Created By Our Hands
1-13 August, Hastings Community Arts Centre
This community gallery fulfils its role best when it offers a setting for community-owned showings of work. When the stories of how and why and who are as visible as the work itself. When process is as respected as product. When community can stand alongside creator(s) to share knowledge, outcomes and pride. When it becomes a forum that echoes the make-up of this community, its diversity, its depth, its priorities, its people.
The current show does all of that. It is unfinished in places; it chooses process before polish. It is a pure showing of work in terms of imagined anguish of creators and curators as the exhibition opening night arrives and they don’t feel they have “quite finished”, they’re “not ready”, there’s “more to do”. But it is that limbo that is caught so beautifully here and gives an essence of the maker toiling over each stitch of each piece. It is that spirit that lifts this show away from homewares in gift shops towards a higher plane of artistic appreciation.
What’s on show in the concrete is Cook Island Embroidery but the real ‘show’ is the hours of painstaking work, the fine execution of each stitch and far more than that. Each finished coverlet is the end-point of a far longer journey than just stitching. There is internal reflection of self in terms of culture and artistry, ancestry and craft. There is the laborious tivaevae construction from observation of flower patterns to the fine cutting-in and over lay of fabric, only then the craftsmanship of each stitch with each edge turned. There is certainly no machine work here. These bedspreads – often traditional wedding gifts – are absolute labours of love. Even wrestling with the size of the works brings to mind a tussle under the bedclothes of a particularly cerebral and patient variety! Especially when a mother or a grandmother is sitting across from the artisan.
Community themes are redoubled with the realisation that many of the offerings are family labours with multiple generations contributing. There are family and social history elements to the show as well as culture in a contemporary context with makers discovering traditional indigenous craft from tutelage rather than at a matriarch’s knee. As heavy with history as the show is, it also gives a contemporary counterweight to the current culture of convenience and commercial consumption.