Based in Napier, Marian Smale combines art and intricate dressmaking skills to create her uniquely styled garments. Fresh from her first Craft 2.0 in Wellington, Marian, along with her daughter Chloe and daughter-in-law Csilla, is fast becoming a fixture in the local contemporary craft scene.
What do you make?
I’ll try anything with fabric. Currently it’s mostly wearable.
How did you get into your craft?
I have a memory of the treadle and lower wheel on the sewing machine luring me first. I suspect I was not yet walking.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I’m largely self taught. I once did a pattern making course. At the end I went back to my own methods. There have been other workshops and short courses in batik, drawing, collage, papermaking which I know all add to the mix. I’m obsessed with trying the new idea.
Your favourite materials,tools and processes?
My favourite tool would have to be my hands. I’m eternally grateful for where they take me. And I’m very attached to the pin tin that was my seamstress grandmother’s. I do have some favourite paintbrushes. And I’d be lost without my collection of sewing machines although if the power failed the treadle would be fine. And handsewing is balm to the soul. Painting is where I get to see my craft take off and have a wild party all its own!
What inspires you?
Mostly just getting on with it, the more I work the better it gets. [Yep,a recipe for a workaholic!] and going bush, being in the sea, beautiful old fabrics and scraps, op shops and junk shops, making new gardens, music and reading, the energy in the center of big cities, friends, grandkids,dreaming…eyes open or shut, experimenting.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Recycle whenever possible.
Good functional pieces, however humble, can have as much vitality as a large beautiful artwork. It’s about creating with integrity. About loving the process and paying it full attention while creating the article. I love to think this kind of essence can be affordable for everyone.
A favourite quote:
“He who flowers his room, flowers his life” by a starving Paris artist who’d just spent the money for shoes from a friend on flowers!
Describe your workspace:
My sewing room is warm, sunny, airy, cluttered and ordered, colourful, rich. With a big old couch for sharing a cuppa, a big bare carpet square in the middle I use for cutting out and setting grandkids loose with the button jars. I feel whole when I walk into it.
For painting I have a number of different spots. My paints are stored in the shed where I live, but weather permitting I paint outside. I also paint in a bush retreat, amongst other “holiday” destinations I prefer for painting.
Five words that describe your mind: teeming, passionate, drifty, practical, quirky.
What are you currently listening to? Anything my kids load on my iPod!
Recommend an album: Inarticulate Speech of the Heart by Van Morrison.
Your favourite childhood book?
That’s hard, there are lots.
I’d have to say Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit for being the first book I remember transporting me completely. I can see the little me standing in the dusty old town library with worn wooden floors and muted light slanting in the window, the little book in my hand. I experienced it as being the same place as Mrs Rabbit’s warm kitchen under a tree. And I was very happy to be there!
What are you reading now? The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai.
Your hero/heroine: Both my grandmothers.
Do you have any pets?
Not currently, but warm memories of several furry/hairy friends I’ve loved.
If you were a crayon,what colour would you be?
Diamond patterned purple and green like the snake in a Rupert Bear book.
You can expect to see Marian stepping out at future craft events in Hawkes Bay and surrounds, but in the meantime check out more of her work in her Felt shop, MarianSmale.