Tuesday, 2 February 2016

New Year, new happenings, some creative, some not.

I arrived back to New Zealand in early December after nearly three months away, and even before that about three months away from much creative work whilst my family visited from the UK and the USA.
All of my children were around – and though grown up, they still seem to require as much attention and time as when they were small. So the time between then into the New Year was spent pretty exclusively preparing for Christmas  - cleaning, decorating, baking, buying and making presents and all of the usual things! This year we were especially concerned to make it a great time as the ‘children’ are getting to a point when they might have plans to be elsewhere at the Christmas-time in future. It was fun. I just love making and sending cards, all of the deliberations around what the theme of the icing for the Christmas cake will be this year etc., planning the menu, and the day itself – time to relax with family, joking, eating …

Cake decorated by Amber and Bryony

Before the openings

One of the Xmas elves.
We always try to have a good walk on Christmas day and this year went  on the Okura River track. The tide was so far out that we could walk around the headland (saving several hills - good timing), and enjoy the weird rock formations.

Fabulous rocks showing when the tide was out

Low tide at Okura

Refreshments on the Xmas walk

This year added paddle boarding to my repertoire (which is harder work than it looks!), Brian and Amber did more surfing. Brian is now designing a motor to attach to his surf board to get him out past the surf without paddling. 

After paddleboarding at Takapuna

Last weekend was both the Waka Festival and the Ports of Auckland festival. An interesting contrast between Maori boating history and culture full of texture and pattern and a modern port of tugs, containers, trucks and lots of grey paint

Fabulous carving demonstration at the festival

Strict looking captain on this one!

Ocean going, twin hulled waka

Waka team off to race in the harbour

How many shades of grey?

Wandering in the sunshine at the Auckland docks

The remaining time was mostly spent looking for a new home. With our long and complicated list of requirements, expectations and hopes combined with the difficulties of the New Zealand housing situation, we have looked at such a variety of options that at time we were forgetting what each property had to offer, and which agent belonged to which house! Fingers crossed, we have chosen a place. Paperwork and finance are being sorted. Do keep your fingers crossed for an outcome in our favour sometime soon. I’ll post pictures if and when it becomes ours.

Having started my time in New Zealand with the hope of spending my time creating work for exhibition, the dream of developing and creating work in more depth and with greater involvement in the flow of creativity, I have instead found that I am a master procrastinator when time pressure is not intense. I am not sure whether it is habit formed from indoctrination over the years (24 at least) juggling children, gallery and workshop commitments, publishing etc. which ate up most of the time, leaving small bursts of time to make pieces, or whether I am basically the laziest person on earth! I do find that I am very good at filling my time with inactivity. Another thing which I have found out about myself since being here is that I miss the intellectual stimulation of being surrounded by peers, being exclusively inside my own head is not that interesting.
I think that these were the two main factors which encouraged me to take a leap into the unknown and apply for a role at NorthTec College in Whangarei at the end of last year. The role has the title ‘Creative industries Education Coordinator’. More simply, NorthTec have a purpose built art gallery at the college which was developed in order to encourage the students to participate in professional art practice during their course, to bring high quality practitioners to the site and to increase the community engagement with the college and the arts in particular, all of which are great ideas but have not been as easy to achieve as was initially hoped and it is my role to look again, reinvigorate the process and move things forward. Inevitably the ask is a big one, especially as the gallery doesn’t have any signage around the campus, let alone from the road or further away. So I have to start from scratch, hopefully with the enthusiastic participation of the Art Dept. staff, the college hierarchy and the students when they start in a few weeks. The post is a half time role which I hope will encourage me to re-develop my focussing powers to allow personal creative work and projects to happen with rest of my time. Time will tell! 

The Geoff Wilson Gallery at NorthTec, Whangarei, New Zealand

The inside - awaiting artwork and events.

Hmm ... familiar draw contents at my new desk.

Last week was my induction and the timing couldn’t have been better as on the evening of my first day I was taken even further north to Kaikohe. Northland College were hosting an annual exhibition of work by members of the Nga Phui iwi, many of whom are former NorthTec Students. I gained a real taste of living Maori culture in an extended powhiri (welcome/encounter ceremony) and then was fascinated by the work. The artists varied in chosen media, technique and expression from traditional to contemporary. Including Uku (ceramic), printmaking, photography, mixed media, raranga and fibre arts, carving, glass, jewellery and fashion, and painting. The standard was almost universally very high and I only wish it had been on for longer so that I could have seen the work at more extended leisure. I am looking forward to learning more about the local artists, not only with Maori affiliations but from the extended, very international community which exists in the area. Tomorrow I am back in Whangarei and will have a chance to meet the tutors and begin to formulate a plan of action for them.

I have to say a thank you to Diane whom I have met through the textile groups in Auckland. She has recently built a gorgeous house in the north and has graciously agreed to host me until I find a more permanent solution, and for the great sound of the ocean through the bedroom window through the night.

Bedroom with a view

Lots of the plans for this year's teaching are coming together now, and rather than over burden this post, I'll do a full teaching update in a few days. 

Bye for now, happy stitching.