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Tea and Textiles

Author: Melanie Oliver, Senior Curator

You’re invited to a special occasion this Saturday morning at The Dowse: we are hosting a reunion of Margery Blackman, Judy Patience and Joan Calvert – exceptional weavers active in the 1970s and ‘80s whose work features in our current exhibition From Pressure to Vibration: The Event of a Thread.

Margery Blackman, 'From Aramoana' (1981-2), wool, cotton, linen, silk, mohair, Collectiono of The Dowse Art Museum

Margery Blackman, 'From Aramoana' (1981-2), wool, cotton, linen, silk, mohair, Collectiono of The Dowse Art Museum

The exhibition features new felted sculpture works by Christchurch-based artist Emma Fitts shown in conversation with textiles from The Dowse collection. It draws on the histories of weaving in New Zealand as well as the Bauhaus Weaving Workshop and figures like Anni Albers, Otti Berger and Lilly Reich.

I was surprised to find during my research for the show that Albers in particular had a strong influence on New Zealand weaving. Her eloquent writing and understanding of the relationship between materials and design obviously connected with many weavers and makers here. Albers’ idea of ‘Tactile Sensibility’ from On Weaving (1965) still rings true today:

We touch things to assure ourselves of reality. We touch the objects of our love. We touch the things we form. Our tactile experiences are elemental.

There has been a resurgence of interest in textiles lately, perhaps a response to our highly digital lives and in keeping with our desire for handmade goods in contrast to those mass-produced for commercial markets. A number of younger weavers have surfaced, such as Annie McKenzie and Christopher Duncan, who are making some beautiful work on the loom, and other forms of textiles are popular too.

It seems timely to reconsider and appreciate the work of textile artists in our collection and more broadly. There are two main histories of textiles in Aotearoa New Zealand: one based on harakeke and Māori traditions; another on wool and European traditions, though these also interrelate. There are many fascinating narratives about artists and textiles: connections to heritage, architecture, studio craft industry, counter-culture movements and more.

We hope that morning tea this Saturday 27 May, 10.30am, will be an opportunity to share in some of these stories.

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