New Zealand Contemporary Textile Artists is an exhibition organised by Alysn Midgelow-Marsden and Arts Council Nelson showcasing the work of 15 NZ textile and fibre artists. It is part of the Knitting & Stitching Show which took place in London in October, is currently running in Dublin and will move to Harrogate, England later this month.
As part of my Manu Series I made three birds specially for this exhibition. All three birds are endemic to New Zealand and fall prey to introduced mammalian pests.
Raranga (Māori plaited weaving) and bobbin lace combine to form these sculptural pieces in which colour and pattern are inspired by the plumage and calls of the birds. The work also reflects the intricate weave of relationships in an ecosystem.
Volunteering at an ecological reserve, Sanctuary Mountain, Maungatautari, has brought me into closer contact with native birds and I was excited to see translocated Kokako released on the mountain recently. Their presence there for the first time in 30 years was marked by cultural a welcome and I was honoured to have my first woven Kokako play a part.
Kokako are rare forest birds with striking blue wattles, blue-grey plumage and a haunting song.
Kereru are relatively silent, large birds uttering the occasional coo but with a noisy wing-beat. They have a white breast, iridescent green and bronze head and back and orange-pink beak and feet.
Tui are relatively common iconic New Zealand birds with a melodic song interspersed with harsh clicks. With a distinctive white tuft on the throat, their black feathers are overlaid by an iridescent sheen.
Photos of the London exhibition can be seen on Alysn’s blog and here is one from Dublin showing the birds.
My ‘lace-leaf’ idea emerged during a course at the University of Waikato in 2008. A couple of years later I developed the idea and made ‘Cultures Interwoven’ which was selected for the Love Lace exhibition in the Powerhouse Museum (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences), Sydney. Click here to read about it.
In my late teens or early twenties I saw a bobbin lace pillow in a museum somewhere in England or Scotland. I was intrigued. I wanted to know how the threads had been worked around the forest of pins to form the patterns. I have no recollection of what the pattern looked like which was an early indication that I would value the process of making lace above the product.
In 1991 I first made lace at a series of three Saturday workshops in Dungannon, Northern Ireland. They were run by Unagh McCullough who was the only person teaching bobbin lace in N Ireland at that time. She was an enthusiastic and excellent teacher and I was to enjoy many of her workshops over the coming years.
I still have the motifs and edgings that were my first efforts after learning the three basic stitches. The pin cushion is showing its age after 25 years of use.
From the ‘lace-leaf’ idea I have developed a Manu series in which colours and patterns are inspired by New Z ealand native birds, many of which are threatened species. The leaf tips with attached muka are divided into narrow strips and woven using raranga techniques while the muka is woven into bobbin lace. The resulting sculptural form suggests fleeting glimpses of the bird and snatches of its call. The work also reflects the intricate weave of relationships in an ecosystem and the understanding that different cultures attach different values to individual species and the places in which they live.
‘Birds’ at ArtsPost Galleries, Hamilton, New Zealand