So You Want to Research a Wikipedia Article

Author: Courtney Johnston, Director

After two months of researching and writing articles on New Zealand craft artists, here are a few of our most-used references.

After writing about 70 articles on New Zealand craft artists now, Bridget, Mackenzie and I have settled on a bit of a pattern. We tend to fire up a draft in Google Docs, structure the page with some headings (intro, early life, education, career, exhibitions, collections, further reading) and then start seeking published material that lets us flesh our entry out.

One of our first ports of call is the Find NZ Artists website, which is very handy for establishing birth and death dates, and sometimes place of birth/death. A collaboration between Auckland Art Gallery and Christchurch Art Gallery, the site lists over 18,000 artists who are represented in public art collections.

Helen Schamroth's 100 New Zealand Craft Artists, published in 1998, is usually the next reference. It's got a very good range of artists (fibre, jewellery, ceramics, paper) and invaluable details about where people were born and where they trained. 

Doreen Blumhardt's two collaborations with Brian Brake, Craft New Zealand: The Art of the Craftsman (1981) and New Zealand Potters: Their Work and Words (1976), are also invaluable, as they have loads of direct quotes from the artists profiled, and also deliver very useful context about how artists learned, worked and showed together. 

In the field of jewellery, Damian Skinner and Kevin Murray's chunky 2014 book Place and Adornment: A History of Contemporary Jewellery in Australia and New Zealand has the virtue of being very up to date, and mixing descriptions of artists' work with extremely useful contextual information about the way contemporary jewellery practice has developed since the 1960s in New Zealand. 

We've also made heavy use of Te Ara's 'Creative and Intellectual Life' section, which helps us place the artists we're writing about in that larger context. Lucy Hammond and Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins section on Craft and Object Art is a brilliant overview for anyone getting to grips with this area of New Zealand art.  

After the general resources, we start digging into the individual catalogues and articles. Anything digitised by Art New Zealand and Art News New Zealand gets snapped up (and then we start hauling out the hard copies); the defunct Crafts New Zealand is critical again for that straight-from-the-artist info. We go through our library, and Te Papa staff have also been generous with their time and access. 

We've had quite a few occasions now to praise Christchurch Art Gallery and Auckland Art Gallery for their digitised catalogues; it's also super helpful when galleries post longer pieces about significant works on their websites, like this entry about Ani O'Neill's Rainbow Country from Te Papa.

Often as we're researching one artist or exhibition or group we bump up against new snippets we can use to embroider an existing entry—the project is definitely not linear, but more like propogating seedlings: planting, weeding, tweaking. We'd like to thank all the individuals and institutions whose work to make information and insight about New Zealand artists available has so enriched our work.

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