the main bedroom Jack's Dad stuck the name tags he received from the many medical conferences he attended.

Behind the books in Jack's childhood bedroom, which has been turned into a library, a large mural drawn in chalk by the Ross children over 40 years ago survives largely intact. Here you can see a chess set being stepped on by the scaly blue foot of a dragon.

In the cupboard under the stairs a paper bunny rabbit is pierced by a complimentary ticket, never redeemed, to cross the Harbour Bridge, and the bookshelves lining the galley at the top of the stairs have been filled with part of Jack's collection of American poetry and fiction.

Very old fruit trees fill the backyard, and beneath the Albertine rosebush that runs along the fence, a generation of Ross family cats have found their final resting place.

It is a special thing to share in the Ross family history, and as we settle into the house we'll try to preserve as many of these traces of the past as we can.