Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wellington on a Sunday morning

I love my city. I love the geography. The hills, the multiple harbours, the coast, the skies. We travel to church early most Sunday's for the music team sound check. The kids and I go to the market and playground nearby. It's hard getting up on a Sunday sometimes and getting everyone ready for an early start. Especially when you know everyone else in the city is sleeping in. Still, it's worth it. There's something about being in the city when its empty, deserted. It feels fresh in the crisp morning air and the lack of noise creates a vacuum that only makes the kids voices and laughter ring out clearer. I really have come to love these times.
It's a good time for reflection.

It always pays to look up.

To look out (here, towards Te Papa).

To look down.

And because its Sunday, its also a good time to look within.

To reflect on God, His creation and His purposes for our lives.

My three sons. Really.

Complying with their mama for a moment.

This is my life. Here. These three men to be.

This is my calling.

This is Wellington on a Sunday morning with my family.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Playing shop ...

Is there anything more satisfying than a collection of buttons (and thimbles) to run one's hands through and play with? (photos taken in the middle of the night hence weird lighting).

I have collected a fair amount of vintage buttons over the years. These are just some. I also love old sewing paraphenalia like wooden spools. Old jars are a great way to display my collections.

This was one of my favourite vintage cushions. Its gone to a Cath Kidston fan of all things floral. It was silky and looked hand painted. A great recent find.

I cannot walk by vintage floral cotton sheets. They're cheap and plentiful and I've had many for years however they're becoming more popular among crafters and lovers of all things vintage. I love mine. They're all patterns I remember my grandmother having.

My last son is growing up so these handknitted bears need to go to new homes where they will be loved and appreciated by other kids.

These are the choice pieces of my vintage blanket collection.

Part of my extensive vintage wallpaper collection.

Flatware, crockery including Meakin and Crown Lynn, and some retro Scandanavian pieces. Many were found in free boxes or the 20 cent table, nothing would've costed me more than $5 but most was free or thrifted for a song.


This fine lady has hung on my wall for a few years. She reminds me of my mum. There's a photo of my mum modelling when she was younger and there's something in this picture that captures the same uncomplicated youthfuness of that photo.

This lady sold. I found her for a song as well. I loved her painterly quality and the absurd cat on her head. Her soft muted tones and that shirt as well as her folksy face gave this print great visual qualities. I shall miss her.
This is a recent folksy print I picked up locally. Its colours are incredible, this photo does not do it justice. It looked almost fairytale-ish but is actually rather sinister. Those trees are dark in nature and the animals have a manic, starved look about them. Its because of its unusual content, it caught my eye. None of these pictures cost me more than a few dollars. I'd love to know more about this print's origins and the artist who created it.

These floral prints are making a big comeback. Every now and then I need a bit of girly-girl to bring balance to my absurdly testosterone loaded home.

It was a spur of the moment decision to grab a table at Wellington Underground Market last weekend for their "Retro, Recycled and Restored" themed event. We had NO money for the booking fee, float or even a coffee (thanks to a friend for a one-day loan), NO idea of the space available, NO idea at all. However we did have a few things I thought people might be interested in.

Just a bit of history. A couple of weeks ago, having decided I did not want to return to work (which we all know now is about as attractive as sticking a pencil in my eye or smashing my head with a mallet), I did a little thing in the middle of the night. I prayed.

I simply asked God to help me create success and income to contribute to our family using whatever strengths I had and the rest would be a leap of faith. If I've had an idea since, then I've pursued it.That in a nutshell is my entire business strategy.

Then a friend sent me an email about the market last Saturday. A day and an almost sleepless night sorting out some goods and deciding on display left me exhausted on the actual day. All these things above were found in our home and garage, from years of gleaning at op shops, gala's and recycling centres throughout the country.

Suffice to say, we had an incredible response and were selling to other marketplace holders before it officially began. I also traded with other stall holders and got some great things.

Richard had to keep picking up his jaw, it kept dropping to the ground as he realised what people were prepared to pay to own some of our things. In his eyes they were old chipped bowls, vessels for his curry ingredients and things that had kept his car from being parked in the garage.

One of the successes for me was hearing him command me "You must go op shopping all the time" and he promised to never drive by another opportunity ever again. In fact he even came for a short trip to the thrift store today. So I won his support wholeheartedly.

The leather suitcase and hatbox were props only. I could've sold them many times over though.

This is about half of the goods I took. We ended up with three very full tables plus things on the floor. Unfortunately I was so busy, I forgot to get a shoot of my very laden and fun retro table that hummed for the best part of six hours.

I want to thank the girls who run the Wellington Underground Market for a great welcome on Saturday and their continued encouragement and support throughout the day. I also want to thank my friend Betty-Ann for her support on the day as a shop assistant and her producing many resources for us including white table cloths amongst a plethora of useful things. I also want to thank dear friends, fellow crafters and makers, Catherine, Bonnie and Shellz for swinging by and encouraging me along. Finally to my husband Richard, who did the majority of the donkey work of lifting and hauling all the goods into and out of our car FOUR times within 24 hours, and my kids who were self supporting at home on their own while their parents worked our neyney's off, a big thank you for your support.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ahipara Girl, The Maker

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

Posted by Picasa

The unhappy flower

Unhappy because I was cross with him. It'd been a long day of rowing and we'd hurt each other with our words and silences. He said something dumb at dinner. I was only there for him in the first place. I was crying in the toilets for awhile. We get older but some things never change (although its been ages since I've cried in a toilet).

This little raddish sculpted like a flower on our table was both a blessing and curse that night. He couldn't be bothered helping me capture these photos. We are over it now but these images captured on my Android and edited on Picassa should bring me joy and instead make my heart heavy.

Fifteen years married so it has context and it was only one day. However I do still have my dreams about castles in the sky, a knight in shining armour and living happily ever after. I am after all that complex mysterious sometimes nonsensical creature - woman.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 4, 2011

hand stitched ...

I'm drawn to handstitching. Its a slow methodical process and in my case its not fussy nor fancy. I am self taught. My sewing looks like I'm stabbing the cloth and in some cases my fingers. I have a repertoire of about five stitches ... in and out (running stitch), tidy edge stitch (blanket stitch), one that looks like branches (feather stitch, I think), seed stitch which looks like its name and xxx's (cross stitch).

I'm not a strong artist. I've been making myself draw everyday for at least half an hour to strengthen my skills. I work by instinct. I respond to things when I hold them in my hands. I draw on my memories and experiences and work and work until something starts to surface.

Above are details of one of two long slow cloths (approx 1.5m x 1.5m) that I've been pootling with for a while now. I pick them up and in my spare time, I stitch on them, then grow weary of them, so away they go, until I'm compelled to pick them up again. One is almost two years old.

I enjoy the feel of cloth in my fingers, the bunching of it and then smoothing it back out. No pins are used. I just attach bits as I go, and my cloth grows upwards and outwards made from small pieces of salvaged cloth. . My husband is quietly frustrated at times because I can't for the life of me sew a hem for him. I take them to a friend who lives next door who's a whizz on her machine.

I use all kimono fabric gleaned from Asia Gallery. I love the cloth I find there because its old, marked and made from natural fibres: hemp, linen, silk, cotton, and wool. I'm just adding another chapter to the narrative that already exists in the cloth. Tripping across the top with my marks.

I have recently reorganised my sewing things into an old toolbox and enjoy rummaging through my things. I love collecting old wooden cotton reels, bobbins, needle books and pincushions as well as fashioning my own. I have jars of vintage buttons that I own just for the pure pleasure of having them and several times a week, my son Knuckles and I tip them out, play shops with them or just sort them into size, colours, shapes and into little pottery containers also garnered from Asia Gallery. I'm also the owner of this little beauty (click on link to see)

Buttons, little treasures that I find on my regular jaunt through our local thrift stores or along our shore here in Titahi Bay. Buttons that wash up in the tide probably due to the water treatment plant around the corner where the grey water from washing machines is drained. The local tides do the rest, dumping them in one small area along the shore, sometimes finding up to 50 buttons at a time. I have one whole jar dedicated to my beach buttons alone. Those and my thrifted shell buttons are my prize ones.

Yes indeedy, I enjoy working with a needle and thread, each stitch a decision in its placement and existence. I love my collection of old cloth, wondering as I sew who owned them and used them and reused them. I love vintage sewing accoutrements and paraphenalia, like a magpie, drawn to the tools of a stitcher. How about you? What draws you? What compels you to surround yourself with what you have around you?
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 3, 2011

hiapo tatau

My long-awaited desire to have my hands inked has begun and with it, the sense that who I am is finally working her way to the surface. Years of uncertainty, coupled with the ongoing sense of being confined and hidden away as I do the work of raising my children; with age and experience, clarity comes forth.
Something hidden, something revealed.

There is much to be said about my love for hiapo, the traditional Niuean barkcloth covered in freehand painted symbols. Its fuelled my work and its silent presence can be felt in much of what I do as an artist.

Niue is where my husband's father came from. It is in his blood and therefore in my children. Tatau is the pacific (Tahitian, Samoan, Hawaiin, etc) tradition of tattooing at a coming of age, and for Maori, it is Ta Moko.

I chose my hands because they are my tools that I see everyday. I am over the moon so to speak, that everyday I live with hiapo, I look at it and I display it for others to know. Hiapo is rare and mostly found in private or museum collections.

The artist John Pule has done some significant artworks that are also influenced by hiapo. Along with my eldest son Nemaia, I was privileged to view his latest exhibition and immense collection of his works at Wellington City Gallery last year. I have a much used copy of "Hiapo" that Pule wrote with co-author Nicholas Thomas. It is one of my prized books in my collection. I think I wore out the one that our public library holds prior to getting one of my own.

I currently have his book "Huaga" in my possession on loan from equally hiapo-obsessed sister-in-law Naomi, who also produces beautiful works inspired by these cloths. I will post more later about hiapo. Part of me wants to hide it away for my own pleasure but part of me is compelled to share it's beauty. In his latest book, Pule turns new corners in his own work while his paintings still strongly reflect traditional hiapo wondrously. This artist continues to inspire me with his beautiful works both in content and scale. I'm attracted too to his use of colour in his latest works.

Much thanks to Tauranga-based Pacific artist Iata Peautolu of Fekai Studio for his beautiful and delicate work on my arm. For listening to my brief and coming back to me with a design that incorporated hiapo, visual space, lace (a nod to my grandmother and her love for crochet, as well as mine for all things handmade) and mehndi design for a more feminine approach to tatau rather than the commonly seen big broad heavy bands usually worn.

I wanted something delicate and light while being strong in content. Having tatau is a ceremony, that commences with karakia (prayer) and requires a strong sense of trust. I commend Iata, who along with his wife and children speaks fluent Maori, lives on tribal land, is committed to his art practice and has travelled the world in a performing arts team, spending time in Hawaii as well doing both ta moko and tatau, as well as here in Aotearoa.

I can't wait for my next ink which will reflect my own tribal roots of the far north along with more hiapo as well. There is no such thing as too much hiapo (I can feel Naomi smiling and nodding in agreement as she reads this).

Thanks also to Ana Coffey for capturing these photos on her bat phone despite us both being at music group with our children, while many other kids milled around, the vacuum cleaner was going and being at complete odds with what we were trying to achieve. You are a phenomenal woman Ana, being a great mum, a city councillor and friend. Thanks for this service you've done me. Ka pai sis.

If this is my 40's bring it on. Like all things, women get more beautiful with age. If you ask me, society has it wrong only glorifying youth. Beauty is what we choose it to be. Indeed all ages have their qualities and we do not become less as we age. Indeed, I'm feeling more powerful than ever. It reminds me of the Maya Angelou poem that I shall leave you below.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Maya Angelou

Posted by Picasa

Mt Maunganui / Tauranga (1)

A recent mid-winter trip to the Mount and Tauranga for a week with the kids while Richard worked was a real gift for us. The weather was beautiful.

I live in a city that is surrounded by hills, whereas Tauranga Moana has the most amazing big sky scapes. The first morning I took my smallest boy and walked the beach right where my apartment used to be (now replaced by an impressive waterfront mansion), right beneath the Mount itself.

We walked for a few hours, exclaimed over shells (the best shell beaches lie along this coast, in my humble opinion), and pootled around in the rock pools. Not much has changed since I was here last but I'd forgotten how spectacular the scenery is. Massive stretches of golden sand that just go forever and at low tide, revealing big stretches of sand. It was a spiritual moment for me. I always feel closest to God by the ocean.

The beach and my child bringing me shells, two of my most favourite things in the whole world. At times like this one can easily say "It is well with my soul", revelling in the utmost respect for the ultimate artist and creator who makes all things truly good.

He got to the top of the small bank and looked back at me as if to say "Holy toledo mama, check out this beach." And then he was off because he knows this is our time and our playground.

I used to sit here and pray and talk with friends in my twenty's, as a young single woman working for Youth for Christ, full of optimism and passion to serve others while finding myself. This view is so familiar to me.

He kept running ahead of me and then circling back with gifts of shells for his mama because he knows my love for treasures found on our walks. I love how for children, life is so simple and uncomplicated. They live in the moment.

A lot has happened since I last stood here.

"Some more mama". He brings me treasures to take back for his brothers as well.

Sky and beachscape in all her glorious and wondrous self.

A small shell, one of thousands, unique and perfect.

Nothing like a shell ring to take me back to my childhood.

When the grass is this green right beside the ocean, it speaks of life.

Knuckles goes exploring at the foot of Mount Maunganui.

A mansion where our small two bedroom flat once stood as a block of four.

Lots of memories and laughs, and where my sweetheart and I first started building our friendship seventeen years ago. We'll definitely be back.

Posted by Picasa