Christchurch gets crafty

Rag rug making by Vita Cochran

Rag rug making by Vita Cochran

One of the many interesting projects to arise in Christchurch over the past few years has been Rekindle, which began as a means of trying to recycle materials from their post-earthquake state of their demolition. At the Arts Centre 8-17 November, their latest initiative, Necessary Traditions, offers a week with a wide range of demonstrations and workshops, including several highlights for the textile crowd.

Vita Cochran will be visiting from Sydney to pass on her grandmother’s rag-rug practice. This centuries-old craft developed out of necessity when textiles were expensive; now it offers further options for otherwise landfill-bound fabrics. Vita is of course well known for her handbags and other objects, which are held in collections across NZ. At the main weekend festival event, Vita will be sharing the making of a large communal rag rug, before taking workshops during the following week.

Louise Clifton will be bringing the Shoe School to Necessary Traditions, with presentations during the weekend, and three day-long workshops making sneakers from leather sourced as offcuts from local businesses from the 12thNovember. Continue reading

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It’s a wrap


The bunting has been bundled away, the weather almost held for the duration, and most of the organising committee and, we suspect, our guests are now winding down after an intense and stimulating weekend. This post is mostly for those of you who attended: thank you for making the trip down, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed hosting you, listening to your presentations and talking with you. Everyone’s thanks to Stella Lange, for offering to host, rounding up the team and wrangling us and the Otago Polytechnic crew, who were terrific.

Warm thanks to our speakers. We began both days with keynotes: on Saturday morning,   CTANZ stalwart Jane Malthus shared with us the depth and breadth of her knowledge and research expertise in talking about 19th century dress activism, particularly in New Zealand. Sunday’s speaker, Te Papa’s Nina Tonga, delighted and moved us as she recounted the more recent fashion activism of the Pacific Sisters, from their beginnings to the exhibition Nina recently curated for Te Papa (good news: it’s going to tour).

Thanks too, of course, to all our other speakers, who make the symposium possible, for  giving their time to offer us considered their many and varied approaches to the topic, noting especially those who came from outside New Zealand, Mercedes Pardo, from Colombia and Michael Marendy from Australia. Also to the artists who shared their skills in the Unbound exhibition and the symposium pop-ups – we look forward to seeing Angela Rowe’s project.

That’s all from Symposium 2018. The symposium page will imminently be archived and replaced with a placeholder for the 2019 Symposium, venue and dates to be confirmed. Until next year…haere ra.

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Unbound: the exhibition

Exhibition openingAlongside the Unbound symposium, the Dunedin School of Art Gallery is also hosting Unbound: the exhibition from 21 September – 18 October, 2018 (Open:10am – 4pm, week days, and  Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 September, 9am-4pm.) Co-curated by Dr Natalie Smith and Victoria Bell, Unbound: the exhibition features work by Artists: Professor Margo Barton, Anita DeSoto, Edwards + Johann, Steve Lovett, Michelle Mayn, Dylan McCutcheon-Peat with Simon Swale, Victoria McIntosh, Marie Strauss with Justin Spiers and Susan Videler.

The opening night, 5.30 – 8pm on Friday 21 September 2018, which is also the welcome to the symposium, and includes a Citizen Styled event by Professor Margo Barton.
The Dunedin School of Art Gallery is in P Block, Otago Polytechnic – Te Kura Matatini ki Otago, (Entrance off Riego Street. For those unfamiliar with Dunedin, this is at the stadium end of Albany Street).


Exhibition Premise:

Christine Webster, Black Carnival Series 1992-1994. Courtesy of Christine Webster.

Christine Webster, Black Carnival Series 1992-1994. Courtesy of Christine Webster.

Unbound: the exhibition presents artworks in response to Christine Webster’s Cibachrome photograph of model Tamati James from the series, Black Carnival (1993-97), an image chosen as a contemporary contrast to Tearing off the Bonds (1912) by American cartoonist Lou Rogers, the image that appears throughout symposium paraphernalia.  These images bookend dialogues about women’s liberation surveyed over the weekend of the symposium.

 The yet still dangerous image of James in Black Carnival #48, 1995, his body partly veiled in a white wedding dress, body luminous in a black void, smiling eyes, gazing at the viewer, blurs gender assumptions, notions of desire, and links to continuing debates on the fluidity of dress, bodies and sexualities, contemporarily relevant to the current moment of social rights activism today. While Webster’s image is from the early 1990s, in 2018 the curators feel that it reiterates the goals of the suffragists and suffragettes[1]. Although suffrage was associated strongly with women’s rights, Smith and Bell are interested in recalling the wider historical search for equality and equity, for all people, in relation to the impact over the last 20 years of Queer Theory and the current recognition of the plurality of gender and sexual identity in Western cultures. In this manner, we feel that Unbound: the exhibition echoes the spirit of those early women and their courage to stand up. Continue reading

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A final pre-symposium post for Suffrage Day

Suffrage_symbol_FWherever you were on 19 September, there was a Suffrage125 event to enjoy, and the celebrations are continuing around the country. Including, of course, in Dunedin this weekend, so two last posts about what’s on down here as well as the actual programme of speakers that’s the main business of symposium. Following this, a separate piece on Unbound: the exhibition, the opening for which is the first event of the symposium proper.

But first, a brief rundown on what you can expect on Saturday and Sunday at the Hub, Otago Polytechnic’s main communal space which is where we’ll be gathering between sessions.

  • A one-day pop-up shop for items made by design and visual art students

    Lou Rogers, Tearing Off the Bonds, “Modern Woman” column from The Judge, c 1912-13. Source: Wikimedia Commons

    Lou Rogers, Tearing Off the Bonds, “Modern Woman” column from The Judge, c 1912-13. Source: Wikimedia Commons

  • A Knit/Craft lounge for dropping into during the symposium – bring your portable BYO projects to work on or pick up or relearn a hands on skill like knitting, crochet or stitching. Share your skills or ask for help from other aficionados.
  • A Loom Room space, for those who haven’t been able to get down to North East Valley to see what Christine Keller and her students have been doing this week.
  • Unbound: Gathering Material, Angela Rowe’s project involving the “creation of a garment that may be viewed as an historical document, recording the symposium as an event. It may represent a physical ‘checking in’, a common practice on social media, while the finished object becomes a tangible document of this event, a collection of autographs or marks which may represent the only time this group of individuals are present together”. Other attendees are invited to add their signature or mark to pieces of the garment Angela is creating over the weekend.
  • Stitch Kitchen, founded in 2015 as a shared passion for working on a local solution to the global fashion waste problem, will be  running lunchtime workshops on Furoshiki wrapping and making Origami bags and bin liners to encourage you on your path to being plastic free.  The Stitch Kitchen area will include Pam McKinlay’s Tragic Plastic with an Armageddon Sunset (woven with the guidance of Vivien Dwyer), a participatory weaving project in Ōku Moana (My Oceans) in the International New Zealand Science Festival, 2018.






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Symposium minus one week – what’s on in Dunedin, updated

Lou Rogers, Tearing Off the Bonds, “Modern Woman” column from The Judge, c 1912-13. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Lou Rogers, Tearing Off the Bonds, “Modern Woman” column from The Judge, c 1912-13. Source: Wikimedia Commons

With just a week to go before the symposium, some further information about all that’s going on, especially for our out of town guests.

First: the service announcement. Dunedin has been trying this spring lark for size this week and it’s looking to be warm and fine next weekend:!/ten-day

Second: there is a lot going on in Dunedin the weekend of the symposium to appeal to the textile enthusiast. You’d think they’d done it deliberately, but we won’t flatter ourselves.

At Dunedin Public Art Gallery, as previously mentioned, there’s Space Suit, which explores the space occupied by textiles and sculpture, including the signature Ronnie van Hout Space Suit and many more delights. There’s also delight in the opposite gallery, in which Four highlights recent local practice, including Megan Brady’s wall-to-wall carpet installation.

3.Wedding dress worn by the University of Otago’s third female law graduate Marion Robertson on the occasion of her marriage to John Gilbert Thomson in 1937 and vestments made for the consecration in 1990 of Penelope Jamieson, the first woman in the world to head an Anglican diocese. / Toitū Otago Settlers Museum

3. Wedding dress worn by the University of Otago’s third female law graduate Marion Robertson on the occasion of her marriage to John Gilbert Thomson in 1937 and vestments made for the consecration in 1990 of Penelope Jamieson, the first woman in the world to head an Anglican diocese. / Toitū Otago Settlers Museum

A couple of blocks away, at Toitu, Suffrage and Beyond celebrates Suffrage 125 highlights the lives and works of local women since 1893; dress and needlework make up a significant proportion of the exhibition, from school uniforms to Olympic kit to ecclesiastic regalia. If you’re in Dunedin on Thursday, Toitu is hosting a New Zealand Fashion Museum photography pop-up from 10am-4pm.

Heading over to the Otago Polytech side of town, Otago Museum is marking its 150th birthday with est. 1868 highlighting some of the largest, smallest, quirkiest, sexiest and deadliest items in its extensive collection, including some rather gorgeous textile items. An informal Textile-est floor talk  is on offer on Friday afternoon 1-2pm. The Museum is also offering extra opportunities to hear from some of the symposium presenters, with Angela Lassig speaking about Berlin wool work in 19th century New Zealand on Thursday 20 September, 5.30pm. Dr Michael Marendy is staying on a few days, so will speak on Tuesday 25 September on Brisbane dressmaker Mrs Janet Walker.

A little further afield, the Loom Room (11 Allen Street, North East Valley) will be open to visitors on Friday 21 September, 12-2pm. Christine Keller will also have a space in the symposium Hub over the weekend, but if you want to see the bigger  studio, this is your chance.

Loom Room

As previously mentioned, the symposium weekend is also the opening weekend of the Dunedin Arts Festival, which includes three performances of Beloved Muse, the story of Viennese designer Emily Flöge, who, when she wasn’t running a successful business, modeled for her artist partner Gustav Klimt. The festival organisers encourage the first night audience to dress for the occasion: era-appropriate or black and white, but there’s no reason we can’t make the same effort if we end up going on Sunday night instead.

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Counting down to Unbound


It’s nearly September, when Suffrage125 celebrations ramp up, not least of them Unbound: Liberating Women. The provisional schedule of speakers is now available below.

The symposium proper starts with the opening of the Unbound exhibition at Dunedin School of Art, 5-8pm on Friday 21 September. This will include the formal welcome and provide an opportunity for registration ahead of the 8.30 for 9am start on Saturday.

After the opening keynote, there will be two streams for most of Saturday, finishing at 5pm to allow time to don the glad rags for a delicious dinner in the historic and scenic surrounds of New Zealand’s most famous and beloved castle. Partners and friends are also welcome to join us for the Larnach Castle dinner (please note that transport is included and that dinner bookings must be confirmed by 14 September).

On Sunday, we have another keynote, the AGM, two streams in the morning, and an afternoon session that will wrap up mid Sunday afternoon, allowing plenty of time to get evening flights north. Further details are available in the provisional programme.

Please note that online registration closes 16 September.

CTANZ symposium 2018 – provisional schedule




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Symposium: a programme preview

UNBOUND 7 AUGWith six weeks or so until the symposium, registrations are ticking along nicely and we’re pleased to release the provisional list of presenters and papers, which can be downloaded from the links below. As well as our two keynotes, there are around 30 presentations to choose from, not counting the exhibition opening, and opportunities for interaction and textile shopping onsite.

As with the keynotes, the presenters are a mix of stalwarts and newcomers, not all from New Zealand.  The topics range from literal to lateral interpretations of the theme, with work, art, and social aspects prominent. Women as shoppers and shopworkers, high-vis clothing, literally building a space for a textile business. The national dress of Colombia, dressing for driving, the races, making a good impression. Footbinding on one hand, and Doc Martens on another. Presentations on artists’ feminist practice, both the presenter’s own work or the work of the more renowned, like Frida Kahlo. And, because it’s the 21st century, the Kardashians are in the mix, as well as earlier, less well-known screen icons. Given the theme, there’s a well over a century of history; the geography includes China, Mexico, India, Iran, Australia, Colombia and of course Aotearoa, south, north and national.

The art presentations will include a discussion by Dunedin School of Art’s Victoria Bell and Natalie Smith from the University of Otago about the accompanying Unbound exhibition, and its departure point, New Zealand photographer Christine Webster’s groundbreaking Black Carnival series. The call for projects resulted in the selection of nine artworks across a range of media; Unbound, the exhibition, will open on evening of Friday 21 September to launch the symposium.

Here’s the list of presenters and papers, subject to a couple of new titles and any other unexpected change:Unbound – presenters and papers and here’s the poster for your wall and for sharing: UNBOUND poster.

Register here


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Symposium announcements: the keynotes


The symposium committee is delighted to announce that this year’s symposium will feature two eminent national speakers as our keynotes.

Nina Tonga 01Nina Tonga  is Curator Pacific Art at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. From the villages of Vaini and Kolofo’ou in Tonga, and born and raised in New Zealand, Nina specialises in contemporary Pacific art and is a doctoral candidate in Art History at the University of Auckland. Recent exhibitions include Tivaevae: Out of the Glory Box (2015) and Pacific Sisters: Fashion Activists (2018) at Te Papa.  She is currently curator for the Honolulu Biennial 2019.

Dr Jane Malthus needs little introduction to CTANZ members, or indeed members of the wider dress and textile community. A founder member and past president of the association, Jane has a formidable record in education, curation, writing and general commentary on 19th and 20th century dress. Her recent work includes a chapter on colonial New Zealand dress for a forthcoming costume history, co-curating exhibitions on Dunedin fashion in Auckland and Shanghai, and speaking on aspects of dress ranging from Regency England to 1950s royal tours of New Zealand to community groups, to Radio NZ about 19th century women’s underwear. Her CTANZ talk will revisit her work on dress reform, teasing out some strands now visible thanks in part  to the digital world.

Jane Malthus speaks to Radio NZ at Otago Museum.

Jane Malthus speaks to Radio NZ at Otago Museum.

We’ll be announcing further details about the symposium and exhibition soon; you can register for the symposium online here.

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That Bloody Petition

That Bloody Woman by Luke di Somma and Gregory Cooper. Dir. Kip Chapman. Auckland Theatre Company production. Production Photos - Michael Smith

That Bloody Woman by Luke di Somma and Gregory Cooper. Dir. Kip Chapman. Auckland Theatre Company production. Production Photos – Michael Smith

It’s a sound that reaches through New Zealand history: 28 July 1893, when the bulk of the women’s suffrage petition hit the back wall of the debating chamber after being unrolled by John Hall from the broomstick on which it had been delivered. Almost all of the petition survived this treatment to become one of the three nation-building documents constituting the National Library’s He Tohu exhibition, where visitors get to see  it under carefully controlled conditions.

The 1893 suffrage petition also takes a starring role in That Bloody Woman, Gregory Cooper and Luke di Somma’s punk rock musical about that bloody woman, Kate Sheppard, who went from being a temperance activist to the face of our $10 note. The show started out smallish in an intimate venue at the 2015 arts festival in Sheppard’s home town of Christchurch, but the bigger venues and budgets of the 2016 production by the Auckland Theatre Company and Court Theatre offered the opportunity for spectacle. Auckland designer Rachael Walker became one of the team majorly inspired by the petition as an object. As Walker notes, it was “surely impossible to stage such an internationally historical NZ achievement without a visual representation of that final petition”. The challenge, then, to transform a long roll of signatures into the wow factor.

Sky City - banners in the aisle

Sky City – banners in the aisle

If you have been to the show, you know how they did it. Walker and the team worked with Archives New Zealand to use high-resolution images of pages of the petition at a large scale, turning them into banners that unfurl at the point in the show where Hall takes his place in posterity.  Six 6m long, solenoid-activated petition sheets drop on cue, while cast members pull out two longer banners into the theatre’s aisles, in the SkyCity auditorium to a full 20m.

At least 10 people were involved in working up the concept.  Walker and the ATC production team cleaned the page images so they would stand out well to the audience; even if we can’t quite read Kate Sheppard’s signature on one of the banner, it’s there. The Bannertex fabric used met the necessary specs of being light, printable, durable, with a good fall, and washable – as Walker says, the petition is white after all. White was a key colour in the overall production design, relating to Kate’s costumes, to the white camellia suffrage symbol, and the essence of ‘freedom, purity and femininity’. Walker’s banners and Lisa Holmes’s costume designs reflected each other, with Kate’s signature also being incorporated into her own very distinctive jacket.

Esther Stevens as Kate Sheppard in That Bloody Woman Auckland Theatre Company 2016, Production Photos - Michael Smith

Esther Stevens as Kate Sheppard in That Bloody Woman Auckland Theatre Company 2016, Production Photos – Michael Smith

Rachael Walker and the production team knew during the technical rehearsal just how emotional and powerful the effect of the banner drop would be. Audience previews also confirmed it, and Walker confirms it as her favourite theatrical moment of the show. In the performance I saw during the production’s 2017 national tour, you could feel the audience smile, and more than a few people wiped an eye moist with something like pride. The entire petition is 270m long, but the scale of the 70m or so in the theatre reminds us of the scale of the undertaking, and connects us to the women behind those signatures. That Bloody Woman’s onstage cast is small, but the petition comprised the intent of thousands of women making their voices heard, then and forever. In recreating John Hall’s petition presentation, with elegance and grace, Walker and the rest of the team brought history to life.

Scale 1:25 model of the set with banners Photo Rachael Walker

Scale 1:25 model of the set with banners Photo Rachael Walker

The ATC production team for That Bloody Woman:

MD  – Luke Di Somma;   Writers – Gregory Cooper and Luke Di Somma;  Director – Kip Chapman 
Set Design – Rachael Walker;   Costume Design –  Lisa Holmes

Lighting Design – Brendan Albrey; Props –  Amy Snape;  SM –  Cally Castell; Technical Manager – Jamie Blackburn; Lighting Op – Jamie Johnstone;  Sound Op – Arran Eley; Construction – 2 Construct

At ATC – Graphic Design – Wanda Tambrin; Production Manager – Robert Hunte

Thanks to Rachael Walker and Gregory Cooper for their assistance with this blog post, and to Rachael and ATC for the images.

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LoomRoom workshop September

shawl 99At last year’s CTANZ symposium in Hamilton, weaver Christine Keller presented the development of Dunedin’s LoomRoom and showed a shawl made in the LoomRoom by friend/colleague/student Pam McKinlay. Several symposium attendees asked Christine for a workshop so they could make their own. Christine has scheduled the requested workshop for the week before this year’s symposium. Here’s her invitation:

Spend a week in residency with master weaver Christine Keller in Dunedin’s LoomRoom and weave your own multicoloured merino scarf or shawl.

Monday 17 Sept – Friday 21 Sept, 9am – 4pm (Friday may finish a little earlier to doll up for the exhibition opening OR a bit later to weave those last inches) – then show off your sparkling new wrap at the symposium!

Objective: In this class we will start with some colour inspiration from pictures of objects you bring in and learn methods to translate those into warp dye design. Then each student will dye their warp (provided) accordingly with the appropriate dye method, and we will set up the looms and then weave the scarf in the remaining time.

shawl 1

Students should have basic knowledge of weaving and how to set up a loom. However, we will all work together and help each other. The number of participants will be limited to 6. If you’ve never woven but urgently feel you should be there you can ‘rent a buddy’ for an extra $100 and you’ll get one knowledgeable student to help with the set up for one day.

shawl 2

If people are fast as weaving I will fill in the time with sharing extra resources, giving talks and you can pick my brain…If we are slower at weaving we might drag out class times into the evenings as needed.

Price: $450 per person, includes all warp and weft, handouts, loom rental, LoomRoom residency, coffee and tea.

I hope to see you in the studio for a week of inspiring and fun creation.

Please contact Christine Keller at or at

shawl 3


Images: Christine Keller

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