Wednesday 16 November 2011

Post-Earthquake Stories - Part 1

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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 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.

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