Roberta is Leaving! 
Tomorrow morning I will be taking Roberta out to the airport and waving her goodbye. She is flying home to Denmark after spending almost three months in my studio.

We have got on very well and she has been a great help to me, talking to visitors who come in to the studio so that I can continue on with my work, looking after the studio if I have to go out of it, lunch times and 'going for the mail' times, etc etc. I will miss her and it will seem lonely in the studio for quite a while.

Yesterday we held an afternoon tea at the Artists Quarter to wish Roberta 'Bon Voyage'. You can see some of the artists who work in the Artists Quarter, (from left) Mary Lou, potter, Maxine, pastel artist, Katrina, jeweller, Serena, fibre artists and printmaker, Roberta and Galina who paints in acrylics. 'Me' I am taking the photograph!!

Progress on 'Mysterium' 
I have been working hard on 'Mysterium' my work for the Professional Weavers' Network of NZ exhibition 'Light Waves'. I am just on the halfway mark with this transparency weaving. It has been a bit of a challenge, but I am now really pleased with how it is looking.

This is the work as it was looking on the 6th March when I was just starting the fourth section. I am now at the top of this section working on the knots across the acetate. This image shows the knots at the beginning of the weaving and also some of the tangles that I get myself into. I am working with nylon monofilament, a grand name for fishing line and it definitely has a mind of its own. You can calso see the strip of acetate being laid in on top of the knots. With Roberta's help the other day I 'invented' a small round piece of plastic with a hole in it and this sits at the end of the bobbin with the nylon thread running through it. This is certainly helping to control the thread on the bobbin and I am weaving faster as a result. Necessity is sometimes the mother of inventions eh!

This last image shows a close-up detail of the weaving. I am using a simple tapestry technique of weaving for the main body of the work with the acetate strips laid in. Once they are all laid in in one row I weave four picks across to hold them in to the weave and then I start to build up the next layer. (see top photograph)

I am now quite enjoying the weaving of this work, but boy, was it a pain to start with. I will be pleased when it is finished though. I think I will be putting this work between two sheets of perspex with brackets at the back which will hold it out from the wall. I think it will need to be lit from the side and the back, but time will tell on that one. I will have to experiment a bit with how it will be lit I think!

An Invasion of Kids 
A couple of weeks ago my son Mike, his partner Penne and their five children along with Mike's friend Mark came to Christchurch and stayed for ten days or so. I really enjoyed their visit and spent some time doing the 'granny' thing, having one child a night to stay with me. My wee flat is way too small to have the whole family stay so Mike had rented a holiday apartment for the duration of their visit. The following photograph shows the kids in the studio. They are very creative children and the way to keep them happy is to give them paper, pens, crayons, paints, scissors etc, etc and they will work with these for ages very happily.

You can see Roberta in the background showing Nakiya rhe tapestry which she is weaving. Cairenn and Gianna are drawing at the table, as is Brenna on the floor. Annika is spinning the table swift with the green yarn on it. Busy, busy kids!

New Work for Professional Weavers' Exhibition 
The last few weeks have been exptremely busy, so much so that I have not had much chance to write my blog page. I have had visitors and family staying which has been very enjoyable and I am now back seriously working on my latest project. There are now actually four unfinished projects in my studio as deadline priorities keep changing and I am doing my best to work on everything at once - finding out that, that is not so easy!

The 'Musicians' tapestry has come to a halt for a while and is three quarters finished but does not have the priority that the latest endeavour has. This work is designed for the Professional Weavers' latest exhibition which is scheduled for late June 2008 at Pataka the Public Art Gallery in Porirua near Wellington. My concept for this work was accepted by the selectors back in October but I have only just started work on it. The theme for the exhibition is 'Light Waves' and we are all portraying 'light' through weaving. My concept is a 200 x 98cm woven work using nylon monofilament and images on acetate. These images are all metaphysical and alchemical images of light. The acetate is cut into strips and woven into the monofilament warp.

I started to put the warp on the loom about the 21st January and commenced weaving on the 30th January, so it took me over a week to have the warp ready to weave on. Monofilament is not easy to work with. It is very bouncy and certainly has a mind of its own.

Here is the warp and you can see how it was bouncing around the top beam before I started to tension it. Notice how the light catches the threads. They are actually rather lovely. I had an idea that I would put optic fibres in the warp and weft and commenced to add these to the warp where I needed them, but unfortunately when i came to tension the warp properly I soon learnt that tying a not in an optic fibre weakens it and as soon as I tried to tighten the thread it snapped, so I had to make a quick decision to take the optic fibres out. Quite a lot of agonizing went into this decision as I had envisaged light surrounding the images. However, I now think it is for the best and as the optic fibres were not in my original concept I have no need to worry too much about it.

Tensioning the warp was 'fun' but it actually went quite well. i used a hessian fabric instead of cardboard which I normally use to wind around the top beam to separate the threads, and the hessian worked really well for the monofilament. It seemed to keep the threads in their right places without too much trouble and the warp went on very evenly.

Weaving is a slightly different prospect!! s taken me a wee while to get used to weaving with this thread but am now feeling that I have it under some sort of control. There is an awful lot of actual weaving in this work as the threads are so fine. This next image shows part of the first section of images woven into the warp.

This image is a close up view of one of the images on acetate. Note the knots underneath the image and to each side of it. The light catches these beautifully and though it does not show to advantage in this photograph because of the brown hessian in behind, I am confident that when this work is properly mounted and lit it will look quite stunning.

My Apprentice Weaver 
A few weeks before Christmas I received a telephone call from Roberta, an American lady who has lived for 56 years in Denmark. She was wanting to spend time in a tapestry studio as a helper-apprentice-student and asked me if it was possible for her to come to Christchurch and work with me. My spur of the moment decision was yes that would be fine and here she is.

Roberta has been in Christchurch since mid December and after a week of settling in to her wee flat next door to mine, and getting to know the city, she has also now settled in to the studio and is working on a small tapestry. She has also started weaving on sections of my latest work to give her experience on a bigger work. Having Roberta in my studio has been fun and it also means that if I go away for a day or so she can keep the studio open. So it is all good and we are enjoying each other's company.

A Friend at Work 

My friend Ross Malcom is visiting from Auckland and spends a lot of time on my front verandah working on his latest piece of jewellery. Ross is a contemporary jewellery maker using the found object as his inspiration. He has work in some of the major contemporary galleries which specialize in jewellery such as 'Fingers' and 'Masterworks'.

A Christmas Holiday 
This year I spent Christmas with my kids in Hamilton, in the North Island of New Zealand. All my kids live in the North Island except for my eldest daughter Nicola who lives in Hobart with her husband and three children. We had a lovely family gathering at my daughter Elissa and her husband Ian's place on Christmas Day. The only one of my children missing was my second daughter Krista, who was in England for Christmas with her husband Paul and the two younger girls. Jenna, my eldest grandaughter was in Wanaka with her boyfriends family and Matthew my eldest grandson spent Christmas with us.

This photograph shows my third daughter Kellie with her two puppies and Lissie and Ian's boy Connor. Kellie brought the pups over from her home near Taupo and the poor wee things were a little bit carsick on the way, so it was a wee job to clean them up and hose out their cages in which they had travelled. The largest puppy is 'Meg' named for my mum because she is a soft and cuddly wee dog, a Rottweiller puppy with a lovely nature. The other wee pup is only six weeks old and is a heading dog which Kellie will train the work on the farm where she is working as a shepherd and is responsible for a large number of cattle and sheep. This pup named Max will join her other two working dogs.

This photo shows three of my son's five children, the twins, Brennan and Cairenn and their big sister Annika playing with Max. The children loved the puppies, who were very well behaved and when they were tired of playing just flopped down under the table, ignored the kids, and went to sleep.

And here they are!!!

Here is Liam swimming. Liam is ten years old and is Nicky and Paul's only son. He has two sisters, Kate and Briar. I like this photos.

Christmas gift time and what a lot of excitement there was.

A Drawing for my Sister-in-law 
I recently completed a drawing of my sister-in-law's first grandchild, little Hayley who was born just six or eight weeks ago.
Marilyn (yes she has the same name as me! I often tease her about pinching my name when she married my brother Tony) gave me a two photographs of Hayley which I had to put together on my computer to make up one image and then I worked on a drawing from this photograph. A drawing is an interpretation, not an exact copy of the photograph and in doing such a drawing some elements come into it through the choices of the artist, that makes it an original work of art. A drawing can find the essence of a personality in a way that a photograph never can. When interpreting a photograph I try to simplify the image and find the essential qualities that convey the soul.

I am happy to take commissions for drawings such as this one. Just contact me through the 'contact me' link at the top right of this page (don't forget to enter the antispam number in the wee box above it) and send me your favourite photograph of your child, friend or family member and within three weeks you could have an original drawing. A quote on the price will be given on receipt of the image. Prices can range from $60 to $250 depending on the size and complexity of the drawing.

Progress on New Tapestry 
I have been working well on the tapestry 'Musicians in the Square'. I have been weaving for five weeks now, and am about one third of the way through it. As you can see in the photograph the colours are bold and strong and are working well together. The tapestry is being woven on its side so the image is not clear as yet. The sett is 8epi and the completed work will be 101 x 220cm approx. I just can't seem to get away from weaving fairly large tapestries. Somehow the design concepts demand to be woven large rather than small.

A Surprise Visit 
Last week I had a lovely surprise visit from my Irish cousin Margaret Rea. Margaret and I are both descended from Hugh and Margaret Rea from County Down in Ireland. Our great grandfather's were brothers. My great grandfather James Armstrong Rea was born at Hillhead Farm in 1842 and he decided to emigrate, sailing first to Australia where he arrived in Melbourne just before his 20th birthday. He spent six years in Australia, most probably mining for gold in the Victorian gold fields. He came to New Zealand on the Alhambra of 8th October 1868, arriving in Hokitika. The family settled on the West Coast where most of us were born. James' brother Thomas chose to go to America and he settled in Pennsylvania joining his uncle James McKelvy Rea.

Margaret's family stayed in Ireland and are still farming Hillhead farm. It is so good to be in contact with our relations in Ireland. There was an instant family rapport between us all. When my brother Peter Rea visited the farm in Ireland eighteen months ago he said that he felt instantly at home and was just blown away by the feelings of belonging that overhwelmed him. Maybe one day I just might get to vist the family in Ireland too.

These two photos show Margaret having a wee go at weaving in my studio. Although her visit was very short it was so nice to see her again. We first met about two years ago on her first trip to New Zealand.

Back Next