Monday, 6 April 2015

Art and Craft in Northland

Easter Saturday shaped up to be a busy day. The Waipu Festival of Fibre was in my diary as a pleasant day out, an hour and half drive, nice beach, picnic, all sorted ...
Then during the week I also heard that Tahi honey farm near Whangarei was having its one and only annual open day on Saturday also. Tahi has only been operating for 3 years and is an amazing success story. They have been transforming and restoring a large area of run down cattle farm into to a fabulous ecosystem for native wildlife, work for local people, and worldwide sales of manuka honey. I also discovered that it was the Whangarei Heads Art Trail, which had at least 2 attractions. The first being that one of my favourite jewellers was taking part, and, it is one of my favourite areas to visit.

So, an early start. Being a holiday morning we took advice and avoided the SH1/Warkworth interchange by going north along the SH16, this only added 12km to the journey and took us along a much more scenic route. Fabulous early morning autumn mist wrapped around the valleys:



Can't you just see a piece in those images? Hmmm, thinking cap on ...
Anyway, it was really busy:


By the time we reached Waipu, the mist had dissipated and the weather was fabulous.
Waipu is very proud of it's Scottish heritage and traditions, including a New Years Day Highland Games which we must get to one year. The whole area seems to be garbed in plaid. As my husband is half McLeod, I suppose one day we ought to see whether there is any family connection to the founding McLeod family!
The Festival of Fibre had been organised by Kerry (Tulis Textiles), for whom I am running retreat classes in August (Find me Out and About). Though the festival wasn't huge, there were some interesting makers.

Penny Goodall weaves these organic vessels and incorporates beach finds.
Elke Radweld's pieces were versions of traditional weaving, allowing some contemporary forms to shape the pieces along with traditional techniques and materials.
Heketini Blanch has worked from her tribal heritage, creating a ceremonial korowai (a special cloak)
Jo Keith having fun with tapa cloth - look at those boots!

Jo Keith used another 'sacred' piece of NZ heritage to create this jacket - trusty old woolen blankets!
For my money, Rachel Maxwell was the most interesting maker in the show. Her pieces using harakeke flax weaving really do blend traditions and skills with a contemporary eye.

A detail from a Rachel Maxwell piece.

We then raced further north to join the Art Trail around Whangarei Heads. In it's third year, the trail gives a chance for around 40 artists to open their studios or create displays in community halls around the area. Being on a tight time frame, we didn't get a chance to visit everyone, so I can't really give a true overview. The makers we saw were very varied, from some basic craft work to accomplished painting. The main reason to visit was to say hi to Maike Barteldras and to order a couple of pairs of earrings.

Jewelery by Maike Barteldras
I first met Maike at Art In Action in Oxford and then showed her work at the Beetroot Tree before she moved to NZ. This weekend she was also showing some of her wall art, which was fabulous - I shall have to start saving! We had a brief chat about her experience as a designer maker in New Zealand and how her life is different her experience as a maker in Europe.

Lunch was eaten at a favourite beach, then we were back on the road with lots of fabulous views on the drive over the hills of Whangarei Heads to Tahi Honey Farm.

Lunch at Ocean Beach - going to bring the surf board next time

Looking across Whangarei Heads from Parua Bay - fabulous views
We were just in time to catch a factory tour at Tahi, though not for a good walk around the tracks - we will have so go back next year. Apart from learning more about the science behind why honey, especially Manuka honey, (it's all in the UMF rating) is so special, it was interesting to see how simple the operation of harvesting the honey remains. Finished off with a scoop of honey icecream. I am wondering if they fancy going into the production of mead?

High fashion accessories for the factory tour! (And I am not showing you how amazing we looked in our caps)
Not bad for a one day trip!

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