A Book about the Tapestry Screen 
I have been working on a booklet about the story of the making of the Government House Tapestry Screen. This screen has such an interesting provenance that I felt it was necessary to write a booklet about it. As Her Excellency Lady Susan Satyanand owns the copyright as the commissioner of the Screen, I asked her permission to write the booklet. She has very graciously allowed me to write this story as it will add value to the screen in the future, giving the true story of its provenance. She also agreed to write a foreward for the booklet, and I would very much like to thank her for that.

This image is a photograph taken from my computer as I cannot show a finished copy as yet. This will be the Cover of the booklet. Also I am not sure of the price of it as yet, as I will not know that until I know how many copies I will get printed. The more copies I have printed, the cheaper they will be. I am hoping that they will cost somewhere between NZ$20-$25 each. If anyone would like to order a copy please e-mail me - marilyn@tapestry.co.nz with your contact details. As soon as the booklet is completed I will let you know the price, etc.

The Government House Tapestry Screen 
At last I can tell the story of my last commission. In November last year I was approached by Ian Athfield Architects to submit a design concept for a tapestry screen for Government House. The screen was to be commissioned by Her Excellency Lady Susan Satyanand, the wife of the Governor General, as her gift to the House on their leaving in August 2011.

After receiving the brief, I worked very hard for a week to present two design concepts, weaving a small sample and creating a cartoon for one panel to give an idea of the finished size. I was very happy to be told that my submission was accepted. Little did I know at that point what an interesting journey these tapestries would undergo.

Because of the very short time frame I employed another weaver, Diane Ammar, to help me weave the tapestries. Diane was a former student of mine and she proved to be a very good choice as her weaving was excellent and we had a lot of fun times, and traumatic times together.

These two photogrpahs show the first two panels as they were a few days before the February 22 earthquake. We were about one week away from finishing these two tapestries.

Here are the looms in my brother's workshop after they were rescued from the Arts Centre studio. A couple of weeks later we also managed to get more yarns out so that we could continue working on the project.

We are back working together on the project and a week or so later the first two tapestries were cut from the looms and hung together for the first time. we were really pleased to see how well they fitted together.

Work continued on the next two panels. Every square in the background is made up of three or four different colours and not one square is the same as another. We had a lot of fun choosing the colours. Colours in tapesry blend in an optical way, the same way the colours blend on a computer screen and it was very interesting finding all the different variations in these tapestries.

This next photograph shows a close-up of the bobbins hanging in front of the tapestry.

Sewing stitches. All the slits in these tapestries were stitched together as we went along. The tapestries had to be 37centimetres wide, so we were constantly measuring the width and adjusting. Stitching the slits helped to firm up the work and keep the width even. You can easily see the mixtures of colours in this photograph also.

I invited a few friends and family to the cutting off of the last two tapestries in early June. Warren Feeney, the ex-director of CoCA, cut the tapestries from the loom. As my wee flat is way too small, we had some difficulty in taking good photographs, but here you can see Warren cutting the fourth panel.

And here are Diane and I celebrating the cutting off and seeing all four tapestries together.

After the tapestries came off the looms, there was still a lot of finishing to do on them. Threads had to be darned in the back and the fold back borders sorted out. We wove the last six centimetres for the borders as a mirror image of the previous six centimetres so that when seen from the back the borders were not obvious. It worked very well.

And here is the last photograph showing Diane and I in front of the completed screen. The tapestries at last in their frames. They were presented to Government House last Wednesday morning by Her Excellency Lady Susan Satyanand. We attended them morning tea put on for the Presentation and this event was one of the highlights of my artistic career.

Another visit to the Arts Centre Studio 
Last Thursday we were allowed back into the Arts Centre Studio to bring out some more of our 'stuff'. Wilson managed to bring his loom out and also his plinths and other things. I got the rest of my paintings the old tapestries that were in the storeroom, more of the yarns and heaps of other stuff. Loaded up the car until we couldn't get any more in. There are still quite a lot of things to get out so hopefully one more trip should do it. However, what is left in there are the big things, like the shelving, the lightbox table and the bin for the big paintings and drawings. There is still a cupboard full of yarns in boxes that must come out as well.

Here are some more photos showing the state of the studio. Evidently the walls are very fragile and may not survive another large earthquake, though they have survived a number of 5.something quakes, thank goodness. It doesn't feel too good being in there and we are pleased to come out. Quite a sense of achievement when we manage to bring a lot of stuff out.

Exhibition at 'Art in Oxford' 
The current exhibition at 'Art in Oxford' is 'Moving On' an exhibition of works by leading Christchurch artists. It was organised by Philip Trusttum and shows the work more than 90 works by 44 artists. I am really happy to have my tapestry 'Lace 2' as part of this exhibition. The opening was last night and Wilson and I went to Jo Seagers for dinner afterwards. She opened her restaurant for the artists last night and we had a lovely meal.

Some of the artists exhibiting are - Philip Trusttum, Barry Cleavin, Bill Hammond, Julia Morison, Graham Bennett, Martin Whitworth, Darryl George, Jason Grieg and many others. There were so many people at the opening that I didn't get a good look at all the work, so will have to go back again before the exhibition finishes. It is on for over a month, until the 10th July.

My Painting 'Native Fuschia' 
Yesterday I took the painting 'Native Fuschia' to live at my brother Tony's place. His wife and my sister-in-law, Marilyn, really loved this work so I suggested that I hang it in their lounge on a loan basis.

Here it is as it looks in a close up view.

And hanging on their wall.

The Transition from One Studio to Another 
The transition from one studio to another has taken a wee while. When I first came home to Christchurch a little over two weeks ago, my first thought was to visit my looms which were sitting in my brother's warehouse.

This is how the tapestries, the bobbins and the yarns looked when I first saw them. There was dust all over them but with careful vacuuming and shaking etc they are now all looking good.

A few days later my looms were brought into my home and the double taken and stored at Tony's warehouse in exchange for the loom. Thank God for a wonderful supportive family, brothers and sisters and all.

Here you can see my brother-in-law Cedric (at the back) helping the truck driver to carry one of the looms into the spare room. And here are the yarns that were first rescued.

And here are the looms all set up and almost ready for work.

Diane is tipping out the yarns rescued last Friday on to a blanket ready for cleaning. It took us about two hours to get all the dust off these yarns, but they are all looking good now.

And here we are - weaving again. Hurrah!

The space is small but it is working well. We just have to be careful to keep the yarns organised and tidy so that we don't trip up over them all the time. I am so lucky that I was able to set the looms up again and that we can now get back into the work. Happiness is............ being able to work at what we love doing!

My Studio in the Art Centre of Christchurch is No More! 
I am finally back into my blog again and see that my last entry was made on the 11th February. That day my studio was looking great and Diane and I were working away on my commissioned tapestries. Today, two months later this is how the studio looks. It is roughly the same area as the photograph shown in my last blog entry, except the loom is missing. My looms came out four weeks ago yesterday and were taken out by a team of people and an engineer whom my son-in-law Ian had organised from Hamilton. It was such a good feeling to have my looms safe. Ian worked very hard to achieve that and my heartfelt thanks go to him for all his efforts.

On February 22nd (my Dad's birthday) a very violent earthquake struck our city once again. This earthquake, only 6.3 on the Richter scale was the most violent I have ever felt, and I have felt numerous large earthquakes in my life, being born and brought up on the West Coast of the South Island. This earthquake was centred near Lyttelton, underneath the very hard rocks of the Banks Peninsula. These rocks are so hard that they did not absorb the shock waves but instead, bounced them off in every direction, towards and underneath the city. They were only about 5 kilometres underground as well which made it all worse. Evidently the G forces were enormous, larger than any before, for an earthquake of that size on the Richter scale.

I had a wonderful visitor in my studio that day - Sue Walker who was the director of the Victorian Tapestry Workshop from its inception in the 1970's until a couple of years ago. I was so wowed by her presence in my studio, and we were discussing the tapestries when the earthquake struck about five minutes after she arrived. What a welcome to Christchurch for her!! I remember saying as we struggled towards the door trying to keep upright, "Boy that one has got to be an 8!" We stayed under the door for a few seconds until the shaking subsided a little and then Diane and I made sure that Sue and another couple who were in the studio got down the stairs safely. At the bottom Diane and I, at the same instant, said "Gee, Our bags, the car keys!!" and back up the stairs we dashed, rushed behind the loom, delved under all the fallen stuff from the shelving, the dirt and dust from the walls, and rescued the bags and Diane found my carkeys. And didn't my kids give me a hard time about going back up!!!!!

Outside it was all chaos, people rushing everywhere, the Observatory Tower down on the ground, screams coming from all directions and then everyone standing together in the middle of the South Quad lawn. I was so sure that there were work people underneath the rubble, but I found out about two weeks later that nobody was hurt in the Arts Centre. We were all so lucky! Chris, the maintenance boss told us all to make our way home. I looked for Sue and couldn't find her, saw Serena panicking and breathing hard, gave her a hug and said 'Slow Down, take a deep breath" but she was off again once she realised I was out of the studio and safe. She also disappeared and I saw Diane striding out across the lawn before she disappeared too. I think all our instincts were to just get home which was what I did too. Walked to my car and slowly made my way home. Lissie my daughter rang my cell phone just as I got to the Montreal St corner and it was so good that she managed to get through! She remembers me saying that there were buildings down on the ground everywhere, but I have no memory of actually seeing them.

This was how the Observatory Tower looked last Friday when we were allowed into the studio to rescue more of my 'stuff'. We were given half an hour on Friday morning. I had gathered together a team of us, me and Diane, my sister Julie and her husband Cedric and George, Wilson's friend who also came in with us to rescue Wil's work as he had to attend ERO meetings that day and couldn't come with us.

Here we are in our hard hats, me, Julie and George.

And here we are waiting for our safety talk! Cedric all geared up with his ladder to rescue the Railway Cup tapestries, which he did beautifully. Quite frightening, but once we got in there we didn't have time to worry about being safe. We just got on with it, bringing out as much as we could in the time allowed. Liz Hodgson, who was the person organising everyone to be able to go into their spaces, is in the middle of us in the orange jacket. Liz was very helpful and supportive of our rescue. My thanks go out to her as well.

Here is a back view of Diane starting to pick up the yarns as she knew just what we needed to continue working on the tapestries. See all the plastic bins we took up with us. Loads of black rubbish bags as well. These photos are very blurry, as my hand was quite shakey and I took the photos too quickly being aware of the lack of time.

Here is a view of the studio looking towards Wilson's and Anne's looms with George photographing the mess. You can see my tapestries still rolled up under the glass shelves. They soon got picked up and taken outside.

Here are some of my paintings resting by the pool and waiting to be put into the truck.

Here is the alleyway between the studio and the Scott building next door. Lucky we weren't standing here when the earthquake struck. The beautiful old buildings are going to be rebuilt, but that will take time and money, I guess. I will not be going back into the Arts Centre with my studio. At the moment my looms are in my spare room and we are back working on the tapestries. I will need to relocate though as my wee flat is not big enough to hold all my studio.

Busy in the Studio 
This is my first entry on my blog for this year. I have been working, since my return from Hobart in early January, on a commissioned work that I am at the moment unable to publicise or advertise. However I can show you all the studio with one piece on the loom. This commission has a fairly tight time frame so I have employed Diane Ammar to work with me on this project. It is going well and we are keeping up to the required schedule. I rather overdid it in the first two or three weeks as I wasn't sure how fast we could work and a consequence of this was that my neck ended up with a touch of bursitis. However, I have now eased up on the amount I am doing each day and my neck has improved immensely.

Here is a view of the studio, taken yesterday morning, showing one piece on the loom and all the yarns surrounding us. The studio space is rather small, so we are stepping over yarns all the time. However, they look lovely and are very inspirational to our work. It looks rather chaotic but it is very easy to find the colours that we want with them tipped all over the floor like this. Diane and I are making colour choices all the time, mixing and blending the colours on the bobbins. Luckily we do not have to do hatching in the weaving, so the work is progressing faster. We are aiming to weave 1 sq ft each week and have almost kept up to that. The design is a mixture of complex and simple areas, so a good balance is kept there.

This image shows my hands at work.

And here is Diane sewing slits on her piece. She is weaving very well, as previously she has only worked on miniature tapestries. It is a huge change for her to work on a larger piece.

Here is what is going on outside the studio. The Observatory Tower in the Arts Centre was very badly damaged in the earthquake in September last year, and every aftershock increases the damage. A couple of days ago workmen started to put scaffolding up around the tower, so it looks as if work might start on trying to repair some of the damage.

The James Chu tapestry is Completed 

Here is the James Chu tapestry as it was nearing completion. His wife Julia, who commissioned the tapestry in memory of her husband James, came into the studio last Saturday and cut the tapestry from the loom.

And here we are after the tapestry was released from the loom. Julia is so happy with the tapestry and it will be given to her son one day to pass down through his family.

And here it is after all the finishings had been completed. It took me two days to tidy up the back threads and have it ready for hanging. Julia is coming into the studio this morning to pick up the tapestry and take it home.

A Day in the Studio 
Today has been rather quiet in the studio. I took Sharon to the bus depot yesterday morning so she is now doing the tourist thing down near Queenstown and visiting Milford and Doubtful Sounds, Te Anau, Wanaka and seeing the south of the South for two weeks before she heads north to Hamilton to spend a week with Nynke Piebanga in her studio under Pirongia Mountain.

I have been in the studio on my own today, as Anne is teaching spinning down at Ashfords for two days. Quite a few people came in including this family whom I photographed weaving on the small table loom which is always set up for people to try their hand at weaving. Here are Luca, Nico and Isabella with their Mum looking on.

I have been working on the commissioned tapestry and it is coming near to completion with about three more weeks work to finish it.

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