Friday, February 27, 2009

toesies ...

Knuckles snoozing on our bed under the covers.
It's raining today which means my house is full of restless males - my two older sons, their friend, about six other friends of theirs turning up later and my man. Of course, it's a perfect day for stitching and I happen to have gotten my hands on some silk/cotton blend thread similar to what India uses on her cloth. Thanks to new textile friend Caroline. It's interesting because the two fibres pick up colour differently. I am working on a dress for myself which is a feat in that I have no dressmaking skills whatsoever. I picked up three vintage kimono at Asia Gallery in Kilbirnie last month and have figured out how to alter them to make me three new dresses. So currently I am slathering them with stitches. I found an old kerosene tin at Trash Palace (with no kero in it of course, so old not even any fumes) and it will be perfect to wrap my dress around this prior to chucking it in the old dye pot to get some colour going on that silk. And of course, cannot forget a few dozen mother of pearl buttons for the bling-factor. We are coming to the end of our summer season, I will miss the long warm sunny days. I certainly haven't missed the overcast grey skies. I am sure though that Knuckles and I will find plenty to keep us occupied during the long cool winter months. I like the idea of hibernating. Going into quiet mode. There's a few workshops on. Great to see that The Clever Crafting Project got a mention over at Craft 2.0 blog. And my mum has her own wonderful blog ( and I look forward to keeping tabs on her. She's a legend and I can't wait to see her and Dad at Easter.
BTW: Next Clever Crafting Project get together at Aunt Daisy's is the 11 March 2009. All welcome. Bring your project, a friend and some money for Daisy's coffee. Can't wait for show and tell. Don't be shy. If you live in Wellies, you are welcome. I promise you will have fun and we will have some giveaways. And I am starting a table with freebies so I can recycle all those resources we thought we needed and pass them on to other crafters for free. So come on down. x Rachelle

Monday, February 23, 2009

On being a Christian artist ...

Natural dyes, shibori, stitch, repurposed vintage Asian silk, mother of pearl buttons.

I confess that while I am an artist and have a couple of shows now safely tucked under my belt, I am still new at this game. Not at making because I come from a heritage of makers ... my grandparents were makers, and I spent my childhood with them. Even as an adult, I was always mucking around with stuff.
But the art world. Exhibitions. And the kind of people that are artists and that hang around living vicariously through the art world. The prevailing fashions and entrenched attitudes that drench the art scene. The challenge for me is expressing myself in a public forum that has a whole protocol about what is and isn't acceptable without compromising who I am and what I believe. You know, remaining true to what my heart tells me is right. Because the two things don't always add up.
At an opening (not mine) this past weekend for a Maori artist, a call was made from the Director of the art gallery for someone to come forward and open the exhibition with a blessing. Then to my complete amazement he clearly stated "But NOT A CHRISTIAN prayer because Maori prayer doesn't end in Amen." And admirably a Maori woman stepped forward and did an incredible karanga. It was a moving opening. But I digress ...
As a Christian Maori artist, I was taken aback to say the least. Firstly because Amen simply means "And so be it" (and why is that objectionable?). And secondly, that Jesus is obviously not welcome in this place. And I happen to love Jesus, the life he lived and what he stands for.
It's become obvious that being a Christian isn't trendy in our day and age. Being anything else is completely acceptable - a greenie, an alternative, a holistic healer, a muslim, budhist or aetheist is all ok. But church, Jesus, prayer and stuff like it isn't.
And admittedly mainstream church hasn't always been the safest place for people who are different. Church itself has often created resistance and boundaries that don't often reflect the heart of God but rather man's fears and small-mindedness. And Church is made up of people who are not perfect. Church needs to remember this and so does everyone else. But the purpose of church is two-fold (as I understand it to be).
Jesus was asked, what is the most important thing of all. He answered:
"Love God and Love Each Other."
Unfortunately church has come to mean so many other things but for me that is it's sole purpose. That is our goal. Not as Christians but for ALL people. To love our Creator and to love one another. So why do we object? Why don't we embrace loving God and loving one another.
Lots of reasons. People have been hurt by the church. People have made up ungodly rules that created barriers and obstructions that prevent people from getting to God. Suddenly knowing God became conditional. Stop smoking, girls wear dresses, no fun on Sundays, no dating, no dancing, no rock music, and the funniest one, no sin! Well, I don't know about you but I haven't figured out how to NOT sin. Not that I am proud of it. But I make mistakes, I hurt people, I say the wrong thing, I have awful attitudes and thoughts. Wow, I am not perfect.
But I serve and love a God that has perfect love for me. Not based on what I can do, but based on His capacity to love, forgive, understand and know me because He wants to and in spite of my flaws. Now how many people could I say can do that?
And although life lived consciously for Christ is no walk in the park, it is definitely the best decision I ever made. I am a better person for it. Ask those who know me. I am a changed and changing woman. And really living my life to the fullest didn't stop when I became a Christian (or believer or whatever you want to call it!). In fact that is when I truly felt alive. When I reconnected to God.
So although that man didn't want a Christian prayer, what he was saying in essence was that he didn't want to acknowledge the God of all men, women, nations and peoples. Because God is not the property of Christians, He belongs to us all and we to Him.
And although my work isn't covered in crucifix's and the red blood of Christ (ew!), in it's essence it is influenced by Christian values. The importance of family and loving the world, loving others, community, the beauty of God's creation - nature, and His unconditional love and acceptance towards his ultimate creation - us. My work is sometimes intended to challenge those things which work against God's purposes - like our own foolishness, our wastefulness, ignorance, racism, discrimination, abuse, addictions, etc.
I cannot separate myself into parts. Christian on Sunday, Artist on Thursday, Woman at home, Maori on the marae, activist in political situations - I am always all those things. Which is why the situation that happened on the weekend irked me. Because someone was separating what is inseparable. God and man. They are meant to be joined. Once we isolate and separate ourselves from our creator, then we are truly lost! Can I hear an amen?

Going backwards to move forwards ...

... Can be daunting to say the least. It's not easy going backwards. Last year I fell pregnant unexpectedly and it took me months to be able to face and then rejoice in this turn of events. Giving up art school was difficult. Not because I would actually miss it (trust me, art school had it's own dramas) but because it meant giving up a part of my identity. A part that was just beginning to show results.

But I did come to terms with the change of being pregnant and even to enjoy that time to myself, time where I could quietly reflect on what was important to me and what it was I wanted to achieve in life.

Things felt and seemed chaotic but as I went through my challenges, little details came to my attention. Things that get lost in the busyness and self-importance of my life. My friend Chrissie always sees challenges as being a time when God is teaching her something. So what have I learned ...

* I have a tendency to fill my life with things that make me feel good because sometimes my real purpose is blocked or frustrated; therefore I can waste a lot of my life on irrelevant things rather than doing what it is i am meant to be doing;

* When I slow down I see and experience things with more clarity. Too many people, jobs, activities, etc can leave me drained and not a very nice person. I choose to be wise about the amount of people and the kind of people i allow to influence me. I used to believe success was wrapped up in how much i achieved, now i know that for me, success is DOING TODAY WELL and letting tomorrow take care of itself.

* My spiritual wellbeing is imperative to my ability to live my life well. I have a saying ... 'broken people can only break things' even when they mean well. I want people to feel good around me. I cannot be good to anything or anyone if I am run down, drained, grumpy, angry, sick, etc. And trust me, the universe continues to bring people across my path, and I want to make sure I am fully available when those opportunities present themselves.

* My challenge is to be a woman who inspires. Not preaches and throws out 'does and don'ts' but who by her example is a light for others. To bring about good change in the world around me. To be a uplifting experience for others. To serve and to love.

My reaction to my circumstances have unearthed some of my worse behaviours, my weaknesses and the sort of things that make me cringe about myself. But I am grateful for the opportunity to face them down, to rise up and make a clean start with a better attitude and some grace, patience and tenderness. To replace the hard heart with a softer one, one that is focussed on being a blessing and not a curse, a loving person not a critical one, a giving woman not a self-focused one; a strong person not a whinging one; not consumed with self pity. It challenges me to think about my work and what I am wanting to express. Whether it is the best place to focus my attention. Whatever, I am grateful for this new little baby and the changes I am making in response to his amazing life.

I am working on a stitched piece but after this one, I will spend time designing my new thing. Not sure what that is yet but I have a feeling that it will be better than ever. Have some new pieces at our city gallery showing for the next fortnight. It will be a fun exhibition with a variety of artworks from Porirua City Council staff on show. Come on down and have a look.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Summer evenings ...

Long days, warm nights, evening swims, strolls along the shore looking for treasures - smooth sea glass, egg shaped stones, rusted bottle tops, unusual markings on stones, buttons, beads, plastic ephemera. Best of all, sharing it with the people one loves. And a double scoop of your favourite ice cream afterwards ... mines maple/walnut, what's yours?

Monday, February 9, 2009

current exhibition ...

Haha, I have bee so busy with my mum here and a new baby and two children starting school for the new year and a working husband, that I forgot to blog an exhibition that I am a part of. It opened at Pataka Art Gallery, Porirua for the next three weeks, "Off The Wall - Eco Prints to Art couture" is a collaborative event by local artists influenced by the work of friend and artist India Flint, Suzanne Tamaki and local Whitireia tutor Deb Donnelly. Deb features in the exhibition as do fellow textile artists Billie Mutton, Cleo Thorpe-Ngata, Olivia Giles and myself. I have blogged extensively of India's tireless work in this country and her eco-dyed processes in other posts. I also have to send out big ups to Pataka for supporting community artists like myself and giving us newies an opportunity to be involved in exhibitions. Secondly to Kylie, the amazing woman who can create the most amazing artistic displays even when given the most random of pieces. She makes my art look good!
Silk, wool, cotton, hessian, tapa bark cloth, shells, mother of pearl, coconut shell - natural dyes from plants including harakeke and eucalyptus; felted, distorted, screen printed and stitched.
"Kiri" translated means "skin". New Zealand is a melting pot of cultures. Growing up in a minority meant I was always aware I was different purely because of my skin. I am hopeful that my childrens world is different from mine as a child, and that these days our differences are more acceptable and even celebrated in our modern world. This piece was created from pieces that were worked separately and yet merged into a single piece of work that flows as a whole proving that the sum is worth more than the individual parts that make it up. It was inspired by work with both India Flint and Suzanne Tamaki to whom I am very grateful for their mentoring and encouragement.

Also unveiled for the first time is my very own design of cloth jewellery, using hand-twined twisted silk remnants for the "chain" and natural dyed salvaged wool blankets (harakeke), dyed felted wool and mother of pearl buttons, repurposed island shell ornaments, and stitch. My love is complete when I think of my "textile beads" - bits of cloth embroidered with my favourite feather stitch. I love using raw materials and hand stitching. This combines all my favourite techniques. And what girl doesn't love jewellery? This is muted bling, but to me it is worth more than diamonds. The other day my husband waited patiently while I finished stitching my necklace for that day for me to wear to a special function. We both agreed it was more fun than looking at Michael Hill Jewellers any day (and perhaps buys me op-shop credit with my husband) and the end result is that I feel fantastic wearing something I made myself.

"Ko te maumahara whariki o te pepi"
Baby's memory blanket.

Silk, wool, cotton, linen - stitched, felted,

Having spent 9 and a bit months pregnant, I spent a lot of time on my own waiting for my baby. During that time I was drawn to the idea of creating a quilt for my babe but having never quilted, decided to 'give it a go' anyway. My kaupapa was to use what was available - salvaged scraps of natural fibres and secondly, to create something functional . The whole work was white-on-white and was finished several months ago. However the whole thing went into a pot this summer after the arrival of the baby and was dyed using harakeke / flax seed pods. As I stitched I was aware of how many memories were in the vintage cloths I was using. That I wasn't creating a new narrative, but rather writing a new chapter in a story that already existed.

"Ra Horoi"

"Washing Day"

Salvaged clothing - natural dyes, embroidery.

When I was a kid my grandmother had a "washing day", a "baking day", a "going to town day", etc. Having created garments for my own family using existing and salvaged clothing, and India's natural dye methods, my friend Cleo and I have unique and functional pieces in our family wardrobes. This collaborative project was such fun and embraced our own philosophy that art can be incorporated into everyday living by everyday people. That it can be both functional and beautiful, conceptual and loads of fun to create. I wish you could see Cleo's beautiful felted eucalyptus dyed embroidered slippers - I so want a pair. They are on my wishlist for this years 'make' list.

If you are in the area, the exhibition is running for approximately three weeks. And the pieces are for sale. Except of course for the clothes that came out of our wardrobe. Kia Ora!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Clever Crafting Project

The Clever Crafting Project
Aunt Daisy's Cafe
Every 2nd Wednesday of the Month
7pm until late
Bring your crafting project, some money for coffee and friends, and meet other crafters from the region. We look forward to meeting you and having fun together. Yippee.
Friend Cleo and I have been discussing the need to create and bring together a crafting community here in this part of Wellington. People want to craft, to either take up a new interest, develop their current skills or complete a project that has been idling for too long.
We have between us been passing on whatever skills we have to those who asked, held "stitching" sessions in our respective homes, workshopped, networked and been part of the local craft market culture. We also love to make things - wonderful, creative, crafty things as gifts for others, gifts to ourselves, and the odd experiment just because we want to. Both of us are art students, my study is currently on hold while I spend time with Knuckles and heal.
A noticeable resistance at art school towards our love for 'making for the pure love of making' kept appearing, and talking to other art students (from other art institutes in Wellington) who see themselves as "craft artists" tell the same story. Bugger conceptual thinking sometimes, as if things can't be created without first doing 50 thumb sketches, research and so forth. My own personal take on it is that we are all conceptual. We make things that are of value and meaning to us. Sometimes it will appeal to others, sometimes not. Rather than fight the system of intellectuals who want to keep art their intellectual property, I am keen to create our own world, where the line between art and craft disappears. Where there are no boundaries. Where things are measured on the value the makers imbue, the enjoyment that came from creating the work, and the joy spread in an inclusive community that willingly opens it's arms to all, from novice to specialist. Where there is no such thing as a 'dumb idea' - where it is all good to get excited about a box of Nana's buttons, an old doily, a garage sale and secondhand shop.
Ah, the old debate: Craft vs Art. Who cares! I wonder if it isn't those 'art snobs' who wish to keep Fine Arts the exclusive property of the "haves". I work at a local art gallery, a wonderful art gallery that promotes New Zealand art and artists. All the established artists I have met are wonderful, open folk, humble and not pretentious at all. In fact what I notice is that they prefer to stay out of the limelight if and where possible. Rather it is those who linger around the artists, who develop the 'art patter' or 'art speak', and seem to live vicariously through the art scene itself, they are the ones who make my skin crawl. One man came up to me at the opening of an event and asked "What do you do?". When he discovered that I was only a gallery assistant he moved on. Later he was observed smoozing with 'the artists'.
What I love about the craft community is that the people I have met through various events including craft gatherings like workshops and markets, are down-to-earth, willing to share and help, create affordable creations for the average joe's wallet, and are passionate about their creations. Like me, they are more likely to salvage their resources rather than purchase them new at art and craft stores. They are also incredibly approachable and desire to make a wee profit where possible to fund their love for making. Many, like ourselves, balance study, work and family commitments, and craft is their creative outlet, their self-care vent. And why not?
I hear a lot in my capacity as friend, counsellor and deduce that we would all be better off if we spent a bit more time doing things we love, a little less time on things that stress us out, and got a bit more sleep, sunshine and good grown food inside us.
Good friendships and community are vital for one's life essence, I find my few creative friends absolute balm in a balmy world. We love getting together to nut out new ideas, share gifts, "show and tell" about current projects, get some feedback, troubleshoot any blockages and work together. Our friendships develop another layer as that support spills into our personal lives. How can we spend so much enjoyable time together and not grow closer. As a therapist, I appreciate the value of my own little community of friends which is not so precious about process as it is about connections between people and the pure joy that comes from making.
I am so excited as we turn this corner and open up what we have been doing to the wider community.
Aunt Daisy's Cafe has agreed to host a crafting community group here in Titahi Bay. As if I haven't waxed lyrical enough already, Aunt Daisy's is our wonderful local cafe situated right on the north end of Titahi Bay beach. She has become a local legend full of atmosphere and wonderful kitsch decor. The views are to die for and the staff are fun. They serve good coffee, exotic tea blends and a good scone. I had a dream about holding our crafting monthly event here at Aunt Daisy's because it seemed a perfect fit, and that vision will be a reality this coming Wednesday. Bless!
This year I want keep our Op-shop Crawls going, basically filling my 7-seater wagon with crafters and spending the day going from second hand store to second hand store, stopping for coffee and kai, and lots of yakking. I want to see our local community more formally established just so we can support those up-and-coming makers, encourage anyone who is keen to get started, and maybe we can get some income from local markets and the wider retail scene.
Seeing as how I will be home anyway, I want to continue to open my home for those who wish to come and work on their projects during the day, to visit those who may be homebound, to provide not just practical support but perhaps identify any additional needs in my community. Several years as a counsellor, youth and community worker mean that we can help those in our community who may need additional assistance.
The flavour of our project is pure joy from making. The "Clever" part comes from feeling good about making cool stuff.
OMG, can u tell I am excited ... so much sharing the love and passion of making ... yippee. Bring it on I say!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Kia Ora, I am Knuckles...

I thought I would take a moment from playstation to say hi. This is my first go at blogging.
I love my Blackberry.
Take care.
Little Rich

On the mend ...

... actually I'm not sure. It's more of a faith thing, mending - both physically and emotionally because if I am completely honest, I am not coping well daily. I look fine and if you weren't aware, you'd not know any differently. My little baby is such a beautiful wee tamaiti, he sleeps and eats in all the right places, is well loved and cared for. My family are overwhelmingly in love with him and me for having him. But it seems that every time I have a baby, my mind fragments and shatters into pieces that don't make sense to me for a season. I can spend all day trying to muddle through the simplest tasks. And I am not talking about just being a bit absent, it's a real struggle, and I fight feelings of inadequacy and dispondency because I know what I am normally capable of. Still, I am here, as grounded as possible, somedays floating, others sinking yet surrounded by loving family, a tireless mother who has taken 9 weeks of her life and gifted them to us, a few understanding friends who can deal with my moodiness and odd conversations, and the ability to externalise my situation. I had an interesting two weeks, full of high and low lights. The low lights are my own inability to cope sometimes, the highs included a week intensive with artist extrodanaire India Flint and other lovers of textiles; dear friend Cleo's unconditional love and support to finish off my works for exhibition opening this Friday at our city gallery Pataka for two weeks, and finally, a church to call home here in Wellington. The Kapiti Coast, Mana Island viewed from Raumati beach.

My amazing mum who made her first complex cloth at India's workshop. Big ups to my mum. She is a legend. (And has a new blog ... I am so excited she is joining the blogging community. Dear friend and inspiration India ( and I dressed for a LOTR scene in eco-dyed fashion.
I felt like the magician guy from Lord of the Rings but India is the true magician. She had us doing all sorts of magic, potions and wonders throughout the week.This mindful meandering is quite a signature of doing a workshop with India. Thank God I attended this week, last weeks group climbed the giant hill via a Nikau reserve. I love fossicking along the shore ... it's my fave thing in the world. Seriously, I ask you, what could be better than a bunch of girls who love textiles, nature and stitching? What an experience sitting by the Waikanae river stitching our cloths on a balmy summer day.

A bundle of cloth ready for the dye pot made from windfalls found undertrees, and silk/cotton/wool fabric all from recycled garments etc.

Bundles after dye process. Cloths hanging out to dry post-dyeing.I made a week discovery perhaps this week. A plant that creates these marks. Very exciting.My cloth in progress laid out amidst river stones. Heather and Theresa (background).

Imbi and Felicity.

Imbi and Ahipara Girl.

Imbi made some neat prints of a flax seed pod by hammering the print dirzectly onto the cloth in India's hapuzome fashion.

India teaching us how to distress our cloth with pumice stones.India's hands and cloth. Hands, cloth, and stitch.
I loved distressing my cloth, creating new holes for me to mend. My work is my mirror and is called "on the mend", and aptly so I think.