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.

'Cityscape' Tapestry hanging in the studio 
I have just hung the tapestry 'Cityscape' on the back wall of the studio. Here are two images of how it looks.

This tapestry was completed earlier this year and it features the shopfront window of Max's clothing shop in Cashel Mall, Christchurch. I have always been impressed by the quality of this shop's window displays, and the tapestry was designed from a photograph I took of a display that captured my attention. I manipulated the photograph on Photoshop and simplified the image until it became very abstract. I am quite fascinated by how much information can be lost in this process and yet the brain can still read the image and fill in the missing bits. I changed the colours away from the natural colours also as I wanted this tapestry to be part of a series of 'City Life' works. The tapestry is 139 x 89cm in size and was set at 10epi (ends per inch) and is a quite complex design. Here are two closeup details so that you can see the texture of the weave.

New Work 
Since my return from Australia I have been busy setting up my big loom for a new tapestry. I have been weaving now for almost two weeks and the tapestry is well on its way. This image shows the first week's work.

The tapestry is another one in the'City Life' series and features a group of young people playing their musical instruments in the square. The tapestry is 98cm wide and will be just over 200cm long. I can't seem to get away from weaving the big works, even though they are quite hard to sell. However, I hope to exhibit all these works together in a couple of years time.

These last three weeks or so have been very busy as I was also working on creating some original digital prints for the Eklektika 8 exhibiton which is showing now at Gallery O in the Arts Centre. The digital prints are a great foil for the tapestry as they are much more immediate and quicker to make. This year I purchased a very good Canon Pro 9000 A3 printer and these images have been printed on to canvas and then glued on to a stretched canvas. I am really pleased with the result. Canon is now claiming that their inks will last up to 100 years so I hope that they will do so.

This first image shows Susan Noble sitting behind the desk and in front of my work. Michael Smetham's painting is showing to the right

These two photographs are close-ups of the prints. I am calling these works origiinal digital prints as they do not exist in any other format or medium. They are different from reproductions and giclees as they are not copies of other work in a different medium so are therefore original works in their own right. The top image shows my 'Doll' series. I have photographed these old dolls many times now and created new images each time. The bottom photograph shows my grandson Matthew in three different colour ways. I created this image a few years ago but this is the first time that I have shown it.

Some Pics from my time in Hobart 
I had a lovely time in Hobart with my eldest daughter Nicola, her husband Paul and their three kids, Kate, Liam and Briar. My third daughter Kellie travelled there and back with me too. This photograph shows the view over Hobart from their home. They live in Sandy Bay overlooking the city.

At the end of the first week we all went for a tickey tour up to Cradle Mountain in northern Tasmania where we visited some caves and also went on a few small bush walks. The colours were beautiful, lots of Indian reds and oranges in the foliage, but unfortunately that didn't show too much in my photographs as we were there in the middle of the day when the light bleached the colour out. Here is a shot of the caves, a fascingating place, limestone with an underground river running through them and lots of colour too. Some wonderful ancient stalactites and stalagmites with such interesting shapes and forms.

The following photograph shows us standing on a rock formation above the lake at Cradle Mountain. Unfortunately we could not see the top of the mountain as it was covered in cloud. From left is Kate, Kellie, Paul, Nicola, Liam and myself with Briar in front. Don't you love my hat!!!!!

The final image of the view we had of the Myers fire on the day before I left for Melbourne and the teaching in Geelong. A most awe inspiring view of the fire. This photo was taken just as it was starting to get get and the flames could be seen very easily.

Teaching in Hobart 
Whilst in Hobart I spent three days in the second week teaching Cate and Robbie who are both fairly new to tapestry. They had visited my studio in Christchurch a few months previous to my trip and were both interested in learning more about tapestry weaving so we organised to have the workshop at my daughter's house in Sandy Bay, Hobart. Cate has been teaching herself from books and had done a number of samplers of different techniques so had developed some facility in weaving. We had three good days together and enjoyed the sessions.

Cate was learning more about the pick and pick techniques and Robbie was weaving from a small drawing he did of a light switch, learning how to build shapes, and outline them with a dark line of weaving which we call limning.

On the Tuesday at lunchtime we went for lunch at a cafe down on the harbour frontage and met up with Nicole Johnson. Nicole is also a tapestry weaver who spent some time weaving at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop in the 1970's. I enjoyed meeting with her, discussing our experiences in tapestry and seeing photographs of her work. Nicole is on the right with Cate and myself enjoying the relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant. Robbie took the photograph. I always enjoy meeting people who are passionate about tapestry and it is so neat also to find some new friends.

I'm Home from my Teaching Trip 
Well, I have been away in Australlia for three weeks and have been home a week now. I spent two weeks at my daughter Nicola's home in Hobart, Tasmania and had a lovely time with her family and also with my third daughter Kellie who came to Hobart with me. Family time is precious for me as I don't get to spend a lot of time with my kids as they all live a good plane trip away from me (and I am not that fond of planes, but do discipline myself to get on one now and again).

I spent the last week in Geelong at the Fibre Forum teaching a class of eight students how to deconstruct and then recostruct portrait images which were then woven into tapestries.

Here is the first image of the class working away at their tapestries. It was so good to get to know these tapestry weavers in Australia as I knew some of them by name only through my contacts on the tapestry lists. Yvonne Eade was the one who visited my studio last year and encouraged me to approach Janet de Boer with the proposal for this class, so thank you Yvonne, for encouraging me to take up this opportunity. It was good to put a face to Denise Stevens also, whose work I had seen and handled during the putting together of the Tapestry Network Suitcase Exhibition here in New Zealand two years ago. Also it was lovely to meet Chris Lucas (who you can see at left in the photograph) with whom I had corresponded through the tapestry list.

This image shows some of the portrait design concepts using the deconstruction and reconstruction methods. We had a lot of fun working on these images and enjoyed the results. Each student did a number of designs and then chose one to weave.

These two photographs show the tapestries in progress. The tapestries were set at different setts according to the detail in each design, so some students were working with a very fine sett of 18 - 20epi and others at around 14epi. It can be quite difficult to weave the shapes and tonal values necessary to get a likeness in weaving portraits, but you can see from the photographs that the works were coming along nicely. Unfortunately it is not possible in five days to complete these complex wee tapestries so the students were taking them home to finish them. One student Meg Lowery has already sent me the photograph of her completed tapestry. Meg is an experienced fibre artist but this is her first tapestry. See below.

Lace 2 
"Lace 2' is growing!! I have been back working on this tapestry for the last three or four weeks and at last it is looking as if I am getting somewhere with it. I am about six inches away from halfway now. I love working on this piece. It is very fine for such a large tapestry, 13 epi, with a 12.6 warp, with a lot of colour blending using a wide range of yarns, mostly wool and some polyester cottons and silk.

This image shows work in progress on a small section of the tapestry. You can tell how many colours I am using by the number of bobbins that are hanging from the fell line. The colours are mixed on the bobbins and also blended during the weaving process.

These are my working hands. Note how I am holding the bobbin in my right hand and picking up the threads with my left. The bobbin never leaves my right hand and I pass it through the weft threads bottom first, with a quick flick of my wrist. I am lucky that I do not seem to be having any problems with RSI in my wrists, probably because I do take a lot of rests between working times. My natural way of working is getting up and down a lot, taking small breaks, so I do not sit and work without moving for hours at a time. I also get up to rewind the bobbins every time one runs out of yarn and that helps too. I wind the bobbins by hand as I do not have a bobbin winder.

This image is a close up view of the work. You can see the detail of the blending of colours often over very few warp threads. I am often working over just three or four threads at a time and using two bobbins. You can also see the stitching threads, as I am sewing the slits as I go on this tapestry. The reason for this is that the work is so large and fine that it would be a terrible job to try and sew the slits later. Also, by sewing the slits as I go it helps to keep the web firm and under control. With so many slits it is easy for buckling to develop, especially if the turns are not firm enough. Sewing the slits certainly helps to control that. I am using a black cotton thread to sew the slits and it mostly disappears into the weft, but can be seen occasionally. No worries with that though, as it is all part of the work.

Exhibition at NG Gallery 
The last few weeks have been very busy for me as I was preparing for this exhibiton before I went to spend a week in Hamilton for my daughter's 40th birthday. The exhibiton was due to be hung the day after I returned home from Hamilton so I had to make sure that everything was ready before I left to go away.

The exhibition features the five collaborative tapstries that I had left in my studio. These tapestries are shown alongside some work by the artists who created the design concepts for the tapestries. also showing are three tapestries of my own design and ten photographs from my series 'The City - After Dark'.

The NG Gallery is a beautiful large space which inclues a cafe and a section from where Sharon Ng, the gallery owner and director, also sells her lovely collection of fashion garments and other high quality furnishings. So it is a different place to show art works and the visitor can acquire a sense of how the art may look in a home environment. This photograph shows the tapestry 'Cityscape' on the left alongside the photographs of the city. The tapestry 'Living in the South Pacific' designed by Michael Reed hangs alongside three of his wonderful prints and a Dilana Rug which he also designed is on the floor.

This photograph shows the small tapestry 'Do Not Stare' designed by Paul Johns, alongside two of his large photographs.

The Railway Cups tapestries hang on the large painted wall in the gallery and Rudolf Boelee who designed the tapestries has hung three of his screen prints alongside.

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