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.

'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.

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