Let your imagination take flight

If you have a silk parachute stashed away somewhere, keep it well hidden or Susan Holmes will turn it into a wearable art costume. Justine Tyerman talks to one of the most awarded World of Wearable Art designers in New Zealand about her love of textile art and her desire to inspire Gisborne’s creative souls to enter Cutting Edge, our home-grown wearable arts competition, in September.

If you have a silk parachute stashed away somewhere, keep it well hidden or Susan Holmes will turn it into a wearable art costume. Justine Tyerman talks to one of the most awarded World of Wearable Art designers in New Zealand about her love of textile art and her desire to inspire Gisborne’s creative souls to enter Cutting Edge, our home-grown wearable arts competition, in September.

MEDUSA: Seanne Williams’ quirky entry in an earlier Gisborne wearable arts event. Stephen Jones Photography
Supreme Winner:
Susan’s Dragon Fish won the Silk Section Award and was the Supreme Winner in the 1996 World of Wearable Art competition. The costume was made from recycled baskets and placemats with painted, dyed and stencilled silk organza fins stiffened with tapering cane-like wood with a ruched silk underdress. Picture by Phil Fogle
RUNNER UP: The Parachute Bride was runner-up in the 2014 World of Wearable Arts competition in the Creative Excellence category. Picture by Phil Fogle
Susan Holmes at work in her studio. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell

SUSAN Holmes is a dangerous woman. Don’t let her loose near your placemats, sun hats, baskets, tennis balls, plastic tubing, or silk parachutes for that matter.

Even old blankets and woven chairs are not safe in her presence.

Your garden isn’t off limits either. Palm seed stalks, elaeagnus spikes and corn husks are also fair game for Susan.

The 75-year-old veteran of 27 World of Wearable Art (WOW) competitions has a keen eye for materials to use in her spectacular costumes and has even been known to yell “Stop the car . . .” and leap out to grab an old cane peacock-back chair that she subsequently transformed into her dramatic Winged Warrior WOW entry in 1994.

Leafing through a magnificent book of her creations over the years I began to understand the magic of textile art and Susan’s evangelical desire to convert other creative souls to the cause.

She’s now lending her considerable wisdom and expertise to help promote Gisborne’s own home-grown wearable arts competition, Cutting Edge, in September.

Susan studied Home Science at Otago University, did a Masters in Nutrition and taught science for five years but art was always her first love so it was perhaps just a matter of time before art prevailed over science.

One day in the early 1970s, she was with a friend who was broke and wanted to do some screen printing to make money.

Susan found the technique too difficult so she got a half a potato, cut it with a vegetable knife and made a little bird shape which she dipped in dye used as a stamp to print on to silk fabric.

“It was such fun and the effect was really interesting so I started making scarves with the potato print. The advantage of the potato was it was easy to cut and had a smooth surface. The down side was they go mouldy quite fast especially in Auckland’s humid climate.”

Printmaking

After that, Susan used lino, wood and balsa to make prints.

“From there great things happened. After six weeks I gave up teaching for good and became a full-time textile artist, supporting myself, selling to Trina Jay in Auckland.

“I fell in love with textile art. It’s just fabulous and so immediate.

“So I took a step sideways from my landscape and portrait art and a giant step away from my science teaching career.”

Susan drew inspiration from nature with flowers, feathers, leaves and birds frequent motifs in her designs and in 1972 she gained entry to the renowned Brown’s Mill craft co-operative.

During the wonderfully creative 1970s and 80s, Susan explored new techniques like using crinkled and pleated fabric and Shivori dying, a Japanese term for tie dying and created exquisite hand dyed and printed evening dresses and long velvet coats.

In 1989, Susan entered her first WOW competition and has submitted entries every year except for 2016 when she had a hip operation and moved house from Auckland to Gisborne to be closer to her daughter and family.

Accolades for her work

She’s won many accolades for her work including the prestigious Supreme Winner award in 1996 for Dragon Fish. Twenty of her winning pieces are in a museum in Nelson. She’s also had some famous models in her time including the then Prime Minister Helen Clark in 2002 who modelled Crest of the Wave for her.

Now a Gisbornite, Susan wants to encourage those with creative flair to entire Cutting Edge.

“The problem for most people will be what to make,” she says.

“The way I approach a competition like this is to think what materials I have first. I’m constantly gathering things I like so that shapes my ideas. Then I look at the sections for inspiration and see which appeals to me. That gives me direction.

“I sketch for a few weeks until I find a drawing I like and can make. Then I look for techniques that are new and interesting and exciting and different.

“The ideas come when I’m striving at it or sometimes when I see something like the peacock chair on the side of the road. This took on a new life as the Winged Warrior.

“Be prepared to hack things up, absolutely destroy them and then reconstruct.

“Look for materials that will stiffen fabric like bra boning and black plastic irrigation tube.

“I don’t rely on glue, sewing is my preferred technique but some artists like to weld.

“The fun is in changing things and making them exciting. It’s like sculpture. You have to think in 3D and consider how the body moves and go with your delight. Do the things you think are just gorgeous.”

She’s mulling over whether to enter WOW again this year but in the meantime, she’s a “willing grandma” to two small grandchildren who she will introduce to textile art . . . as soon as they can hold a potato in their little hands.

The Cutting Edge

It’s been a decade since Gisborne had any sort of wearable arts competition but that is set to change this year with the inaugural Cutting Edge Wearable Art Show.

“We are excited to be bringing a new event to town,” says competition director Prue Younger.

“We’ve revived and recreated it to really open it up to everyone. We want people of all ages to push the boundaries with this and use materials that aren’t the norm,” she says.

The competition is open to all ages and abilities who can enter across seven sections: the Pultron Industrial Innovation class; the Waste Management Trash Treasure; the Poverty Bay A and P Association Farm Art; Business Applications Pulp Fiction; The Gisborne Herald White Night; Design School Fluro Fantasy and Plumbing World Top of the Pops.

Each category has a prize for both adult and youth (under 14) entries.

There are special awards too: the EIT runner-up Fresh New Designer; the YMCA Youth (under 14) Designer Winner; and BK Agency Cutting Edge Supreme Award Winner, who will win a trophy, money and tickets to WOW.

Garments that have been shown in previous events throughout New Zealand are eligible for the 2017 Cutting Edge Show.

Entries opened on February 1 and close on July 1. Garments must be submitted by August 18.

The awards take place on September 22-23 at the YMCA and Gisborne’s own Jackie Clarke is coming home to host the big night.

Throughout October and November section winners will be displayed at sponsors’ businesses.

“A big thanks to our main sponsor BK Agency who share the same enthusiasm as me to see more top events in the region,” says Prue, who has named the East Coast branch of CanTeen as the charity of choice for the event.

Cutting Edge will be run over two nights, with the public able to buy tickets to both the rehearsal at the PrintonFabric Pre-launch Cocktail Party and the Cutting Edge Awards Party, where there will be corporate tables available as well as general seating.

“This is going to be an incredible event where local designers and would-be designers can create to their hearts’ content,” says Prue.

• For more information, head to www.cuttingedgegisborne.co.nz

SUSAN Holmes is a dangerous woman. Don’t let her loose near your placemats, sun hats, baskets, tennis balls, plastic tubing, or silk parachutes for that matter.

Even old blankets and woven chairs are not safe in her presence.

Your garden isn’t off limits either. Palm seed stalks, elaeagnus spikes and corn husks are also fair game for Susan.

The 75-year-old veteran of 27 World of Wearable Art (WOW) competitions has a keen eye for materials to use in her spectacular costumes and has even been known to yell “Stop the car . . .” and leap out to grab an old cane peacock-back chair that she subsequently transformed into her dramatic Winged Warrior WOW entry in 1994.

Leafing through a magnificent book of her creations over the years I began to understand the magic of textile art and Susan’s evangelical desire to convert other creative souls to the cause.

She’s now lending her considerable wisdom and expertise to help promote Gisborne’s own home-grown wearable arts competition, Cutting Edge, in September.

Susan studied Home Science at Otago University, did a Masters in Nutrition and taught science for five years but art was always her first love so it was perhaps just a matter of time before art prevailed over science.

One day in the early 1970s, she was with a friend who was broke and wanted to do some screen printing to make money.

Susan found the technique too difficult so she got a half a potato, cut it with a vegetable knife and made a little bird shape which she dipped in dye used as a stamp to print on to silk fabric.

“It was such fun and the effect was really interesting so I started making scarves with the potato print. The advantage of the potato was it was easy to cut and had a smooth surface. The down side was they go mouldy quite fast especially in Auckland’s humid climate.”

Printmaking

After that, Susan used lino, wood and balsa to make prints.

“From there great things happened. After six weeks I gave up teaching for good and became a full-time textile artist, supporting myself, selling to Trina Jay in Auckland.

“I fell in love with textile art. It’s just fabulous and so immediate.

“So I took a step sideways from my landscape and portrait art and a giant step away from my science teaching career.”

Susan drew inspiration from nature with flowers, feathers, leaves and birds frequent motifs in her designs and in 1972 she gained entry to the renowned Brown’s Mill craft co-operative.

During the wonderfully creative 1970s and 80s, Susan explored new techniques like using crinkled and pleated fabric and Shivori dying, a Japanese term for tie dying and created exquisite hand dyed and printed evening dresses and long velvet coats.

In 1989, Susan entered her first WOW competition and has submitted entries every year except for 2016 when she had a hip operation and moved house from Auckland to Gisborne to be closer to her daughter and family.

Accolades for her work

She’s won many accolades for her work including the prestigious Supreme Winner award in 1996 for Dragon Fish. Twenty of her winning pieces are in a museum in Nelson. She’s also had some famous models in her time including the then Prime Minister Helen Clark in 2002 who modelled Crest of the Wave for her.

Now a Gisbornite, Susan wants to encourage those with creative flair to entire Cutting Edge.

“The problem for most people will be what to make,” she says.

“The way I approach a competition like this is to think what materials I have first. I’m constantly gathering things I like so that shapes my ideas. Then I look at the sections for inspiration and see which appeals to me. That gives me direction.

“I sketch for a few weeks until I find a drawing I like and can make. Then I look for techniques that are new and interesting and exciting and different.

“The ideas come when I’m striving at it or sometimes when I see something like the peacock chair on the side of the road. This took on a new life as the Winged Warrior.

“Be prepared to hack things up, absolutely destroy them and then reconstruct.

“Look for materials that will stiffen fabric like bra boning and black plastic irrigation tube.

“I don’t rely on glue, sewing is my preferred technique but some artists like to weld.

“The fun is in changing things and making them exciting. It’s like sculpture. You have to think in 3D and consider how the body moves and go with your delight. Do the things you think are just gorgeous.”

She’s mulling over whether to enter WOW again this year but in the meantime, she’s a “willing grandma” to two small grandchildren who she will introduce to textile art . . . as soon as they can hold a potato in their little hands.

The Cutting Edge

It’s been a decade since Gisborne had any sort of wearable arts competition but that is set to change this year with the inaugural Cutting Edge Wearable Art Show.

“We are excited to be bringing a new event to town,” says competition director Prue Younger.

“We’ve revived and recreated it to really open it up to everyone. We want people of all ages to push the boundaries with this and use materials that aren’t the norm,” she says.

The competition is open to all ages and abilities who can enter across seven sections: the Pultron Industrial Innovation class; the Waste Management Trash Treasure; the Poverty Bay A and P Association Farm Art; Business Applications Pulp Fiction; The Gisborne Herald White Night; Design School Fluro Fantasy and Plumbing World Top of the Pops.

Each category has a prize for both adult and youth (under 14) entries.

There are special awards too: the EIT runner-up Fresh New Designer; the YMCA Youth (under 14) Designer Winner; and BK Agency Cutting Edge Supreme Award Winner, who will win a trophy, money and tickets to WOW.

Garments that have been shown in previous events throughout New Zealand are eligible for the 2017 Cutting Edge Show.

Entries opened on February 1 and close on July 1. Garments must be submitted by August 18.

The awards take place on September 22-23 at the YMCA and Gisborne’s own Jackie Clarke is coming home to host the big night.

Throughout October and November section winners will be displayed at sponsors’ businesses.

“A big thanks to our main sponsor BK Agency who share the same enthusiasm as me to see more top events in the region,” says Prue, who has named the East Coast branch of CanTeen as the charity of choice for the event.

Cutting Edge will be run over two nights, with the public able to buy tickets to both the rehearsal at the PrintonFabric Pre-launch Cocktail Party and the Cutting Edge Awards Party, where there will be corporate tables available as well as general seating.

“This is going to be an incredible event where local designers and would-be designers can create to their hearts’ content,” says Prue.

• For more information, head to www.cuttingedgegisborne.co.nz

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    The council estimates $13.2 million of work is needed on private drainage systems to help limit wastewater discharges into city rivers, along with $25m-$65m more work on the public wastewater and stormwater systems. Do you think private property owners should pay to repair their systems, the council, or a council subsidy such as interest-free loans?