I started crafting for the local market just over three years ago. I made mostly textile things like those above. Embroidered cupcake pincushions, one-off design toys, kids t-shirts including the infamous, Day of the Dead t-shirt my son's have favoured since then. Then I had a break while I had a baby and recovered from an injury.
I've established and run our local group of crafters, The Clever Crafting Project. But as I thought about contributing to our family income, I knew there was no way I could go back to 9-5 office or menial work, nor do I want to counsel others right now while I'm raising my kids so I've decided to head back into the game, and as a 'maker' head down the indie route to start with.
There's a lot of misconceptions around these two simple little words: art and craft. When people ask me, I say I'm a maker. It leaves the door wide open for both me and my work to cross over and for those who feel the need to categorise, it gives them something to work with. It also means I'm not pretending to be something I'm not. I know some incredible artists so sometimes I'm like a baby around the big guns when all I want to do is play with fabric and make stuff. Other times, my work is too conceptual for it to be purely craft. Especially when I create something that doesn't serve any function but to express an idea or narrative.
Its 4am and I just finished posting my application to Craft 2.0 tonight for a stall in Lower Hutt at the Dowse Art Gallery in October. I had written it yesterday but learning how to collage my photos as well as edit my words has taken me more attempts than I care to share with you.
Suffice to say, my confidence had moments where it completely failed me. Does anyone else feel stupid selling themselves? No wonder artists have galleries and agents to represent them. Its awful and the whole time I was plagued with thoughts "who do you think you are saying that about yourself" and "what if your the only person in the world who likes what you make". This takes big kahuna's. I'm getting good at telling myself to 'shut up and get on with it'!
This is the new direction I'm heading in (see photo above). I hope to bring a more Pacific flavour to my work, incorporating my own themes drawn from my environment here in Titahi Bay and around Aotearoa the areas that I have significant tribal connections with. These include Te Rarawa Iwi from Te Tai Tokerau and Te Atiawa and Taranaki te Iwi from Taranaki region. I also take into considerations my children's inherited cultures from their father combining Cook Island, Niuean and Tahitian whakapapa. At some point, I'd like to learn a bit more about my Yugoslavian (Croat) great grandfather and his people as well. I am blessed to draw from so much deep history. I did some research last year when I was up north. There was a great museum full of information about the Tarara's (Dalmations) who settled into the area to dig kauri gum from the swamps. That is what my great grandfather did.
There's no denying that I've been inspired and influenced by textiles and designs of other indigenous groups including boro from Japan, kuba from Africa, hiapo and other Pacific barkcloth and mixed media objects from the Pacific Collection in Te Papa and the Auckland Museum collections, the quilts of Gees Bend, the hand embroidered doileys and linens that were found in my grandmother's home and that I collect from thrift stores whenever I come across a good piece to reuse in my work.
I've created a new theme for my range of goods, "Gondwana Land". I like the idea that before we were all divided and separated, we were one land. I like this re-merging of all these flavours as well as creating my own motifs and designs, fusing traditional with contemporary. I often joke between my creative sisters Cleo, India and Imbi that we are the Gondwana sisters. I don't know much about Gondwana Land, so am looking forward to having something new to research. I am also leaning on Matariki for inspiration as well. This is a big event on the Maori calendar.
I'm exploring getting my own line of homewares printed at some stage and in the early early stages of talking with various printers. I'd love a range of cushion covers, tea towels and also just yards of material with my own repeat designs drawn hiapo to create my own things with and sell to fabricaholics. I'd also love a paper range with journal/notebooks, cards, wrapping paper and prints for framing. Imagine if a chain store rang me saying "We want 500 units in black, green, red and natural." That's what I'd like to happen for my family and I. Some of the barriers I have to tackle ... finding ethical goods from the best possible natural range. If not it doesn't come home. I'm so against going off shore to Asia unless its fairtrade. Perhaps a talk with Trade Aid might unearth something ... hmmmm.
I've created a small range of wearable totems (in necklace and badge forms) that have naive symbols stitched on them. I've worn them the past week and they've drawn a few comments from other artists. I have to stop myself refining them, leaving them 'rougher' than my 'tidier' self feels comfortable with. I further challenged myself to use an old grey school jersey and an old black felted one of mine to see how much stuff I could make from it. I need challenges because I get bored fast.
I'm also attempting to create small specialty cloth that I will dye using methods taught by friend and natural dyes guru India Flint. I love using my own resources, and I thought others might too, but without the work of dyeing itself. I enjoy that process and I have a big stash of vintage cream silk kimono and cream wool blankets waiting for me to dive in and get cauldron out.
I'll still make 'smalls'. I have one theme called Out Of The Box which are my own sewing accoutrements like pincushions etc with my own stitched designs on them for the avid maker'
Somehow my environment will wind up on my table in the form of covered stones using felt, lace and stitch. I've just bought a metallic pen and am having fun drawing hiapo onto stone. Such a good instant 'make', one that even the kids can do. I love my country, this land. I saw a McCahon recently, he captures the essence of our whenua profoundly, its spiritual looking upon his work.
This photo includes some of my influences and inspirations. Maunga Tauatia, Te Oneroa A Tohe, my whanau, our relationship with the moana, Hiapo (Niuean bark cloth, Auckland Museum Collection), weaving, textures and natural occuring elements like water, sky, stone, and botanical life forms. Not forgetting buttons I find on the beach thanks to the waste water plant around the Bay and crochet, a nod to my grandmother and her love for crafting and homemaking.
I'm looking forward to playing with Gondwana Land theme, creating primordial narratives, symbols, creatures etc. There's something beguiling about a time when the world physically looked different, and therefore it stands to reason that the beings that inhabited it interacted with their planet differently. The kids and I were talking about Tuatara the other day. They are endangered but are from that time. Its almost like the movie Ice Age. ;)
There's so much to do as I'm also planning to attend Pataka's Craft Market which runs in conjunction with The Maori Market art exhibition, showcasing some of Aotearoa's finest Maori artisans. We're so blessed to have these high calibre events on our doorstep. Darcy Nicholas has done so much for our city as the arts person with council. His works alone are incredible. I will add links for Darcy, Pataka and the Maori Market tomorrow as well as Craft 2.0 for those who love details as well as more specifics about my work to date.
I've also discovered that I have had a stall application approved for this Saturday, 8 July for The Underground Market at Frank Kitts Park, Wellington central. 10am-4pm. The theme is Vintage, Shabby Chic, Granny styles stuff and I am such and avid collector that I jumped at the opportunity to clear some space for new things and make some moolah for my whanau. I love vintage, I'm always jealous of French, English and American fleamarkets. Tomorrow for a small window of opportunity I'm going to play secondhand dealer. My husband is clapping his hands for he will see the benefits of all the stops to the op shops, recycling centres, hauling home random things that he couldn't understand anyone wanting. He's also under the illusion that he will be able to park the car in the garage again. Ha! Dreams are free. Come on down if you're in Wellies and say hi. You'll find me. I tend to stand out.
Now I need to get some sleep. Back to my day job of being a mother in three hours time. Its a bit random working nights and then childcare during the day however we do what we can when we can. One day at a time. Bless. Ahipara Girl. x