Today I have been getting my blog updated after 12 months of no activity. In that time we have sold our home and shifted from Kapiti Coast (Wellington) to Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula, so there have been quite a few changes for us. We have started to have a new home built which should be ready next year, close to the time of the Mercury Bay Art Escape. Alongside all the planning that goes on for that, we have also been sorting out a landscaping plan which includes a new weaving studio nestled amongst my harakeke. Last week we put some finishing touches to it. I am loving how it has turned out and can’t wait to begin weaving from there.
It’s official – I have been accepted for the Mercury Bay Art Escape in March next year! How exciting is that . . . although I must admit it is also a bit daunting. The next few months for me will be very busy with weaving, but I am looking forward to it with a great deal of anticipation! The only downside is that I won’t get to visit any of the other 53 artists this year. For the last two years I have loved going on the open studio tour – it’s quite an indulgence actually – to go at my own pace and to see what I am particularly interested in, lingering longer at places that spark my interest. It has been an absolute feast. What I have seen has been so inspiring, and I have loved the opportunity to meet the artists and see their workspaces. It is a privilege to be part of it this year, albeit from a different viewpoint.
One of the things I have loved about the Art Escape is that it has helped me realise that artists are regular people. This may not come as any surprise to you but in my head I have always had artists on a pedestal – as a special breed almost. In my world they were endowed with a gift that the rest of us were missing. And that meant that it was completely unattainable for me, simply because I had not recognised my own gifts. As I have met more artists and been brave enough to venture out of my own private world and into theirs, the discovery has been quite insightful. I realise now that we all possess the gift of creativity and we all have something that draws us in and captures our hearts and our passion. Those who are seen to be artists are those who have chosen to embrace this world and let themselves be transformed by it. Those who have been exploring and practising their art, valuing it as an integral part of their life, not merely something to do in their spare time. What a shift in my thinking!
I love a quote from poet, priest and philosopher John O’Donohue that says, “we live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender”. This sums up where I am at presently. A new season has been awakened in me and I am learning to surrender. The Mercury Bay Art Escape is a step in that direction. Click on the link below to read more about it. You can find me in the list of artists!
For anyone who knows me, the thought of me doing random weaving is laughable. Every personality test I have done over the last 15 years has come up with words like logical, methodical, rational, structured and orderly. There’s not alot of room for any randomness in there! But over the last two years I have been discovering a side of myself that is quite refreshing. It’s all about combining the left-brain with the right-brain. I have been learning that with my weaving it’s ok not to plan and in fact, I get quite surprising results when I don’t. So when I saw Harriet Goodall’s online random weaving course advertised last Christmas I was keen to sign up.
I have been following her blog for several months now and love her work. She uses natural materials from her surroundings and weaves them into “objects of textural beauty and function for modern spaces.” Her work is beautiful. Inspiring. And challenging. Her course was the perfect answer to my husband’s Christmas present shopping dilemma. It was brilliant how it worked. I received a password by email which gave me access to watch her videos for making a rattan heart using the random weaving method.
I had hunted around the shops for rattan but was unable to find any in the Kapiti area. Eager to try my hand at this randomness, I decided to attempt it with harakeke. Very quickly I found out why rattan is the preferred material (or rather why harakeke is not suitable). As you can see from the photo, damp harakeke needs some kind of support to hold its shape so the overall effect of a gently curved heart was lost.
Imagine my delight several months later when I meet a woman who is clearing out her carport and has bundles of rattan that she is wanting to find a new home for. I am overwhelmed at being provided with exactly what I need. And not just enough rattan to make one heart, but a whole carload of it. An abundance of rattan! Some people might say that is pretty random, but for me it is not random at all – I believe that when we discover our path in life then God supplies whatever we need to accomplish that. I was very excited AND very grateful and couldn’t wait to get weaving. I think you’ll agree the second heart is a lot more appealing!
About eighteen months ago we planted the beginnings of my pa harakeke with over 30 fans of flax from the Auckland Botanic Gardens. We were novices so a little unsure of what we were doing, but we followed instructions from Kerry Gillbanks, curator of the native plant collection. So far we have been absolutely amazed at how well they have grown.
A couple of weeks ago, on a visit back to Whitianga, I did my first harvest. With local friends Natalie and Brian (who have also volunteered to be caretakers of the pa harakeke while we are living in Kapiti) and my parents, I said a karakia and made the first cuts from the biggest plant. In some ways it was a bit hard because it was looking so healthy, but also it was such a pleasure to be able to bring harakeke home and weave with it. We are thrilled with the layout of the garden, even though at the time of planting it seemed like the fans were being spaced very far apart. They were planted in groups of three with 1.5 metres inbetween each group. The benefits of this have become obvious as we watch them growing. It was great to have room around the plants to lay leaves on the ground while harvesting, and also it makes it easier to do weeding and maintenance. And it means each different variety remains separate to the one next to it.
My next job will be to make signposts with the names of each variety on it. Already I have taken samples from each plant, split them into 1.5cm strips, hapine and boiled for two minutes. I have documented each one with descriptions from the Rene Orchiston Collection and also tested each one for muka extraction. It’s really interesting to notice the different qualities of each variety. A valuable resource. I can’t wait to harvest some more!
My greeting cards made their first public appearance at the Thames Market Day, with me having a table set up alongside my father’s stall where he sells his jewellery boxes made from recycled kauri and other NZ wood. It was so encouraging to see people’s reactions to them and to get some great feedback, and of course to make some sales.
The night before I had made about 30 flax flowers (putiputi) from the soft variegated coloured flax in Mum and Dad’s garden. Even though the colours will eventually fade when they dry out, they will still stay a bit two-toned. Several people were interested in a demonstration of how they were made and I enjoyed giving them away to anyone who admired them, that is, until a lady came along and wanted to buy the whole bunch!