Flora and Form: Creations from the Backyard – exhibition

Flora and Form: Creations from the Backyard – Solo exhibition – Anne Daniel – at the Left Bank Gallery, Greymouth, opened 24 May 6pm until 15 June.

Artist talk 15 June, 1pm.

Hokitika Guardian 24 May 2024

Words from the opening

When I signed up for a weekend flax weaving class at Westland High School about 25 years ago, I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined being in a gallery full of people coming to see an exhibition of my work. That class was tutored by Veronika Maser. Thank you, Veronika for starting me on my fibre art journey. I thought it fitting to have my kete from that class with me tonight. I had fallen in love with harakeke (flax).

I would like to acknowledge the tangata whenua weavers of Aotearoa, past and present especially the late Tungia Baker. Also like to acknowledge Deb Price for introducing me to all the other basketmaking techniques I have in my kete.

Creating with harakeke and other plant fibres has taken on a life of its own. From that initial class, I dabbled in weaving – I was teaching fulltime then – maths and chemistry! Eventually I got up enough confidence to enter some work in a WAI – Westland Arts Inc exhibition in Hokitika, my first of many; sold my first piece at one (Rory).

But ten years ago, as I entered my 60’s decade, the momentum suddenly increased.

It began with exhibiting beyond Hokitika, first with WAI at Art in the Park at Shantytown. This led to Pete Howard inviting me to be part of a West Coast exhibit at the first Christchurch Art show. For this, I thought had better have a business card and a website and created both for myself. Around this time, encouraged by Judith Hebberd, I entered four harakeke works in the Creative Fibre National exhibition in Dunedin – three of which won awards including the major one.

A few months later, an opportunity came up to the join the Hokitika Craft Gallery cooperative where I was a member for three years. I needed to create work on more regular basis to replace what was sold. Today, I work from my studio at home – designed and built by amazing husband Rob – thanks Rob – and have trouble keeping up with orders and commissions from all over Aotearoa and beyond.

I continued to exhibit in group exhibitions – here in the Left Bank members exhibitions, Kings College Art Exhibition in Auckland and two as Gold Flax Paper with Kate and Kira– both here and in Hokitika. – and was a finalist in the inaugural Te Tai o Poutini Art Awards.

I have regularly created sculptures on the beach at Hokitika for Driftwood and Sand with much success, including being the overall winner for the past two years.

The pinnacle is being selected as a finalist in the prestigious Parkin Drawing Prize twice. Three years ago with a collection of 18 small works, called “From My Garden”  initially created for Art @ the Library in Hokitika. Thanks Kate Buckley for suggesting I enter as I would never considered doing this myself. My shortlisted entry from last year “Journeys” is here – the one with the stones.

So, these last ten years have been been very full and fulfilling for me. At some stage during this time, I changed my occupation from teacher to fibre artist – a significant mind shift. And I am certainly not retired.

And what better way to end my 60s than with this my first solo exhibition – I enter my 70s a few days after this exhibition closes. I booked it about two years ago. This was the first available slot that suited me with other commitments especially family ones. I hadn’t realised how perfect the time would be. 

I must say the idea of having enough works to fill the gallery was rather daunting but I have relished the incentive to create new work and I have been working fulltime plus over the past 2-3 months.

My brief to myself was to create work using only FLORA – plant materials found locally – in my backyard. I met the location brief – most of the plant materials are from my property – growing in my garden or in the bush. I got some hop vines from Micheal – thanks Micheal – The rest were foraged within walking distance from home while on my daily walks – within 5km of my studio which includes the beach. However, I didn’t quite meet the plant material brief in just one work – Journeys”– which includes some beach stones.

All the works on these two walls are created solely from harakeke which is from my pā harakeke – consisting over thirty different cultivars from the national Flax Collection. The harakeke is prepared in different ways – strips, shredded, strips allowed to dry into cylinders and muka, the fine white fibre extracted from the leaf. As we move to the other two walls there are other plant materials as well.

The works have been created using many different basketmaking techniques. In many I use raranga , but also random weaving, coiling, wrapping, looping, knotting and cordage making and a loom.

My work is very much influenced by the materials and I often have no idea what it will end up like – it just evolves. I love FORM as you can see.  Shapes, especially 3-dimensional; textures; shadows – I get some shadows on my studio wall but it was so exciting when hanging the works, to see the shadows being created here by the gallery lighting.

And I love the natural colour of the materials. You may see that much of the harakeke I use is not perfect – I like to celebrate the markings on the leaves. In a couple of works, I have dyed corn husks and muka with various plant dyes that fit my brief.

I say I use my head, hands and heart when creating a work. You can find out more about the process and stories behind these works in the artist talk I will give on the final day of the exhibition – 15 June at 2pm.

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