My portrait in stitch

We are home after a fantastic holiday to UK and Italy and settling into routine again.

I will tell you some of our travel highlights but firstly my favourite textile highlight was having my portrait stitched in the Greenwich Markets, London, by a lovely young artist Harriet Riddell who specialises in observational drawings in stitch. While studying Contemporary Applied Arts at the University of Herefordshire she began machine stitching in her life drawing classes!!


She sets her machine up in random places like cafes pubs, trains, launderettes and narrates her surroundings in stitch.

One project involved her stitching individuals while they pedaled a bike to generate the power for her sewing machine! And stitching in a forest using a generator.

For me this was a unique and memorable experience. For  20 quid I sat for 15 minutes while she stitched and we chatted.


She had a bag of scrap fabric and had an excellent match for my new Scottish scarf and turquoise heart pendant.

And this is the result. What do you think?


Be sure to check out this enterprising young artists website documenting her projects and portraits.


The Comfort of Stitch, by Lee-Ann Newton

Remember this fabulous quilt from the Taupo Quilt Symposium that I featured here on 31 July, well I was thrilled today to be contacted by Lee-Ann thanking me for featuring her quilt on my blog and she kindly gave me this link to share. It shows the original quilt and progress images. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the read. Thanks Lee-Ann.

The Comfort of Stitch - Lee-Ann Newton

The Comfort of Stitch – Lee-Ann Newton

Around town in Taupo

We struck Taupo at her winters best.


Two lovely galleries sit side by side in Heu Heu street.

Kura Gallery specialises in contemporary ethnic art. They had a tempting  selection of jewelry, NZ prints and much more.

Kura Gallery

Zea You on the corner, is a larger space that specialises in paintings, sculptures, bronze, jewellery and has a stunning selection of cast and blown glass.

Zea You Gallery

These galleries are right next to a ‘must stop’ cafe and kitchen ware store ‘Replete’.

Also in Heu Heu Street a few blocks down from the galleries is The French Cafe, serving authentic French fare.  Check out the size of my delicious omelette.

Brunch at the French Cafe

Along the Lake front, shining in the sun against a foggy back drop, is a sculpture by my friend, Hamilton cast glass artist Colleen Ryan-Priest.  ‘Swell’ is a wind wave sculpture presented to the people of Taupo by the Taupo Sculpture Trust.

Swell by Colleen Ryan-Priest

Swell by Colleen Ryan-Priest

The Taupo Museum’s Ora Garden of well-being is a tranquil oasis, with native planting and includes a silica thermal terrace and a hot mineral pool.

Ora Garden

Those were some of my highlights in Taupo.

More exhibitions at Taupo

Other exhibitions in conjunction with the  Taupo Symposium 2013 were held at the Taupo Museum.

Aotearoa Quilters 12″ x 12″ Challenge ‘Red’ featured in the foyer.

Click here to see all images on Flickr.

Red Challenge

Red Challenge

There were 127 entries and the winner was Sonya Prchal with ‘Gerbra’, showing detail of a gerbra bloom with heavy thread painting. This is the same artist that won with the Schnauzer dog in my last post.

Detail of Gerbra Sonya Prchal

Detail of Gerbra Sonya Prchal

One of my favourite exhibitions was ’37 Sketches: Small Quilt Studies’ by Gwen Marston of Michigan. Gwen is a professional fiber artist, author, and teacher.  She has taught nationally and internationally for over thirty years and has written 26 books. Over the 30 years of experimenting with small quilts as a way to explore various aspects of quilt making she has a pile of over 440  small quilts.

In 2010 she began a new series called ‘Small Studies’ and this exhibition is a result of exploring new techniques, abstract design, colour and composition possibilities. She has also written a book ’37 Sketches : Small Quilt Studies’  where she explains her process for making these small studies using her liberated, improvisational methods, and discusses how the experience of making this series of sketches was like taking a crash course in design.

Gwen MarstonAnother favourite exhibition was ‘My Place’ by Fibres Unlimited, a group that was formed with the aim of encouraging individual expression through their use of an extensive range of fibres.

My Place

Barbara McQuarries work ‘Deep in the Hills’ references the Pike River Mining Disaster in 2010. A simple but powerful work showed 29 crosses of rusted fabric on a stark black back ground. You could not help but pause and remember the miners and their families.

'Deep in the Hills' Barbara McQuarrie

‘Deep in the Hills’ Barbara McQuarrie

Another stunning work was ‘Red Crater’ by Coralie Skinner, the dyed and woven harakeke was inspired by the amazing colours in the red crater on Mt Tongariro.

Red Crater Coralie Skinner

Red Crater Coralie Skinner

This was a  strong exhibition that showed a variety of techniques, excellent workmanship and complimented the other exhibitions well.

Taupo Quilt Symposium 2013

I recently went to Taupo to see the Exhibitions and Merchants associated with the  Taupo Symposium 2013 Fabric Art Festival.

The main Symposium exhibition was held at the Great Lake Centre and featured several small challenges including the USA SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) 2011-2013 Trunk Show and the tutors exhibition.

The most intriguing quilt in the exhibition for me was ‘The Comfort of Stitch’ by Lee-Ann Newton. This won Best Non Traditional Quilt and not surprisingly Viewers Choice.

The exhibition catalogue statement said “The simple act of stitching gives comfort to those grieving, lonely, depressed, sick or just needing to relax. Comforting items made, we get comfort in giving away, passing down, teaching or sharing with others. Hand painted whole art quilt on recycled charity shop top.”

The Comfort of Stitch

The Comfort of Stitch

The Comfort of Stitch detail

The Comfort of Stitch detail

On the back Lee-Ann had attached a printed explanation of her quilt, including an image of the original quilt and her reflections on the simple act of stitch that gives comfort.

She bought the quilt from a Hospice Charity Shop, as a plain cream and strangely appliquéd quilt top, originally as a drop cloth for a bathroom painting job but felt it cried out to be used as a textured canvas for a whole painted cloth art quilt. Her research in to the provenance of the top lead her to believe it was Hmong appliqué.

The quilt includes many symbolic images representing hope, future, faith, eternity, karma and sewing related paraphernalia.

The quilt top was not square when purchased and to retain the history of the cloth Lee-Ann left it this way.

The quilt took well over a year to complete and Lee-Ann worked on the quilt while she was pregnant with her second child.

Another wall quilt that I liked was ‘Set Adrift’ by Sonya Prchal. This won a Judges Award. Sonya’s statement says ” My husband set our Schnauzer adrift. He looked so perplexed, I took his photo. I loved capturing his expression with thread painting, I really enjoyed using free motion quilting to enhance the details.’

Set Adrift by Sonya Prchal

Set Adrift by Sonya Prchal

Check out the detail.  Isn’t that just the saddest face you’ve seen!

Set Adrift detail

Set Adrift detail

Another favourite was ‘Hot Crosses (With deliberate leakage)’  by Catherine Croucher. She had used retro fabrics, probably pre loved, and chose the fabrics by throwing a dice, editing as she went. Cut with scissors and measuring only by eye, not bothered by bias.

'Hot Crosses (With deliberate leakage)'

‘Hot Crosses (With deliberate leakage)’

An interesting series of wall quilts were ‘I am from’ by Wendy Ward based on a poem where she is from, her family and the place she grew up in.

‘I am from I’ shows street names where she has lived.

‘I am from II’ is her as a two year old with street maps where she grew up in printed on the fabric and words of the poem embroidered on the background.

I am from I. II, III and IV

I am from I. II, III and IV

‘I am from III’ (my fave) uses the South island as the woman’s dress. This won an award for Amateur Innovative.

I am from III

I am from III detail

‘I am from IV’ loosely depicts the streets of the town where Wendy grew up.

One fascinating small wall quilt in the tutors exhibition that caught my eye was ‘The Face’ by Pam Holland of Australia. This portrait of an aboriginal woman was stitched with Cheesecloth on a black background. This is part of a series featuring women ‘ripped from reality’.

The Face by Pam Holland

The Face by Pam Holland

More about the other exhibitions in the next post.

Auckland Botanic Gardens

After countless years of driving past the gardens sign I finally paid a visit. Just off the Southern Motorway at Manurewa, it is very easy to find. Covering 64 hectares, development began in 1973 and it opened to the public in 1982. It has an impressive Visitor Centre and Cafe and it is free – thanks Auckland City.

A Fred Graham stainless steel bird sculpture ‘Manu Torino’ welcomes you at the entrance and highlights the association of birds and gardens.

Manu Torino by Fred GrahamI enjoyed the Threatened Native Plant area and their Flax Weaving collection that contains 40 named varieties of Harakeke. There was disappointingly no mention of its natural dyeing properties!

Flax weaving gardenOther impressive areas were the African, Camellia, and the Rose area, that had a NZ Rose garden where they had mixed roses with native plants including  grasses, ground covers and flowering shrubs.

NZ Rose gardenThe Palm Garden contains New Zealand’s largest public collection of palms.

Palm gardenMy favourite area was the Potter Children’s Garden! It features a bog, a desert, a jungle garden and a cool maze. I loved the sundial though there was not enough sun to cast a shadow.


Sunclock in children's gardenThe gardens feature a permanent sculpture collection, some which are not that obvious or labelled. I did pick up a brochure on the way out and realized I had missed half of them! This stone mosaic in the children’s garden is ‘Frangipani’ by John Bottica.

Frangipani by John Bottica

The next biennial sculpture event, Sculpture in the Gardens, will run from 9 November to 16 February 2014, so I’ll certainly be visiting then to see 23 art works from well-known NZ artists including my friend Mia Hamilton of Wellington.

So the Auckland Botanic Gardens are well worth a visit if you are passing.

The Unbakery and Kingsland

I recently had a quick trip to Auckland.

My first stop was The Fabric Store at 139 Newton Road. They have recently rebranded from Global Fabrics, with the same owners, stock, staff etc. They specialise in top quality designer dress fabrics, natural fibers and New Zealand merino products. The Merino products they source are manufactured here with New Zealand wool.

The shop is light and airy and tidy and all rolls are labeled with the fabric content and price.

The Fabric StoreThe staff are all very helpful and knowledgeable, with most of them having studied or are studying Textile or Design.

I remember the first time I visited was with fellow course participants during the India Flint course in January. They had a 50% off sale and we were like kids in a candy shop.

I prefer to use pre loved fabrics for my dyeing and whilst wool, blankets, cotton and linen are reasonably plentiful, it is hard to find cream or white silk in Op Shops.

I needed more cream Merino to make Ponchos, as the two at the exhibition sold and I have an order for another one. I was spoilt for choice with various weights and prices available.

Cream MerinosWe talked about the composition of Viscose and its ability to take up the natural dye. It is made from cellulose that has been extracted from wood with chemicals and salts added, so will be interesting to see if it takes the natural dye. They gave me generous samples of Silk Viscose and Silk Lycra to try so I will let them know the results which may be helpful for other such inquiries.

We also visited Little Bird Organics and Unbakery, 385 New North Road, Kingsland.

the unbakeryThey specialise in raw, (ie no heating above 46°C ensures the food retains all its enzymes and nutrients and its life force) organic, vegan, sugar and gluten-free food.

I enjoyed Carter’s Sprouted bread, that was made with chia seeds, buckwheat and millet and was topped with smashed avocado, micro greens and kraut.

IMG_1067It was delicious, the fermented kraut was sour against the sweetish avocado, interesting textures and tastes together. This was washed down with a pot of tea of fresh turmeric, lemongrass and ginger.

The cabinet was full of delicious looking cheesecakes, (I wonder what they are made from) and other goodies.

the unbakery cabinet

There were tempting treats to purchase, exotic teas, granola, crackers, coconut oils, glass straws and lots more.

I will be back again to try the Caramel & Pumpkin seed brittle Milkshake, made with cashew ice cream!

It was a great experience  and I definitely recommend it if you are looking for that something different.

Other interesting stops we struck in New North Road were Mixt, an art and design store with all New Zealand made goods, next door was a Retro shop that is only open in the weekends but looked to have a great selection of goods. Also the Royal Jewellery Studio, featuring New Zealand designed and made contemporary jewellery from 36 invited jewelers.

IMG_1075I parked beside the Hotere Mural in Kingsland. The mural, by graffiti artist Askew One, is based on a photo by Marti Friedlander and pays homage to one of New Zealand’s most prominent artists who died in February.

Hotere Mural

I enjoyed my first ever visit to Kingsland. It had a lot of character with old buildings and funky shops.