Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Living the Arts: The Fabulous Five Go Teach

The typical working week; longing for Friday and dreading Monday, was never an option for five creative, resourceful women; Claire Inwood, Kelly King, Anna Browne, Kaz Bos and Pamela Wolfe.  A bread-maker (caterer and doll-maker), traditional weaver, textiles artist, jeweller and painter, their lives, livelihoods and interests, are combined.

All the women practice skills traditionally associated with the ‘feminine arts’.  How may these arts be reviewed afresh?  It is up to the individual.  At Corban Estate Art Centre’s Livingthe Arts, from Sat 5 – Sun 6 November, participants will be inspired and empowered by the skills and philosophy these tutors have to share.  A collective enterprise, Living the Arts, is an opportunity to relax in a creative and companionable atmosphere; a welcome break from the routine and pace of the week.

 Claire Inwood

Claire Inwood, a caterer, bread-maker and doll- maker, combines passion and industry.  For her, enjoyment and beauty should be intrinsic to life. She had an epiphany years ago when gazing at a collection of Native American artefacts, when it occurred to her that everything they used was intended to be beautiful irrespective of function.  Food should also be visually appealing, she feels. Furthermore, the enjoyment to be had from making, giving and receiving tried and true traditional recipes like Italian ciabatta, is something she looks forward to sharing. A popular caterer, she has successfully combined activities that bring her and others pleasure, and her The Art of Breadmaking is sure to do the same.

For many, cell-phone and internet are the life blood of working life.  For Kelly King, however, her life as a weaving instructor extraordinaire is so absorbing her cell-phone often lies forlorn at home.  Her abilities and dedication to the art of Maori weaving is such that she featured in the important exhibition The Eternal Thread (2003) which honoured the tradition and its innovations over time. King’s work-shop Raranga Harakeke allows the beginner to acquire sustainable harvesting skills and the construction of storage vessels.  This then, is an easy introduction to a technology that is rich with potential as a stand-alone art-form as King’s own exhibited works attest to.

Anna Browne, who was “always a sewer” has a long-standing background in textile design and its use in interior design.   The last decade of exhibiting has seen her employ the concept of fabric as a powerful medium for artistic and personal expression, fusing life and art together. “I hope to make people more aware of the significance of textiles, [as they] are with us all our lives and are imbued with meaning.  Browne says, that with this in mind, the class by ‘re-purposing’ vintage fabrics will work, on their second day, on “…a biographical piece…- making lives into art”.  Her life, art and teaching reflect a shift towards ecological thinking, locally and globally.

'Mound' Anna Browne

She says;
The 'domestic arts' are very fashionable at the moment (the online/ phenomenon, craft fares etc) and there are many forums and outlets for this sort of work. But … courses like these at CEAC are a great way of networking and drawing inspiration from others.

The transformation of materials into treasures was a desire obvious in Browne from an early age – a clear indicator was her girlhood wonder at the fairytale of Rumpelstiltskin and the spinning of straw into gold.   Ultimately, Browne is hopeful that Living the Arts may help people to alter and sharpen their vision and their perspective on life: to “…become more sensitive or mindful of 'the art' in everyday activities and be open to creative possibilities.”

The drive to be resourceful was also a natural impulse for Kaz Bos.  Like Browne, she was inspired by stories as a girl such as the quilted coat made from beautiful scraps for Joseph in the bible Bos, an all-round ‘crafty’ artisan, who specializes in jewellery, came from a very practical family where manual skills were a given.  Her mother was a leather-worker and her father, a thrifty Dutchman with impeccable carpentry skills, instilled a strong ‘waste-not-want-not’, ‘do it yourself’ ethos in his daughter. 

Fabric necklace Kaz Bos

Recycling –reusing – has been me since forever; this is partly from my thrifty up-bringing.  I fix everything, cut down old knitted jumpers and re-fashion them, and make cushions out of vintage ties...  Broken jewellery pieces, buttons, beads, vintage fabric, old family necklaces… these things I recycle for people into something they can treasure and wear or use.  Anything you do with your hands in this way is a gift of love, time and effort…

Perhaps unusually, it was a stranger who grudgingly taught her how to crochet.  This stranger at a retirement village was a “crusty old bat…who I remember distinctly as I sat behind her …”.  Intent on a gripping episode of Coronation Street, her hands busy with crochet, the attentions of an avid 10 year old were reluctantly received.  Nonetheless, this was the young Kaz’s first ‘instruction’ on handicraft.

Flour, flax, old textiles and broken jewellery are turned into ‘gold’, no less than the raw material of paint.  Pamela Wolfe employs paint, brush and sheer hard work.  Her visual catalyst is the blooming life immediately surrounding her house and home – the flowers in her garden.  The muscularity of her flowers projecting from dark backgrounds encourages the viewer and student to consider the still life genre in new ways.  The still life genre was a tradition that, by the 19th century, was associated with ladylike accomplishment.  A ‘lady painter’, she is not, any more so, she says, than painter of colourful gardens, Karl Maughan…

Pamela Wolfe 'Inseminator' 2010
Oil on canvas

Pamela Wolfe began painting from home when she had her first child.  The flexibility of the hours; “…you can choose your own hours”, and the companionship of her husband, art writer, Richard Wolfe, are two great benefits for this full-time artist. She notes the potential isolation of the studio; “Loneliness can be a problem for the self- employed, so having someone to talk to and have a coffee with makes all the difference.”

Pamela Wolf

Pamela also cuts through certain popular notions about art as a career, citing the common message in Richard Wolfe’s recent book ‘Artists at Work’, which addresses a misconception:
That anyone can do it.  It takes a lot of time and hard work, sometimes with little reward, but you do it because you are driven, and can't imagine your life without it.  It really takes an obsessive nature, and great determination. It is not about money, it’s about ideas and idealism. 

Likewise, her new tutoring role is about “giving back to the community”.  Wolfe says the idea took root in her mind and she thought, ‘Yes! [It’s] my time to take on a new challenge’. 

For all the women heading the Living the Arts workshops their arts and interests have become their living. None of them can imagine their lives without them.  Living the Arts is an opportunity to acquire the skills to enhance life.  The power to transform using ones hands in an accomplished way is both restorative and satisfying for the creator and equally meaningful for the viewer or receiver.

Kyla Mackenzie

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