Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Wellington Craft

I remember Wellington over a decade ago when it became known for being that little bit quirky, individual, and creative. There were plenty of  policy analysts, press secretaries, IT people and other government staff milling around but there were also plenty of creative people looking to collaborate, come up with new ideas, push creative boundaries, think up new shows and events, and put on different kinds of exhibitions. Living in Wellington was like living in a creative bubble - and 15 years on it appears that is still the case with lots of creative networks, events and groups populating the city.

Little wonder then, that craft is flourishing in Wellington and that it will host two new major craft events in 2012: Jemposium from 10-13 February (with support from Creative New Zealand), and HANDMADE 2012 from 2-3 June. Add to this the highly anticipated Craft 2.0 events throughout the year, a range of high quality craft exhibitions held by various galleries and museums, a hungry public that likes to dress individually and buy original gifts and the captial may just be a craft practitioner's dream city.

Craft Aotearoa is visiting Wellington on December 9th and 10th and will be meeting with a range of craft organisations and practitioners. We'd love to uncover all the craft activities, groups, events and practitioners in Wellington, Hutt and Porirua. We're keen to expand our database, to uncover any burning issues, to find out your views on New Zealand craft, and to tell your stories. Feel free to email jenna-lea.philpott@craftaotearoa.org.nz or post a comment to this blog. We would also love to know your preference when it comes to showing and selling your craft. Every vote counts in our online poll!

Watch this space for future Wellington craft stories and in the meantime, check out new retailer Made.it at 103 Victoria Street, who stock high quality handmade goods, predominantly made in and around Wellington.

Craft Aotearoa also recommends visiting Pataka to view Folk Tales I'll Never Write: Woodcuts by Grant Tilly  and the Dowse to view Gordon Crook's tapestries, and Bedazzled, an exhibition featuring beautifully crafted Royal New Zealand Ballet costumes designed by Kristian Fredrikson.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

How Craft Aotearoa began

Usually one sets up an organisation, secures funding and employs staff before starting projects, developing partnerships, or starting campaigns. Craft Aotearoa did not have the luxury of waiting that long, as the need to support Christchurch craft practitioners took precedence. Founding Trustee Jenna-Lea Philpott shares her personal journey in setting up Craft Aotearoa - and how it almost didn't happen. 

June 2009
Since 2007, I have been employed as a craft sector Industry Engagement Advisor in the UK at Creative & Cultural Skills. Working in partnership with a craft employer's group, I develop a major UK-wide public consultation exercise to identify major craft skills issues in the UK craft sector, and work in partnership with a range of government agencies, public and private training and education institutes, and many arts and craft organisations, in particular:

Pioneering research: The Craft Blueprint
Crafts Council
Craft Northern Ireland
Craft Scotland
Fforwm Crefft Cymru
Cockpit Arts
The Goldsmiths Company
Holts Academy
Craft Study Centre
Shetland Arts
The Basketmakers Association
The Devon Guild of Craftsmen
The Bluecoat Display Centre
The Embroiderers Guild
The Calligraphy & Lettering Arts Society
Heritage Crafts Association
Council for Higher Education in Art and Design
Institute of Musical Instrument Technology
National Glass Centre

Prior to the launch of The Craft Blueprint: A Workforce Development Plan for Craft in the UK at the House of Lords (photo above) I assist colleagues with developing new methodological approaches to craft sector research. The results show that in the UK, craft contributes nearly £3 billion GVA to the UK economy each year which is greater than the Visual Arts, Cultural Heritage or Literature sectors. Government research also shows that employment grew by 11% in the craft sector between 1997 and 2006 - one of the highest growth rates of the creative and cultural industries. I wonder how New Zealand compares....

Another key project I am excited to assist is the development of National Occupational Standards for craft. These standards form the basis of craft qualifications including craft apprenticeships, where the UK government provides funding to employers to encourage the teaching of skills from one generation to the next, and to encourage vocational learning as a career entry route, alongside academic entry routes. Sadly, I am unable to progress other project recommendations in The Craft Blueprint as the economic crunch worsens in the UK and my employer restructures due to reduced funding and along with others, my role is disestablished and I return home to New Zealand.

I begin to look at the craft sector in New Zealand and notice gaps, such as the accessibility of the wider public to craft education and learning opportunties. I only work part-time so I have the capacity to  undertake a national craft research project and I apply to Creative New Zealand for funding in September. The day after I submit my application, I am woken at 4:30am by the house swinging from side to side as if a flying carpet. My partner Ray and I experience a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in the dark, lose power, and I've never felt so scared in my life. We live near the beach and we have no idea where the epicentre is and are scared a tsunami might be on its way. We believe that if it is this bad in Christchurch (not known for its earthquakes) it must be really bad further inland where the Alpine Fault lies, and we worry for our families and friends.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we realise how miraculous it is that no one died. Hundreds of buildings are damaged and businesses affected. The daily aftershocks and warning of at least a 6.2 aftershock still to come offer little comfort over Christmas. I hear back from Creative New Zealand and are adivised it was a high quality application however the proposed research is something that Creative New Zealand either commissions or undertakes itself.

Craft Bluepint Launch: Joe (Craft NI), Victoria (Walford Mill), Jenna & Ray
January - Penny Eames (Kapiti Coast) and Dr. Warren Feeney (Christchurch) confirm interest in joining myself in setting up a new charitable trust to support craft practice across New Zealand, foster greater public appreciation for craft,and undertake craft sector research. Warren and I travel to Auckland and meetings are held with Creative New Zealand and Objectspace. It is a quiet month in terms of aftershocks and summer is in full swing.

February -  Penny develops the first draft of the trust deed. It is sitting on my desk at home, and I am in the central city of Christchurch when a devastating earthquake strikes on 22 February. I am just below The Arts Centre as masonry starts falling around me and I lose my balance in the violent shaking and injure my back as I fall on the edge of the gutter. While the ground is still shaking, I manage to get to my car which has somehow escaped the flying masonry and I drive home through liquefaction that is so deep in some streets that I make sure my electronic windows are open just in case I need to swim out. Three hours later (usually a 20 minute drive) I arrive home to my partner, cat, and neighbours who are all safe and sound. Our oven has been shunted out a metre from the wall and everything in the house is strewn onto the floors. We have no power, water, or toilet facilities.

March - still no power, water, or toilet during March and we register with the Red Cross as earthquake refugees! We live day to day from the camping gear we own, the veggies in our garden (until they die from lack of water), the food bank deliveries (thanks NZ and the world for your donations!), visit ancient artesian wells that have appeared since the earthquake to collect deep underground water in containers and lug it home, and dig holes in the garden for our 'nature deposits.' Someone posts a message onto my facebook page to say that I am alive and have no power or phone hence the reason why no one has heard from me. I finally manage to connect with fellow trustee Warren on the other side of town and we agree to regroup in April. Fortunately, his side of town is much less affected and he has all services. The whole of the central city has been locked down and there is a curfew in place.

April - intermittent power returns! Enough to fire up the laptop, television and mobile phone. For the first time, I see footage of the days back in February and learn that my doctor and medical records perished in the CTV building and that 181 people died and hundreds more were injured. We still have no running water as the water main outside our house is broken, however I can fill up at the neighbour's houses. I'm not surprised when I am made redundant from my part-time job, but I do worry about the likelihood of finding other paid work when the city barely seems capable of functioning. My partner and I grieve the loss of life as we knew it, and begin to feel forced to leave Christchurch. I travel to Auckland for my friend's wedding. The sense of normality is overwhelming. A few too many but well-intentioned questions at the reception and I find I can't breathe. Later, I discover that I had a 'panic attack.' When I return to Christchurch, I start physio treatment on my lower back which is really painful all the time as a direct result of how I fell in the earthquake. I hear more and more stories from artists and craft makers about the impact on their livelihoods. So I organise and facilitate a meeting to identify their key concerns and ideas- and then pass that feedback on to Creative New Zealand, Christchurch City Council, and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, all of whom are scrambling to comprehend the scale of the tragedy.

May - I'm grateful to secure some temping work and like a lot of people I dig deep to muster energy I do not feel. It is strange to be working in the central city again, across the road from The Arts Centre, being reminded of the life I used to have.  Fresh running water returns at home which is undrinkable, and makes my hair go straw-like, but the joy of turning on the tap and having something coming out of a shower head is incredible. I start to wear a back brace every day so my bruised back muscles have a chance to recover and  Penny sends me the second draft of Craft Aotearoa's trust deed. I attend lots of art sector consultation meetings in Christchurch including the newly formed Arts Voice Christchurch gatherings. The loss of so much arts infrastructure is hard to comprehend.

June - my confidence has grown and I feel like I am starting to getting my zing back. I may only be temping, living week to week but I feel privileged to be in a position to help with the rebuild of the city, and grateful to have a job as many around me start to lose theirs. At home, our toilet has come back online, and power is consistently available too. I draft a Craft Aotearoa Concept Plan, meet with Creative New Zealand, catch up with some craft makers over coffee meetings, attend more arts sector consultation meetings and realise that I am actually quite busy. My back has improved and I no longer need to wear a brace or have physio and it is another step towards normality. Some friends have left town permanently, but it is winter and my partner and I make the most of Queens Birthday Weekend and head to Mt Cook to take stock. On the way, he proposes to me. It is so unexpected and we bask in happiness for a while. After stopping in Timaru where Dad gives a hearty handshake and congratulations to my fiancee (and a wink for me), we return to Christchurch just in time for another big earthquake on another different fault line. I'm in a cafe at the bottom of a tower office block. I don't budge. I keep reading the paper and drinking my hot chocolate. I refuse to be scared any more. As I walk back to work and see people around me crying and upset I feel my steely resolve start to crumble and a familiar face gives me a hug. The unspoken question is will it ever end? The beautiful rose window at the already badly damaged Christchurch Cathedral falls to the ground. It is the end of an era and the beginning of another.

Rose Window Design from the Christchurch Cathedral
July - our landlord has been red zoned and we are asked to leave as soon as possible so they can move in. It is the middle of winter and the rental market has become highly competitive. I'm scared to live in a 'foreign' house not knowing how it will react in an earthquake. Scared to give up the familiar for the unfamiliar. The thought of moving suburbs, away from friends and neighbours and into the unknown really tests my resolve. Dedicating time to progressing Craft Aotearoa is impacted once again. I book a trip to Wellington to celebrate my birthday away from earthquakes, but the South American volcano eruption means no flights leave Christchurch for a week, so I'm grounded in Christchurch and I feel rather disheartened. I move on to plan B - hiring a holiday house at Tekapo for the weekend where my father and I can celebrate our birthdays together. It is a wonderful time. We return to Christchurch and secure a new place to live and a week later I take time off work to start packing boxes to get ready to move. Then I get a phonecall. Dad died suddenly in his sleep in the night, and instead of planning a wedding, I find myself helping to plan a funeral.

August - came and went. Thanks to the love and support of friends and neighbours we moved out in freak snow storms not seen in over 100 years four days after Dad's funeral service. I consider giving up or at least deferring setting up Craft Aotearoa. There have been so many disruptions this year and I wonder if I have the energy any more.

September - also came and went. I returned to temping part-time, grateful for the support of some very understanding work colleagues. I dust off Craft Aotearoa's trust deed and concept plan, organise our first Trust meeting, and draft a submission to the draft Christchurch Central City Plan. I also visit property owners to see if their space would be suitable for craft studios, where member of the public can come and buy craft.

October - Dad used to say 'you never know when your time is up and you just have to do the best you can and do things that make you happy.' So working on that theory, I resolve to do the best that I can too. I start to believe that I can make use of previous career experience. I prepare a power point presentation and speaking notes and Warren and I attend the Central City Plan hearings, to talk to our submission on behalf of the Christchurch craft sector and wider public. We argue that the draft Central City Plan lacks long term vision for the craft sector and that providing a dedicated craft gallery space will act as a catalyst for tourism and provide vibrant inner city living for the residents of Christchurch. Supporting people to make objects is one half of the equation- we must also support them to show and to sell. We point out the public good in supporting a sector that historically has never required public funding, and that rather than just rebuild the city, there is the opportunity to redevelop it better than ever. Councillors congratulate us on our presentation and ask lots of questions. Their positive response is encouraging, and The Press mention our presentation the next day. 

Working voluntarily on Craft Aotearoa builds to around 20 hours per week on average. I show various people including Creative New Zealand around a building space on Barbados Street and I continue conversations with the building owners. I learn about resource consents, building consents, insurance, leases, and find myself coming up with concept drawings. We have our second Trust meeting and the Charities Commission give us good advice about our purposes and powers in the trust deed. I contact Chapman Tripp and they come back and offer us a place on their pro bono programme. Suddenly, life just got a little bit easier, and this early vote of confidence after everything else this year, restores my confidence. My fellow trustees suggest I start a blog. I've never done that before but I give it a go. It's quite exciting seeing the page views jump from 5 to 213. I meet with Gap Filler and help promote some of their exciting community craft events too.

November - I start a new part-time temp job. Week day evenings, Fridays and weekends are spent progressing Craft Aotearoa. People start enquiring about where to buy Christmas craft, and craft practitioners tell me they are really struggling - as in, struggling more now, than earlier in the year. No one seems to know their stories, so I ask them five simple questions and post their answers to our blog. I also post a blog about where to buy Christmas craft. Then I go slightly haywire, posting the link to our blog on social media pages, emailing people, and I pop a listing on The Big Idea website too. In less than 24 hours we jump up 300 page views to 865, and our online poll jumps up 20 votes, and we gather 13 online followers. Yay! That makes sitting up to midnight writing content and surfing websites and social media pages worth it.

Craft enthusiast aka Phillippa, our lawyer, forwards the first draft of the trust deed, maintaining some of the content of our original deed. It looks good. She is based in Auckland and while we chat on the phone, a 4.0 aftershock happens and the epicentre is 3kms from my house. I also phone the Wanganui Glass Group, contact Objectspace, investigate funding opportunities for Christchurch craft, purchase domain names, set up a Craft Aotearoa email account, research more blog content, plan the next trust meeting, draft the minutes of the last meeting, start to build a craft database, meet with Warren, and meet with another building and land owner who wants to build a community arts centre on Fitzgerald Avenue. Warren also investigates the possibility of space on Moorhouse Avenue. Then, just when I begin to wonder when it is holiday time and when we can stop and do nothing for a while, I realise the time is ripe for calling a Christchurch craft sector meeting, to galvanise the interest and support we have received so far, to get all the various 'space' options out in the open to be discussed, and to remind craft makers that they are not forgotten and we are still listening. So planning is underway for a meeting on 7th December, 4:30pm- 6pm at CPIT. It would be great to have a good turn out - that way we can be sure we're reaching people and that we're moving in a direction that the majority want.

December - a trip to Wellington is on the cards in response to enquiries from various craft organisations and a meeting with a network of representatives with various craft guilds in Christchurch, plus our own consultation meeting on 7th December, a third Trust meeting, and the launch of our first e-newsletter so it is looking busy too.

In summary - I am grateful to have two fabulous and hard working founding trustees, Penny and Warren, who helped me get through all the disruptions and encouraged me to keep going. I'm also grateful to my fiancee Ray, who has been a tower of strength (I might just have to start researching crafty weddings as a blog topic in future!) Ultimately, I'm looking forward to Craft Aotearoa growing its support for NZ craft practice through a range of initiatives in 2012 and establishing new and exciting partnerships. In the new year, we will tell you more about our aims and objectives and introduce all our trustees. In the meantime, thank you all for your support thus far. Have a very good crafty Christmas!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Post-Earthquake Part 2 - Jeweller's Stories

'Primordial Series' by Deanna Gracie
As Christmas draws closer, the year can't be over soon enough for some Christchurch residents, including some craft business owners, who are increasingly reporting that there is little to look forward to and that intervention is needed if they are to survive. Craft Aotearoa recognises the strain craft business owners are under, and we continue to do all we can to raise awareness of their predicament with the relevant authorities, working hard behind the scenes to get on their radar. This isn't easy however, as the craft sector is not widely understood, even within the wider arts community.

The reality is that these craft business owners (usually sole traders) are caught in the double whammy of being too small to have the bargaining clout enjoyed by larger businesses, and yet as profit-driven creative enterprises (whose successes and failures are funded entirely from their own pocket as opposed to public funding) they are driven by a different economic model to some other arts sectors. The economics are simple. Without access to space in which to showcase new work to the public, sales have diminished and some that Craft Aotearoa has spoken to are reporting no sales in the past three months - particularly worrying given this is usually a busy period in the lead up to Christmas. There is a very real possibility that some of these craft businesses will cease to exist in 2012, unable to absorb successive financial and insurance hits. Which begs the question - what can we all do to help them, because they are sure working as hard as they can to help themselves.

Craft Aotearoa has been primarily focused on conversing with property owners, the wider arts community, and the relevant authorities to identify possible space and to develop projects that can support craft business owners to 'get back on their feet.' We're in the process of presenting some options to those in the craft sector on 7th December. It's an open invite meeting - if you would like to come along email jenna-lea.philpott@craftaotearoa.org.nz for more information.

In part two of our Post-Earthquake series, we feature the stories of designer jewellery makers, Deanna Gracie, and Deb Fallowfield, both of whom show their work nationally. Both are now working from homes that were significantly damaged in the 22 February and 13 June earthquakes this year.

Deanna Gracie

Where were you based before the 22 February earthquake?  
Due to structural damage the lease was terminated at our upstairs jewellery gallery, ConneXion, at The Arts Centre after the 4th September earthquake in 2010. I spent the next five months project managing and having a large part to play in the design of a brand new, purpose built space downstairs in a prime location at The Arts Centre. The gallery was operating extremely well, even though we had only been open for two and a half weeks before the earthquake hit on February 22nd. Although the gallery itself wasn't damaged, public access to the building was going to be extremely difficult, so we were forced to terminate our lease and bang went our dream gallery!

Where do you create new work now?
I design and create new work from my 'orange zoned' home studio in Southshore, East Christchurch.

Deanna Gracie
What disadvantages did the earthquake present you?
I lost a lot of my own personal money due to the refit of the new gallery space and I am left with nowhere to exhibit and sell my work on a permanent basis. Galleries in Christchurch are few and far between and there are a lot of displaced artists all vying for the same exhibition spaces. I am just one small voice feeling very lost amongst a larger group of displaced artists. The earthquake has left the city without a cultural heart - there is no creative gathering place like we used to have at The Arts Centre and within the cultural precinct itself. We see fewer visitors to Christchurch both from overseas and New Zealand so we have also lost a large and changing market of customers.

Coping with the constant barrage of earthquakes, house damage, despair, loss and grief has had a huge impact on my work. The loss of confidence has been very debilitating and I battle daily to stay positive in order to keep my creative energy flowing.

What opportunities (if any) have become available since?

As a direct result of the earthquake, I have participated in two exhibitions since February. 'A gathering' from 10th August - 1st September at the atrium at CPIT and 'Art Opportunity 1' - a mixed media exhibition at The George Hotel 27th - 29th May.

Where can people view and buy your work?
Studio visits are available by appointment to view and purchase my work. I also sell my work online. This year I will also have work in the 'Art Opportunity 2' exhibition of ceramic, glass and jewellery at The George Hotel on the 16th, 17th 18th December.

Deb Fallowfield

Where were you based before the 22 February earthquake?
In my own brand new studio in Lichfield Street, near Poplar Lane. The studio had a fantastic fit out after the September 4th 2010 earthquake, and I was looking at signage and reopening to the public in time to capitalise on the new tram stop out front. After September, the city was really quiet but things had started to pick up in February and I was well on track to establishing a funky jewellery studio such as Christchurch had not seen with 'Banksy' style artwork out front too.

Inside Deb Fallowfield's Lichfield Street Studi
On Feb 22nd itself, I was flat out. I had ten customers booked to see me that afternoon when I got a phonecall at 12:15pm that day from Dog Control and I had to rush home as fast as possible (about four blocks from the city centre). That is the reason why I was not in my studio when the earthquake hit and I feel incredibly lucky! There were gas leaks from my building and fellow tenants were sick as a result. After the earthquake hit, I ran back in to town to find my son who attended Unlimited High School in Cashel Mall. Blind panic gripped me and I saw things I did not wish to see. My son had been evacuated to Latimer Square because of the smoke in the city, and triage had been set up in Latimer Square. I saw the CTV building go down....it was horrific. I couldn't get anywhere near my Lichfield Street studio because of the gas leak. I was extremely worried about my stock being stolen, and because the power was down, there was no alarm system. In the middle of the night, my husband went into town and spoke with a police officer and before the cordon was established at dawn, he managed to get into my studio and quickly gather my stock. This was while after shocks were continuing too. Other business owners have since told me how lucky I was to retrieve my stock, as many have had items go missing in the days that followed.

In terms of my tools, I was not so lucky. All my tools were in my studio so I couldn't make new work, or fulfill the orders I had, and as there was no indication of if, or when I would be able to get into my studio, I simply had to purchase new tools. Then two months later, I was informed that I had a wheelie bin and 15 minutes to retrieve what I wanted. It wasn't enough time or space to retrieve everything but it was something. My business insurance company have refused to pay me out for the purchase of my tools. 

I would say there is some solace in knowing others have experienced this and understand, even if we have all had slightly different experiences. It is a feeling of commanility and the sights we saw that day and what we have lived with since.... it is too difficult to describe. Actually my husband made a video and it is on You Tube. He called it Ground Zero in Christchurch. 

Where do you create new work now?
From one half of my bedroom! It is not ideal. I am rather cramped, and my extractor fan is a health and safety risk as it feeds out the sliding door and then winds directly in front of the back door entrance. It was freezing cold in winter because I had to have the extractor fan going and that meant the sliding door had to be open! My house had a lot of liquefaction. In one of the aftershocks, I saw the road rise and fall in front of me and that sparked all the liquefaction that followed. We're on the EQC 'journey' now. We've been advised that the damage could range between $10,000 and $150,000. Until EQC give us the actual damage price, our own insurer won't come and assess the damage. It is a wooden villa, needs total repilling, has sunk on the south side, and yet it is nothing compared to some people's homes. I am not sure where I am going to create new work when the house eventually gets fixed though. We'll have to cross that bridge when it happens. In the meantime there is no 'go forward.' It all comes back to EQC making a decision and who knows when that will be.

Deb's signature ring designs
What disadvantages did the earthquake present you?
The loss of my dream! I had always dreamed of having my own boutique studio and shop and had worked hard all my life to bring this about and then I finally made it happen and the earthquakes took that dream away from me. I feel gutted. And now I am battling my business insurer as well.....that's the other disadvantage. Tiredness. Trying to keep on top of all the legal stuff as well is tiring on top of trying to run a business and create new work. My studio is still standing and is one of the last buildings still up in Lichfield Street BUT I can't access it. The building owner took off to Waiheke Island shortly after 22 February and all us tenants have been left to fend for ourselves. My studio is in the fall zone of the Hotel Grand Chancellor so I will not be able to reopen my studio for a long time. I don't even know if I want to go back yet - my husband is nervous about that, but again, we'll face that bridge when we get to it.

Of course, the single biggest disadvantage caused by both September 4th and February 22nd earthquaks has been the loss of income. My customer base has shrunk as a lot of people have left town permanently. Wedding rings make up a big percentage of my business as well as sales to tourists. Without saying too much, my sales overall for 2011 have shrunk considerably and that has made things tough.

Another disadvantage is subsequent lack of availability of space and how costly the rental prices are for space that remains. I made enquiries o a couple of places, but the prices are way beyond what I could afford in a normal trading year let alone at present. I simply can't take financial risks at this point in time.

What opportunities (if any) have become available since?

I travelled to Wellington in July for the Hands Up event put on by the Wellington Business Association to support Christchurch business owners. Wellingtonians have been amazingly supportive. Unfortunately, it cost me more to attend the event then what I made in sales. Jewellery is perceived as a luxury item and NZ has had a stagnant economy this year which I think has effected everyone. Apart from that, there have been no other opportunities. The jewellery craft galleries around the country have an opportunity to support Christchurch jewellers like myself - that is, to provide space to show new work made by people in Christchurch . I remain hopeful they will be forthcoming with offers.

Where can people view and buy your work?
I have a fantastic website and I welcome facebook enquiries. In fact, there are lots of high quality photos of my work on facebook too. Also, my work is shown locally in Hapa in the new Restart Cashel Mall as well as nationally (eg. Kina in New Plymouth) and internationally (eg. Courtesy of the Artist, in the Strand Arcade in Sydney). A full list of stockists is on my website. I am also more than happy to show people my work at my home 'studio' by prior arrangement.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

2011 New Zealand Christmas Craft Shopping Guide

What better time of the year to give a unique, individual and personalised gift than Christmas? A number of people have asked Craft Aotearoa where to buy craft this Christmas and we have shortlisted a few options here. Don't forget, children love to make items, especially for the Christmas tree and to eat!

For that special someone, you may like to pop into a gallery and buy a beautiful object that they will always treasure! Craft Aotearoa recommends a visit to Objectspace in Auckland who are currently hosting their first exhibition focused on making from the Pacific. Nimamea'a: The fine arts of Tongan embroidery and crochet features a selection of crocheted Ta'ovala (waist mats), Kiekie (waist ornaments), and hand embroidered bed linen and clothing made in the Tefisi tradition, all from Tongan family collections.These embroidered and crocheted works have a completely different, and high, status within the fine arts of Tonga compared with the status of embroidery and crochet within the contemporary arts of New Zealand. Find out more at an upcoming floor talk with curators Kolokesa Uafa Mahina-Tuai and Manuesina 'Ofa-ki-Hautolo Mahina on Saturday 3rd Decemeber at 11am.

Where to go craft shopping this Christmas: 

Anywhere in New Zealand:
For a full list of upcoming craft events around the country and to buy online, check out the NZ Handmade website.

You can also buy online from Felt, New Zealand's online marketplace for buying handmade craft. Check out their brand new Christmas Craft Guide with options for buying gifts for guys, music lovers, postage, stocking fillers, secret Santa and more.

Organised by The Auckland Craft Collective, December 10th promises to be a busy day at the Aotea Centre with the Auckland Art and Craft Fair opening from 11am - 3pm. Entry is by gold coin donation, and a selection of work from independent and contemporary designers, artists and crafters will be shown. Read up
on who will be going and interviews with craft makers at http://www.aucklandfair.blogspot.com

On Decemeber 3rd, head to the Hawkes Bay Opera House for Starry Starry Craft Hastings between 5-9pm for a night craft market. The next day,  The Morning (Cr)after from 10am - 2pm takes place at the same venue. Free admission to both events. 

Craft2 Trunk Show - a suitcase sized event just for Christmas on December 9th, 16th, and 23rd from 6-9pm. Join their mailing list for more information.

Organised by The Craft Collective, the 'All I Want for Christmas' craft market takes place on December 10th from 10am - 4pm at Shirley Intermediate School Hall, in Eastern Christchurch.

The market promises to be an exciting mix of crafts, gifts, vintage wares, homewares, food and coffee - get all your Christmas shopping day in one place in one day!

Know of an upcoming craft event in your area that isn't listed here? Please post a comment and let us know so we can update our list.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Post-Earthquake Stories - Part 1

We love to hear your feedback so please feel free to post comments and if you enter your email address in the tab above, our blog will come straight to your inbox next time. Also - we'd love for you to vote in our poll. Do you agree with others that your most preferred place to show and sell your craft is a dedicated craft gallery space? Or are you an online fan? Let us know.

This is the first of a three-part series where Christchurch craft makers share their stories with Craft Aotearoa. First, some statistics:

*  three earthquakes on three different faultlines, 4 September 2010, 22 February and 13 June 2011
*  181 people died, hundreds more injured
*  over 8,600+ aftershocks and they are continuing
*  over 1200 buildings in the central city in need of demolition (imagine the gaps!)
*  over 30,000 skilled workers needed to help rebuild the city for the next 20-30 years
*  2013 – the earliest some hotels and businesses are considering reopening in the central city

    All of which begs the question: what to do in 2012 and whether to stay or go? For any small business owner or sole trader who has lost their business premises, and in many cases their home as well, not to mention their friends and family who have left for less shaky pastures, staying and ENDURING seems almost unfathomable. Yet in the world of Canterbury craft, that is exactly what is happening. Jewellers, textile artists, guilds, and others that Craft Aotearoa has spoken with are committed to staying and to creating new work – somehow, somewhere. Anywhere, in fact. With anyone. Never has collaboration been such a popular past time!

    Those who lost their studios in town have taken to dividing their bedrooms in half, in order to find some space for their equipment. Others no longer have the “luxury” of working from home based studios. In fact many have lost their homes, their studios, and their land and many of those previously based at The Arts Centre have yet to secure alternative premises. The ongoing legal arguments and insurance discussions come on top of trying to continue to make a living and get back to the business of crafting new objects. Despite all this, and perhaps spurred on by the outpouring of support from across New Zealand and the world, Christchurch craft makers have shown remarkable resilience and determination. Craft collectors take note - we should all be interested to see how the narrative of these most challenging circumstances weaves through Christchurch craft makers' designs. 

    Marilyn Rea-Menzies shares her story:

    NZ Government House Commission
    Where were you based before the 22 Feb earthquake? I was working in my Arts Centre studio and the ex-Director of the Australia Tapestry Studio had walked in just before 1pm on 22 February. We were chatting about the work on my loom when the whole building started to rock and roll! The studio had been quite damaged in the September earthquake but was considered at that stage stable enough for us to be able to continue working in there. I was working on the commissioned tapestry screen for Government House along with Diane Ammar, whom I had employed to help me weave the four panels for the screen. We were about one week or so away from completing the first two panels on February 22 and it was over six weeks before we could start working on them again.

    Where do you create new work now? My looms came into the small spare bedroom in my small two bedroom flat and I am working there for now. Diane and I managed to complete the work on the screen and it was presented to Government House in August. I am also painting here in the other bedroom where I sleep, and doing computer work in other parts of the house and it is all a bit cramped. I am looking for a larger space where I can live and work as this flat is way too small to stay here long term now. I would like to share space with another artist or maybe two, if an appropriate place is found.

    What disadvantages did the earthquake present you? My whole life has been changed by the earthquake. I live on my own and my studio in the Arts Centre suited me very well as it gave me access to other people and I miss that contact. Also I met many interesting and influential people from all around the world in my studio and that is no longer happening. The whole structure of my life has changed in that I no longer go out to work, and I find I am not doing as much work as usual because I need to have contact with people and therefore tend to go out and do other things so that I can meet with others.

    "Lace 2" by Marilyn Rea-Menzies
    What opportunities (if any) have become available since? Very few opportunities are coming up at the moment. I was part of the exhibition ‘Moving On’ which was organised by Philip Trusttum at Arts in Oxford. I will be showing three paintings at The George Hotel throughout the month of November and I will be showing my tapestries in Blenheim in April, 2012.

    Where can people view and buy your work? People can visit my website and blog and my studio.

    Dr.Victoria Edwards and Ina Johann share their story.

    Where were you based before the 22 Feb earthquake? We worked in Ina’s studio in Bexley which was hit badly by liquefaction and is going to get demolished.

    Where do you create new work now? We have been located at Chambers 241 on Moorhouse Avenue since October. We were so thrilled to hear that we had been successful with our application to move into one of the six newly developed artist studios, supported by Creative New Zealand. We share the back of the building with five other artists now. We have just showcased our recent exhibition "Faculty of Wonder – Lost and Found."
    "Faculty of Wonder – Lost and Found."
    What disadvantages did the earthquake present you? Initially, the loss of Ina’s studio and our shared working space. We lost our working rhythm which is important for us as an artist duo. We lost artworks, materials, furniture, resources and books. We lost quite a few artworks and materials we were working on for our exhibition Faculty of Wonder - Lost and Found at Lopdell House last May, which presented us with the huge challenge to rethink and make new work for that show in a shorter period of time and under huge pressure. Now, limited opportunities to show, exhibit or sell artworks in Christchurch.

    What opportunities (if any) have become available since? Interviews (Lynn Freeman - National Radio) and publicity about our situation and upcoming exhibitions; inclusion in group exhibitions and auctions around the country, exhibition opportunity at Chambers241 in November; Edwards+Johann artist collaboration was selected to occupy one of the six artist studios at Chambers@241; and a new blast of interest from galleries and institutions around the country in our collaborative work.

    Where can people view and buy your work? We welcome enquiries at edwards_johann@yahoo.co.nz. Our work is also available at Bath Street Gallery in Auckland, and Milford Galleries in Dunedin or at our website.

    Coming up next week in Post-earthquake Stories Part 2: We learn how designer jewellers are faring.

    Monday, 7 November 2011

    Craft in Christchurch

    It's been a busy time for Craft Aotearoa in recent weeks, representing the needs of craft practitioners throughout the submissions and hearings process as part of the draft Christchurch Central City Plan. Our five page submission outlined the capacity of the craft sector pre and post earthquakes and we identified a range of short and long term projects that could help not only those in the craft sector, but the city as a whole to recover. Here is a snapshot of our submission:

    Christchurch is key to the wider creative economy and arts infrastructure throughout New Zealand. It is home to thousands of artists, creative businesses, industry groups, arts organisations, and numerous craft practitioners working in various mediums including wood, jewellery, glass, ceramics, textiles, metal, musical instrument making, flax, and more. Christchurch is also home to craft guilds (such as the Guild of Weaver and Spinners, the Embroiderer’s Guild and others), The National craft gallery, and the online craft network Felt, whose members often attend monthly Crafty Business Network meetings in the city.

    Prior to these earthquakes, many craft practitioners either worked from home based studios, and/or studios established in parts of the city where the rent was at the lower end of the spectrum. Their work was shown locally and nationally through galleries, designer retail spaces, at craft fairs and events, at The Arts Centre, and online to an audience looking for something special in an age of mass produced and often imported items. 

    Although the New Zealand and Christchurch craft sector is not well researched in terms of demographic data, consumer research shows that across New Zealand household spending on craft increased by as much as 12% between 1991 and 2001 and that the third most popular cultural activity was purchasing handmade craft (Measure of Culture: Cultural Experiences and Cultural Spending in NZ. Statistics NZ and Ministry of Culture & Heritage. June 2003). The Arts Centre in Christchurch with its craft studios and markets and the numerous craft studio businesses interspersed throughout the city centre helped to make Christchurch a memorable destination.

    Supporting the Christchurch craft sector is therefore not only about supporting those that design and make objects, but also those who buy craft and visit craft studios for whom such activity contributes to their own cultural wellbeing.

    Christchurch craft practitioners first started to raise concerns about their capacity to continue to create new work (and as importantly, to sell their work) within weeks of the February 22 earthquake. At a meeting on 27 April, facilitated by founding trustee Jenna-Lea Philpott, it was noted that there had been significant loss of individual and shared studio spaces in the central city and suburbs (including Lyttelton) and that both commercial and residential properties were affected. Concerns were also raised about:
    • the subsequent rebuild of the city and whether there would be suitable, purpose designed exhibition and studio space available; 
    • whether new spaces would be affordable for the majority of craft practitioners;
    • the need to retain audience and clients in both the short and long term;
    • how to generate income in the short term and where to sell;
    • the need to compete for limited space in the short term and how to fund this with limited or no income;
    • loosing emerging and experienced craft practitioners to other cities creating a gap in the ‘richness of the visual disciplines infrastructure’;
    • access to COCA art gallery as a space for emerging craft practitioners and artists.

     Founding Trustee Jenna-Lea Philpott holding 
    Craft Aotearoa's submission

    Craft Aotearoa shared these concerns and immediately started researching the availability of space. Following up a lead provided by CPIT's Martin Trusttum, we visited one of the last two storey wooden historic houses left standing in the city on Barbadoes Street. Building owners Robyn and Mike were excited at the thought of their house becoming home to various craft studios, a craft gallery,  and craft organisations. As we showed the house to others in the craft sector, everyone saw the potential, however, after several more weeks of research and discussion, it became apparent that the cost of resource consent and other compliance measures was too onerous for the owners liking and sadly, the project never progressed further. So we are on the hunt for space again.

    Our presentation to Councillors as part of the hearings process needed to be no more than eight minutes and as the draft plan already conveyed an understanding of the urgent short term needs of the craft sector, we decided to focus on the long term vision for craft - something that had been overlooked in the plan. As with other art forms, the need for space to create new work is essential and so too is the need to show this work in a purpose built facility. Unlike other art forms, craft has never relied heavily on public investment but now needs support in order to re-establish its economic model once again and return to self-sufficiency.

    Craft Aotearoa advised Councillors to give serious consideration to the opportunity apparent - to establish a leading New Zealand craft gallery in the city, perhaps adding value to the cultural precinct, showcasing the best of New Zealand craft (whilst also providing opportunities for emerging craft), and attracting tourists as well as the wider public into the central city again. Such a facility could help cement our place in the Pacific and showcase our Maori and Pacific crafts in the South Island. A dedicated craft gallery space surrounded by studios, would promote opportunities for craft education and learning, public engagement, and ensure that local, national and international exhibition opportunities did not bypass Christchurch. Furthermore, it would help to cement Christchurch's distinctive qualities going forward - as has been shown by the model of Ruthin Craft Centre in North Wales - a town of 5,000 people whose craft centre attracts visitors from across the UK.

    Councillors congratulated us on the quality of our submission and asked several questions. The media, and Ngai Tahu also expressed interest in our proposal. Now we wait to see the final plan, and in the meantime, we continue to converse with those who see merit in giving our city, our people, our visitors and our craft practitioners something different to look forward to - something that will inspire current and future generations to come. 
    Before signing off, we'd like to thank Elfie Spiewack for supporting Craft Aoatearoa's submission with the following image of her work post-earthquake. 

    Brooch "Then and Now", sterling silver, pearl, brick chip 
    from earthquake destroyed Lyttelton building.