Facets – Overall winner Driftwood and Sand 2024

On Hokitika Beach it is Driftwood and Sand Beach Art Festival time again, the last week in January 2024.

Sunday 21 January – scoping the beach

On my first exploration of the beach for inspiration and materials, I found there wasn’t a lot of big driftwood, just lots of scrappy small pieces. So I decided to create something with small sticks.

I have always liked polygons, networks and tessellations – a throwback to my past life as a maths teacher. But how to join the sticks? I brought a few home, drilled small holes in each end and joined them with narrow strips of harakeke (NZ flax).

Monday 22 January – collecting sticks

It seemed to work so back to the beach to collect lots more sticks. At first glance, there appeared to be masses of them but finding some of a particular length and suitable for drilling proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated.

Home again once more, and I drilled holes in the ends of all the sticks and joined some to make a small sample network of triangles.

Wednesday 24 January – first official day of the festival

How would I use any net I made? Now I was exploring the beach for larger driftwood to incorporate into the sculpture. I tried draping my sample over various pieces including a very large piece that was surrounded by water at high tide. But any net would be lost. I decided that it would be best to have it installed so the net had nothing behind or in front of it and one piece, about 4m long was ideal.  So, I tied the sample to one end and then began to grow it in situ. I knotted each stick before tying it to another one. At each node there were six or seven sticks tied together.

A second piece of driftwood I had considered still fascinated me as a standalone work. I stood it up further along the beach again near the high tide line, burying the end in the sand. This became “Ascension”.

Thursday 25 January – sculpture grows

I was back on the job in the morning. At this stage I thought the end of the driftwood frame was buried in the sand but on clearing the material around the end, I discovered it was resting on the sand. Sitting facing the sea as I worked, I noticed the sea getting closer and closer as the tide came in. I called my husband to come and help me shift it. It was too heavy to carry but we managed to screw it around and get it beyond the high tide line. I worked on the beach all day.

Friday 26 January – Facets completed

As usual lots of people stopped to talk with me as I worked. I really enjoy this interaction with the public as I work. I was given lots of ideas for names such as whitebait net and whale but I didn’t set out to make a particular thing; the triangular network was the important thing to me. I initially registered the work as “Kupenga” (net) but then changed it to ‘Facets”, as intended all along. By the end of Friday afternoon, I had completed the sculpture. Heavy rain and big seas were forecast overnight but I was comfortable with the location.

However, when the rain started at about 10pm and continued for some hours, I had a rather sleepless night imagining what might be happening to the sculpture, especially around midnight and high tide.

Saturday 27 January – challenges from nature

About 8am I drove to the beach in sunshine, wondering what I would find. Both sculptures were absolutely fine but the seas were boiling, seething with large bits of wood which had washed down the adjacent Hokitika river overnight. I had never seen the sea so wild before.

As the tide came in over the next four hours, all this driftwood started being dumped on the beach in front of the sculptures, getting closer and closer. It was a nerve-wracking time. Nearing the high tide, a large wave washed past ‘Facets’ but did no damage. People were on standby to help me shift it, but I decided to leave it where it was although I did lift it up a bit off the sand so that the water and debris would go under it. I spent the rest of the afternoon shifting all the driftwood away from in front of it. Partly for aesthetics but mainly to minimise the chance of the debris damaging it if waves washed past.

However ‘Ascension” didn’t fare so well. Someone gave me the post with its label so I went to investigate. The sculpture was nowhere to be seen. A large wave early afternoon had swept it away. Eventually I found it lying horizontal and amongst a huge pile of debris. With some help I managed to recover it and stand it up again.

Sunday 28 January – exciting day

Despite continuing big seas, both sculptures had withstood the elements. I did some more clearing around them before judging.

“Facets” was awarded the judge’s special prize for ‘Marriage of concept and craft” by guest judge and sculptor, Mark Whyte, and then named as the overall winner, for the second year in a row.

Festival coordinator Sue Asplin said “The judge loved the simplicity of concept, finely executed by tying even-sized pieces of wood into a geometric pattern.”


In the following week, I checked the sculptures regularly. However, after two weeks, I discovered some damage (intentional, I think) to ‘Facets’. The tides were still quite high, so I decided to take “Ascension” home.

But “Facets” was too large for this so with the help of some visitors walking along the beach, my husband and I managed to relocate it to the top of the rock wall. This was excellent timing because a couple of days later, the big seas had come well up the beach and there is no doubt, “Facets’ would have been destroyed.

I repaired the damage at the time and need to do this occasionally as the harakeke disintegrates in the weather.


But four months later, “Facets’ is still standing and drawing the attention of locals and visitors to the beach.

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