Saturday, May 24, 2008

Alas no photos but ...

Lots of news. I will post some pics soon. Actually, truth be told, I have been a bit preoccupied and something as small as charging my batteries for my camera has not been a priority.
Is the name of the baby, so chosen by my five year old Marcus. Well for now it's"Knuckles". And Knuckles is giving me one heck of a ride through these first few weeks of pregnancy. I went for a scan this week and we are now 11 weeks pregnant. So Knuckles will be born in December around Christmas time and we are thinking that if it is a boy "Jesus" is a cool name ... just jokes. But how cute Marcus is in his prayers at night, asking God to look after mum and Knuckles. So now we all call the new person knuckles.
I must admit that the scan was helpful. I am not a clucky woman (I know, hard to believe, not!) and have never really had lovey dovey feelings about being pregnant and babies. Not even my own. However this does not mean I don't love my kids, because it doesn't. And I love other peoples babies (cos I can give 'em back). Yes I love my kids very much. I just find them a bit more relateable when they become rational people. My husband adores infants thank God.
When I saw the scan and saw the wee heart beating and a body in my womb it hit me, "that's a person". I do not enjoy screaming infants, baby bags, drool, unbearably long days of having only a baby for company, etc and fair enough, who does. I have friends who excel in this time, I don't. However, I do like them when they are older, moldable. I understand to each their own. This is my own preference.
However Knuckles is coming into a welcoming excited family. My three act as if they are pregnant - my two sons and husband that is. And I am more mellowed and my mind is slowly catching up to my body which seems to have yet again, become an entity unto itself. Some anti-nausea tablets from the doctor have helped too.
I miss out on meeting a rather influential person this month due to illness which saddens me. However I look forward to meeting her again under different circumstances. Nina is in the country right now (sigh) and I am here in cold, chilly Wellington battling nausea and a chest infection, with a sick child to boot. I love Nina and what she represents yet I have never met her. How is it possible? Through her blog and through seeing her work which speaks for itself. Yes, I have faith we will meet one day and then I will awhi her and never let her go (for a few days at least).
My own work feels as though it has taken a rather significant if small step forward. Still in an infant stage but with the sense that this could grow, I am developing the idea and prototypes of complex cloth, a form of art work in which I can express culture, whanau and spiritual values as I understand them. A series of works that will be the embodiement of my childrens historical origins as well as a set of signposts for future hopes.
What does that actually look like ... well, if my camera was working I could show you my first piece. It is a cloth-canvas (2m x 1.2m approx) created from eco-dyed silks, wool and cotton; laboriously handstitched and embroidered (well, I am in this process as we speak with hours of work left). I am still unsure why this is what I am giving birth to in my art practice but my research shows themes of 'identity', culture, context and narrative with my eye being drawn to texture.
Suffice to say, I am happiest when I am 'making'. When I am making something, as it forms in my hands, then my own natural creative juices seem more evident than in the more formal design process. Somehow it is hard to translate the experience of texture formed with textiles, stitch and embellishment on a 2D piece of paper through thumbnails. Still art school helps provide these sometimes useful techniques, creating a more evolved approach to making than just being inspired by materials. And I am coming to appreciate that art is about layers of meaning. However these layers are usually only important to the artist. To others, all that matters is that it looks good, or at least provocative. Whitireia Polytech where I am a student works on developing conceptual artists, who can take an idea and give it depth, meaning and soul. This is my understanding of what we are being pushed to develop.
Again, I am such an infant in these matters, but I am a little more relaxed these days, not sweating the fact I won't learn everything all at once. I am more mellow, enjoying things more and happily allowing myself to be focused on one thing at a time. Being chronically sick has forced me to chill out which is a positive outcome ... I guess.
It is with some sadness that as a family we left our home church of the past six years today. It has been a wonderful season, we are richer for it and look forward to our adventures ahead. Our church acknowledged our input, my husband having especially been dedicated and committed to the music ministry. We were released with love and tears. We look back and are grateful for these experiences and the people who we have been privileged to journey with. Next week we start church-shopping for a new home church. For us, we love being part of a community of people who are God-oriented. I have met many people who love God both inside and outside of church. We love church community, which meets so many needs we have, as well as the opportunity to bless others and be available to give back into our city. In the meantime, the lawns still need mowing, the cars need cleaning and the budget updated.
Thank you for leaving comments. I enjoy 'meeting' new people this way and hearing from 'old friends' who visit frequently. As the morning sickness abates, I hope to post more regularly.
Much love and warm thoughts from Wellington. R.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

settling in for winter ...

Things have been quiet here in our home, understandably so. There is a buzz if you are with the boys, they are excited to have a new sibling on the horizon. Quietly I tread, listening to my own inner voice and taking one day at a time. Of every seven days, I have maybe three where I am well enough to leave my bed and venture out, even if for a half day. I struggle through each meal knowing I will feel worse if I don't eat, but eating is the last thing my stomach wants to do. There is an upside. About ten o clock every evening I nearly feel like myself and so have an appetite. I stand up and the world doesn't spin.

We have managed to inject a few adventures on those days when all is well. We hosted our family here recently, and had a jolly time all around. My two nieces and even my nephew loved sewing and quickly dived into my supplies. On our second to last day they were a little production line, making felted teddy bears and my eldest niece sewing skirts and a dress for herself. I wish I could do that.

It got me thinking how different girls are. They love shopping. They love making things. They love talking. They are a little freer with their feelings and thoughts.

Boys are lovely but I do miss female company some days. Especially when I have just finished knitting a new design or sewing or experimenting.

That's where art school comes in for me. I enjoy the feedback and inspiration that comes from being around other creative souls. Given my current situation, I am not as driven as I was, preferring a gentle route, an enjoyable journey and the end gain, to finish my year well and SANE.

My motivation has changed to. In some ways, I was externally driven to produce works that are marketable, up to exhibition standards, etc, etc. However being pregnant makes one introspective, and my work is now (and I think always has been anyhow) something along the following lines ... "Footprints for my children and their future generations. Creating treasures that will help them navigate the world, understand their origins and give them a hope for the future."

Here are some photos from recent times...

LEVANA TEXTILES ... A trip to a textile manufacturer in Levin (one hour north of Wellington) was somewhat interesting. Here is a large cotton reel. Hundreds of these spin and weave to create fabric. Not really my cup of tea, but still, gave me an understanding of fabric production here in New Zealand, especially on a large scale. We couldn't take photos inside the plant which was a shame cause there were some great opportunities, however respect for that.

Another 30 minutes north and this old guy showed us around the flax mill museum, demonstrating an archaic machine that would strip ANYTHING (and to think a man had to stand under this noisy beast to keep the machine unblocked!!!). It was a thorough tour but I was busting for the loo and didn't want to be rude. I nearly peed my pants. Didn't know I was pregnant at the time, so that explains that!

My class colleagues ... Carol, Agilau, Chris, Joan and tutor Deb.
Me and my sample of muka flax. I love the golden colours. I am drawn to natural fibres.
My colleague Billee, and her amazing wardrobe. Billee is a senior student, a practising artist and a prolific one at that. She is always whipping up skirts, tops, ... you name it. Check out the feather she stitched to her cap. She's amazing.

I mentioned I joined the local Vaini Tini, the Cook Island women's sewing group to learn the traditional art form of tivaevae. Here is Mama Vaine, my mentor and her mokopuna. She whip out the fabric, pulled out a rough old plastic bag, cut in a pattern freehand and created two cushion covers for me to practise on.

Everything is done by feel. No patterns, no fancy equipment. This is as raw as it gets.
Carol, my fellow textile colleague joined me the week after. She was great, laughing with the mama's and taking their jovial banter with ease. Cook Island woman can be fierce, being a matriarchal society, but if you win their hearts, they are generous and loving.
My applique tacked down. A quick lesson in embroidery and the yellow stitching begins.

My eldest son's skills improve but with wet weather they are restricted somewhat. Nevertheless, they are so keen, my youngest has already worn out his skateboard and is patiently awaiting his new one next pay day.


We had a lovely visit. A quick photo outside our home. My mother-in-law weaves her own bags. My brother in law Marcus and his kids, and my boys.


No visit is ever complete to Wellington without a trip to Te Papa. Here I stand in front of a replica of the founding document of relations between indigenous peoples of Aotearoa and the British government, Te Tiriti O Waitangi. A document that was not upheld, led to many grievances and continues to be the founding grievance of many peoples of this nation.

What is it about little collections in boxes? I love them. I have always loved museums because they are all about collecting. This little medicine box was onboard a ship.
Isn't it delicious? Truly, these sorts of things make me drool. Perhaps why I was drawn to creating my own Taonga box last year. In fact, I am positive. It's the magpie in me.
Some wonderful examples of Cook Island sewing on these cushions in the education space in the Pacific Island section.
My eldest son sits in front of this beautiful ngatu (Tongan bark cloth) strumming on a ukelele while his father, uncle and the younger boys played on the Tokiri (Cook Island drums). How cool is that!
One of my favourite artists is John Pule. I was stoked to see a collection of his ink drawings on display alongside many other famous Pacific Island artists. What is it that I am drawn to? The 'collection' of small images, the narratives, the simple colour palettes of his work (often monochromatic) and his ability to bring a lost art (hiapo) forward into a modern context. Plus he comes from the same island (Niue) as my father-in-law.

So as a textile student I am drawn to this piece of contemporary art. Not a frock, rather a concept encapsulated in a frock. This designer is also inspired by Pule's work and this is a collaborative piece Doris Du Pont and John Pule.
Detail. The simplicity of the images keeps it tribal. A lot like my doodles and sketches in my art journals.

Another of my favourite artists, Sofia-Tekela Smith. I was stoked to see so many artists on display. These are just a few of my many photos I took that day. Definitely worth a look see if you are in town!
The blurb
ome random photos of treasures I spotted that day.
A classic lavalava design.

Hinaki - fishing net.
Artifacts of objects I recently drew from books. To see them up close and in person was the icing on the cake.
A small replica of a vaka (outrigger canoe) and some small treasaures. Ooh lah lah.
A fine handwoven fan, possibly from the Pandanus plant which is prolific in the Pacific Islands.
There was a wall covered in these vintage images of dusky maidens and savage warriors. I think they are beautiful.


I found a history of a man from Rai'iatea in Tahiti called Tupaia who toured with Captain Cook on his voyages. Tupaia was a priest who travelled to New Zealand and was able to help as a translator as Maori and Tahitian language is very similar. Tupaia was also an artist and rendered drawings such as that below. Rai'iatea is where my husband's grandfather came from. These all help me form research for my 'footsteps' for my children. Still I have no solid project in mind, but slowly things are coming together. This year is going to be based solidly on research and textile exploration. Creating a body of work is another story. That is still a matter of wait and see.

Here is Nanny Pari and her mokopuna - Jacina, Marcus, Marcus, Maia and Naomi. Yes we have two boys called Marcus, and of course my husband's brother is also Marcus, so very interesting having three Marcus's in one space. You call one and three turn around. This giant whakairo - carving is at the top of the stairs of the main entrance to Te Papa.
Outside it was a typical cold, wet, overcast Wellington day. This bronze cast man stands facing the harbour - bare and yet bold. It is really a beautiful piece.

Me, outside on the wharf.
My big kid and I.
Yes, my youngest is conspicuously inconspicuous. So where was he? Trailing his pretty aunty around for the duration of their visit. Often seen holding her hand, snuggling up to her or in earnest discussion. He clung like a small shadow. He loves beautiful woman, and he's only five!

As each day passes, I gain more clarity. Keeping well is my main goal for now, being available for my kids and staying in touch with my husband. I knit my first winter scarf over the weekend after a workshop with felt artist Tracey White last week. It is composed of silk threads and bits out of my stash. I wore it to dinner Saturday night which was conveniently served at 9pm and desert at 10pm - when I am well able. I stuffed my face with roast beef and caramel profiteroles. Mmmmm.

Thank you for the emails and words of encouragement. I hope you are warm and well.

Finally Happy Mothers Day to my mum, Moana who is a constant friend and source of strength in my life. You are loved and valued more than words can convey. I love you Mum and honour you for your generosity and ongoing cheerleading in us kids lives. More than that, your faith in God is tried and true. We love you.