Fabulous Fibre

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Woolcraft Hawke's Bay
4-19 May 2018, Arts Inc. Heretaunga
By Rosheen FitzGerald

As the season draws in the time has come once more to air out the winter woollies. But for the (predominantly) ladies of Woolcraft Hawke’s Bay, thoughts seldom stray far from their fibres, whatever the weather. On weekday mornings, and the odd evening, from Takapau to Mahia, groups have been coming together to share their skills. The fruits of their labours are now on display over two floors at Arts Inc. Heretaunga, in their biannual exhibition and sale.

Spun, dyed, knitted, crocheted, felted and woven works in wool from various varieties of sheep and alpaca, silk and linen abound. The lower floor is given over to commercial items – socks and gloves, jerseys and jackets, toys and homewares – although there is no shortage of expert craftsmanship to be seen. On the mezzanine above are exhibited items self-selected for competition, and awarded honours in various categories; some also available for purchase.

It’s an inviting space: spinning wheels and wicker baskets filled with brightly dyed roving and skeins of spun wool are dotted about; craftswomen mill around, needles clacking and chins wagging, only too delighted to chat about their creations. And they have much of which to be proud in the abundance of colour, texture and skill on offer.

Elaine McGregor’s My Persian Tiles throws all you thought you knew about granny squares out the window. Octagonal mandalas interlock with traditional diamonds in a base of earthy mustard tones, balanced with pops of pastels, hot pinks and reds. Perfectly proportioned negative spaces provide counterpoint to densely crocheted joins, moving the eye about the pattern to soothing effect.

Phillippa Bourhill takes the spinning prize with Southern Alps: gossamer fine, perfectly even merino wool. It’s a feat all the more impressive with the knowledge that the softness of the wool of the merino sheep that populate our South Island in numbers three times that of humans, is equalled only by the shortness of their fibres.

Pauline Ross’ Westshore Beach Stones and Waka straddles the gulf between craft and fine art. A koru-tipped waka, its curlicues completed in wire, is beached on a driftwood log, lengths of paua laid across its riu. Felt surrounded stones in the muted greyscale palette of Westshore Beach act as a shore. There is a beautiful tension between the firmness of the felting and the soft edge that the fibre affords.

Laurel Judd’s Grandma’s Garden is a crocheted fringed vest in a riot of colour, comprised of flowers and leaves in organic shapes. It’s a fun and whimsical piece that would not have been out of place on Haight-Ashbury when Laurel was a girl.

Jillian Selkirk’s Turquoise Ripples merges woven silk with merino wool to produce a ruched texture, veined with rivers of felt that, when dyed in a sensitive spectrum of blues and greens, is dynamic and strongly evocative of water.

These are but a sample of what is on offer at the Hastings Community Arts Centre, but it’s going fast. Pop in until 19 May and get rugged up for winter.

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