Busy times in the Studio 
The last few days since I got back from my holiday have been very busy. A number of visitors, mostly tourists but also one or two friends and people I know. A few days ago Serena and I had a visit from Bev Furness from Auckland. Bev spent a week in my studio about three years ago learning to weave tapestry so it was lovely to see her again.

Yesterday my friend Gwen brought her grandaughter Hayley into the studio so that Hayley could have the tapestry experience. Hayley proved an apt pupil. She loves working with her hands and also draws well. I asked her to make a small design with coloured paper shapes and then we warped up a small frame and she was weaving in no time.

Also yesterday I had a surprise visit from Kate Derrum and her husband. Kate is an Australian Tapestry Weaver who does beautiful work. She was acting director of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop for some time, and I met her when I visited the VTW two years ago. Kate has lectured to tapestry weavers here in New Zealand and she tells me that she is no longer at the workhshop but is now concentrating on her own work. It was a big buzz to have her visit my studio and we spent a lovely hour together. One of the very good things about having a studio in the Arts Centre is that many people just turn up out of the blue to visit and as a consequence of this I have met many interesting artists and tapestry people over the years.

Back from Holiday 
Well, here I am, back to work after a lovely time over in Westport. Brian and I spent a few days wandering around the Buller District. We went to Karamea and walked to Scott's beach which is an hour up the Heaphy Track. Walking through the native bush is just awesome, very good for the soul. I took a lot of photographs, details of bush ferns and mosses, larger images of nikau palms, cabbage trees and of course the rata, which was blooming in abundance all over the Coast. Beautiful red in the bush. The rata is an interesting tree, as it is sometimes a parasite, setting its seed in the branches of a rimu or kahikatea and overtaking that tree, and sometimes it is a tree in its own right if the seed falls and germinates in the ground. Beautiful to see at this time of the year.

We stopped at Ngakawau and walked out on to the beach there and I took photographs of the remains of my Aunty's house which had been washed away by the tide a few years ago. Just a few slabs of concrete overgrown with coastal plants, remain. Made an interesting photograph.

On the Tuesday of last week we went up on to the Denniston Plateau above Waimangaroa and spent two or three hours wandering around up there, again taking photographs and enjoying the view towards Westport. I remember playing basketball at the school in Denniston when I was about 11 years old. Only two houses up there have people in them now, but I stood on the edge of the incline and photographed that. My brother-in-law Bruce Roberts was one of the people who dismantled the Denniston Incline a few years ago. Just being up there makes you think about the hard lives of the people who lived up on Denniston, trying to make a living from the mining of coal. It must have been terribly hard on the women. I bought a copy recently of the lovely book 'The Illustrated Denniston Rose' by Jenny Pattrick. There are many of the old Denniston photographs in that book, so for anyone interested in old places it is a 'must buy'. Certainly was for me. She captured the essence of what it must have been like to live on Denniston in the late 1800's and in the early part of the twentieth century when it was in its heyday.

I am back now working away on 'Cityscape' as I want to have it finished before the end of February. It is going well, and with a bit of luck with be finished before then.

More Stuff! 
I am going to be going away for nearly a week - over to Westport to my nephew's wedding and staying on for a few days. I was born and bred in Westport and some of my siblings still live there. I have not been home for over two years now, so it will be good to spend some time there.

I thought it would be a good idea to post the latest image of 'Cityscape' so here it is!

This image shows the detail of the figures in the shop window and they can be clearly seen if you tip your head a little to the side.

I have also been working on a small portrait of my accountant Bruce Finnerty. This tapestry has been commissioned by Bruce and is being woven on a small frame which I have it set up at home now, so I am working on it in the evenings. Two images show the work in progress.

I enjoy weaving these small portraits and have been commissioned to weave three or four now. If anyone is interested in commissioning a portrait tapestry of yourself or your family etc, a tapestry this size which is approximately 20 x 20cm would cost somewhere between $850 to $1200 New Zealand dollars. A photograph could be easily sent to me by e-mail from this blog. I would then create a design concept from your photograph and send that on to you for approval. I would allow four to five weeks to weave a tapestry this size and it would not cost a lot to send anywhere overseas.

Tapestries are unique and unusual art works to own, are a good conversation point in your home and can be woven to any size.

Now I am off to Westport tomorrow morning, and will post another blog page when I return home.

Work in Progress 
I have been working quite steadily on the tapestry 'Cityscape' and am pleased with its progress. It has to be completed by the end of February at the latest as it will be sent to the Norsewear Awards in March.

The colours in this tapestry are working well. I am mixing the colours on the bobbins only and there are many many different shades of green in this work. It is quite amazing how one new thread in the bundle completely changes the colour. In this work I am also fascinated by how the images have been simplified and abstracted yet are still recognizable as figures. I am working at the moment on the models in the shop window. It is difficult to see them as the tapestry is being woven on its side, but they are definitely forming as I weave.

The first photos is a detail of the central portion of the tapestry, and the second photo shows the second figure forming as the tapestry grows. You can see the figures quite clearly on the cartoon at the back. There are a lot of slits in this tapestry as I am outlining almost every shape in either black or a related colour. I am sewing up the slits as the work progresses as it would be an awful job to sew them up after the tapestry comes off the loom. Also by sewing them up as I go, it helps to keep the tapestry stable and strong and prevents any buckling that might occur otherwise.

Happy New Year 
Looking at my blog page this morning I realise that it is past time for me to add a new entry. Happy New Year to all my readers whoever you may be! I have had quite a lovely laid back time over the Christmas and New Year period with a few days out of the studio. Yesterday my friend Brian and I went out to the Rail Trail near Little River fand walked along it for about two hours, thoroughly enjoying the bird life, the fresh air (and it was fresh, so we were fairly warmly wrapped up) and taking a lot of photographs. A very nice way to celebrate the start of a new year.

The week before Christmas saw the opening of the Members Exhibition 'Gates and Journeys' at CoCA. I have a work accepted for this exhibtion and here is a photo of that work and some of the others around it.

My piece is a series of photographs of my Dad,Alan Rea, portraying his journey through life. He died in 1998 and these photographs show some of his life experiences from when he was a young man until a few days before he died. The images were taken from old photographs which I scanned and enhanced on my computer. Some of them were cut up and collaged, and then the nine pieces are displayed together as one work. Here is a close up view.

The sculpture in the first image was created by one of our Eklektika people, Erica d'Stewart and is a lovely wee work. This exhibition is on show at CoCA for another two weeks I think, and is certainly worth a visit.

A Mini Exhibition  
The three textile artists in the Artists Quarter, Sue Spigel, Serena McWilliam and myself have displayed our small brooches, pendants and bracelets in a mini exhibition of these miniature textiles. We have all worked pretty hard over the last few weeks preparing the work for this display and are pleased with the result. It is surprising how long it takes to create the small works as they can be very fiddly to make. However the end result is worth the effort

The small textiles are all on the middle shelf with my tapestry pendants hanging from the yarn cones, Serena's bracelets and brooches on the white cards and Sue's on the black cards. The small sculptures on the top shelf were created by Mike and Wendy Sargent who work in stone, wood and glass. The bottom shelf has paintings and drawings by Anna Schoolderman, Maxine Burney and Mehrdad Tahan. Mehrdad has his studio on the top floor of the Chemistry Building and Maxine and Anna both work in the Artists Quarter with us.

Miniature tapestries to adorn the body! 
I have been working quite steadily on weaving more of the miniature tapestries to make pendants and brooches out of them. Here is an image of some of them. The designs for these three came from the windows of the Christchurch Art Gallery. The gallery has a whole frontage of windows which reflect the light, the sky, the clouds wonderfully and it is right across the road from my wee flat in Montreal St. I am so lucky to live within the Cultural Precinct of the city, with the Art Gallery out of one window and the Arts Centre out of the other.

I scanned the photographs of the Art Gallery and then cropped them on Photoshop, changed the colours and hurrah, lovely images to weave. These wee tapestries have been made into pendants. They are 4.5cm wide and 4.5cm high and have been sewn on to a perspex backing. I am really pleased with these ones, love the yellow and black with the small amount of blue. I have sold one already. Joy Skinner from Perth, Australia visited my studio last week. She was a student of mine at the Creative Fibre Festival in Ashburton last year and here is a photo of Joy wearing the pendant she bought.

I am still having trouble with the sizes of the images I post on this blog. They are either too big or too small. Guess I need to check out what the optimum size is before I add them to the blog. Never mind, I will get better at this. It was lovely to see Joy last week. She is very enthusiastic about tapestry and is thinking that she just might go to Geelong next September to do the 'Portraits in Tapestry' workshop which I will be teaching at the Fibre Forum.

Another Try with Photo of 'Cityscape' 
Here goes with another try to put up a better image of 'Cityscape'. I have just downloaded some more images into my computer so hopefully this one will be better.

This image shows where I am up to at the moment with the weaving.

City Life tapestries 
I have been working on a series of tapestries entitled 'City Life' for a wee while now. The first tapestry in this series is 'Exhibition Opening' which was first shown in my exhibition
'Primary Connections' at CoCA in January 2005. The second work is
'Picnic' which shows my grandchildren having a picnic in the gardens. At present I am working on the third tapestry in the series 'Cityscape' which shows shop fronts in Cashel Mall in the centre of the city. Tapestries take such a long time to weave that a particular series may take four or five years to complete. I will show these works together one day.

This image shows a detail of 'Cityscape' in the early days of weaving it. I am almost at the halfway point of this tapestry now, and this next image shows the section where I am working now. The tapestry has been rolled around the bottom roller and the design concept is hanging from the shafts at the top of the loom.

I am sorry that this image is so blurry. I hadn't realised that it was as bad as that. I am now using the digital camera but seem to be having problems with the focus. A lot of the images I take are blurry and I am not sure why that is. I must be moving the camera I think, when I press the button to take the photo. Any advice from people who are experts in taking photos with a digital camera will be much appreciated. I will try and post a better photograph of this work next time.

The contact from this blog page does not seem to be working so if anyone wants to contact me my e-mail address is marilyn@tapestry.co.nz A simple one to remember.

Serena's Studio 
I am posting here a photograph of Serena McWilliam in her studio in the Artists Quarter. Her studio is diagnonally across from mine, and Serena does beautiful work. Her specialities are machine embroidery, botanical drawing and printmaking. The main focus of her work comes from nature, from plants, flowers etc and she has a strong interest in the decorative elements that stem from these. You can see examples of this in the work shown in the photograph.

Life in the Artists Quarter is a lot of fun and we have many interesting things for visitors to see. It is the only place in Christchurch where people have a chance to see artists actually working and producing original New Zealand works of art in many different mediums.

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