For the last few weeks I have been working on two commissioned tapestries. The first one is a portrait of my Uncle Tony and Aunty Maureen. This work has been commissioned by my cousin Kevin Hickman and will be an heirloom work for his family.

The photo below shows how the tapestry is looking this morning.

I am really enjoying weaving this tapestry. It is very fine, 11epi with the 12/6 Cotton warp. There is so much detail in the work that it needed to be fine. The finished size will be 105 x 95cm.

I usually work one week on the portrait tapestry and one week on the landscape tapestry which is the one below. This tapestry has been commissioned by Barbara Allen and shows the view from her home at Duvauchelles on Banks Peninsula. Barbara will be moving from there sometime soon and wanted a tapestry that would remind her of her time living in such a lovely place. She also wanted me to weave some of the things that she was very fond of such as the pohutakawa flower, the Boatsheds, etc. I decided to include these as inserts into the main landscape. The tapestry is warped at 12 epi and I am weaving the inserts at 12 and the main landscape over two threads giving a sett of 6 in this area. That enables me to weave the finer detail in the inserts. I have noticed also that 6epi I am capturing the essence of the place. Both tapestries are being woven on their sides and as they are such different designs it does take me a wee while to get back into the flow of each one once I start to weave. So week about is a good way to go.

Photos of the Opening of 'Synthesis' 
Last Sunday was the opening of our exhibition at Arts in Oxford. It was a lovely event, lots of people came and it all went off without a hitch.

Speech time! Wilson explaining his love of weave structures. Brent Firken the Gallery Director at left.

Talking with Judy Rodgers.

Wilson with Ria van Lith and Valerie Osborn, both wonderful fabric weavers.

A view of my triptych painting looking through Wilson's scarves

Hanging the exhibition "Synthesis - The Links Between" 
Yesterday, Wilson, George and I had a very busy day hanging the exhibition 'Synthesis - The Links Between". I first visualised this exhibition of my paintings relating to Wilson's work over two years ago and it has taken us this long to get it all together. We were first booked to show it last year at Arts in Oxford, but earthquakes interfered with our ability to do enough work in time to show the exhibition then so rebooked it for July this year. It has been a lot of work, especially for Wil as he has had to weaver over 40 scarves and heaps of fabric to make his wall hangings and woven panels. I had to paint 8 large paintings all around 2 x 1.5metres in size and I finished the last one about two weeks ago.

The exhibitions explores the connections between the two mediums - fibre and paint - creating works that at first glance may seem to have little or no connection. With deeper scrutiny though, the parallels between the two become more obvious.

Paint needs to have structural support of some sort be it a wall, wood, paper or canvas. I chose canvas as the support for these paintings and worked in acrylics. Canvas is a textile, created through warp and weft using either cotton or linen - a fibre. I treated theses paintings as textiles, letting them hang free in their own space on the wall. Cutting into the canvas created new structures forming within the paintins. By using the canvas itself as warp and weaving strips of painted canvas in as weft, three dimensional elements were introduced. The imagery in the paintings was inspired by the structural elements of Wilson's textiles. By taking the woven structures out of their normal small scale and enlarging them hugelhy, new structures and abstractions were formed, thereby creating images with power and presence.

Wilson's weaviang shows a journey about weave structure and colour. Black and white particularly highlights structure and the contrast shows the interaction between line and form. the interaction of colour is evidlent in manhy of Wilson's hangings. When they move, and when viewed from different angles, the colour can change to give a different perspective.


The back wall was the perfect spot to hang this 14metre fabric length and doesn't it look stunning with the orange length in front. Wilson and George had to run wires across the gallery from wall to wall, above the lighting system, so here they are, ready to start putting in the first hooks for the wires.

I'm up on top of the ladder - birds eye view of Wil and George down below.

And here I am, still on the ladder, hanging the scarves.

Don't they look good. Note my paintings on tg=he floor - still to go up on the wall.

Sill on the ladder! This time making sure the painting is straight.

The painting 'Synthesis 7" seen through the hanging scarves.

The triptych 'Synthesis 4" also seen through the scarves. We had a lot of fun putting this exhibition up. It took us all day, but was worth it. Next Sunday 8th July is the official opening of the exhibition. If there is anyone reading this who hasn't received an invitation and lives in the Canterbury area, do feel free to come to the opening. We will look forward to seeing you there.

My First Live-in Student at 74 Edward Avenue 
My first student since I shifted into this house, arrived Monday a week ago to stay for ten days and learn to weave tapestry. Ngaire comes from south of Canberra in Australia, and has been a lovely student to work with. She has picked up on the techniques of tapestry very quickly, woven a sampler and has almost finished her first small tapestry.

Here she is at the end of her third day weaving the sampler which teaches many of the basic tapestry techniques.

On her fourth day here, Ngaire started to work on her first small tapestry which featured a gum tree from one of her own photographs. We scanned the photograph and cropped it on Photoshop. Ngaire then added more colour into the image with oil pastels. She drew the cartoon, warped up the frame and commenced weaaving, learning to mix and blend colours, figuring out the changing sheds as the weaving developed. This is always a challenge for a new weaver as the sheds can change with the taking out and adding in of new weft yarns as the colour needs change. Ngaire is also learning how to build up shapes as well as colours.

A close-up view of the prgress of the tapestry. Ngaire has added in small inlays of orange/pinks into the background.

A lovely happy photo showing further progress and development of the tree trunk. Note how the tapestry is being woven on its side. This is because it is much easier to weave vertical shapes across the warp rather than up the warp.

The work bench showing the range of yarns used in the tapestry.

'Four Directions in Tapestry' 
Last April I travelled to Blenheim with my friend Serena to hang the exhibition 'Four Directions in Tapestry' in the Marlborough Art Society Gallery in High St. The exhibition featured the work of four New Zealand tapestry weavers - myself, Trish Amour, Elizabeth Arnold and Stephenie Collin. We are all members of the Professional Weavers Network of New Zealand and this is the first time we have exhibited together. The exhibition was held at the same time as Creative Fibre the annual Festival of the Spinners and Weavers in New Aealand and was very popular with Festival participants.

Here I am - up the ladder - with Stephenie helping from down below and my ex husband Dave Menzies watching on.

Stephenie and I sitting in front of her tapestries after the hanging was completed. Steohenie's work is very contemporary, and strong in concept and colour.

This photograph shows the wonderful tapestries woven by Elizabeth Arnold. Elizabeth's pieces tell the story of the Burgess Gang who were bushrangers back in the 1860's, holding up coaches in the Nelson area. They were vinally captured, faced a trial and three of them were hanged for their crimes.

Trish Armour's tapestries on the back wall are part of her series "Windows of the Soul". They are based loosely on the myth of Psyche, using contemporary imagery. Skymbolish and human emotions are revealed through a collage of scenes overlapping each other as if they are pasted on a billboard and being torn away. The moth represents the soul. Three of these tapestries were exhibited earlier this year in New York.

My tapestry 'Lace 2' is in the foreground on the left wall and features a portrait of my youngest daughter Elissa. The magnolia tree just coming into bloom was a metaphor for her life at the time of designing the tapestry.

The only new works on my wall were the tapestry based on native New Zealand plants. Because of my committment to weaving the Government House Tapestry Screen, I had been unable to weave very much new work, so most of the tapestries on display in this exhibition showed a variety of the tapestries that had been wovlen over the last few years.

My New Home, Studio and Gallery 
]On 10th March I shifted into my new home, a lovely old villa in St Albans Christchurch. I decided that I needed to have a larger home as once my studio was installed in my small two bedroom flat after the earthquake, there was just no room to move. I couldn't have anyone to stay and was unable to bring in any extra income at all. I was very lucky to find this house, given the difficulties that people are experiencing here in Christchurch with finding places to live. I started looking for a new place back in October last year and this house became available in late February. There are four bedrooms, so I have my bedroom where I also do my paintings, a guest room for students who come for accommodation and tuition, a studio for the looms and my library, the Hallway where I am going to have exhibitions. The first exhibition is booked for mid July in the Hallway Gallery and will run for three weeks. My first student arrives next week, so it is all go here at 74 Edward Avenue. My sign is on the front fence and I welcome visitors. I am also open now for exhibition concepts for artist's who would like to show their work in the Gallery.

This photo shows the front of the house with my sign on the fence.

Here is the studio with work in progress.

A view of the Hallway Gallery with some of my work on show at the moment.

The guest room for students and for Home Stay guests. You can contact me by e-mail if you are interested in coming to stay as a student or a Home Stay guest. You can also make contact through this blog.

I also have one room to let. It is a large unfurnished, sunny room with its own access to the front deck. It would be very suitable for a person who would like to run a small business from there e.g. a graphic artist would fit very well into this house. It would also be suitable for a flatmate to live in. I am looking for a professional person who has a job and an empathy for the arts, to share this house with me.

Still Slack!!!!! 

I have finally opened up my blog page and realise that my last entry was way back in January. I guess I have some small excuse as since then I have shifted house, set up my new studio and Hallway Gallery and contracted shingles which is only now starting to get better, worked towards an exhibition of tapestry in Blenheim in April..............and heaps else! I have just stopped working on my last painting for the exhibition which my friend Wilson Henderson and I are doing at Arts in Oxford in July. Over the last few weeks I have been working on a series of large paintings all around 2 metres by 1 metre in size for this exhibition. I have been photographing Wilson's weave structures in his work and taking them way out of scale and then painting from them. I am quite pleased with the results. I knew I would not have time to weave tapestries for this exhibition and so decided I would paint instead. I am using the canvas as a textile though, cutting into some of the works and weaving into them with strips of painted canvas. So new work for me. Altogether I needed 8 paintings and have just started the last one a few days ago. The two photos show close-up details of two of the paintings.

A New Start for the New Year 
I have been very slack about updating my blog over the last few months. I have been working on a number of tapestries and drawings etc for exhibitions and have been hesitant about publishing them on my blog until after the exhibitions are over. But becvause these exhibitions won't be happening until April and July 2012, it means I haven't had work to show on the blog.

I have decided therefore to show some photographs. On Boxing Day I travelled over to Westport with my brother and had a lovely time over there for four days. I took many photographs and here are two of them. These are pasture flowers, clover and I'm not sure what the second one is. Most people would class them as weeds, but they are quite beautiful when you get up close to them.

Actually, I am not sure that the first flower is a clover, but they are lovely aren't they. I photographed these when I visited my brother Jim Rea's new property and we were walking through the paddocks. I am always amazed at the symmetry of nature and the wonderful proportions of colour that occur - good inspiration for art works.

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 - 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.

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