Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Recording the New Normal

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

In the wake of the Christchurch quakes many books have been published about the immediate destruction, the long-term losses and the humbling human response in the days that followed each set of major shakes.

Christchurch: the Transitional City Part IV, edited by Barnaby Bennett, Irene Boles and Eugenio Boidi, catalogues a different aspect of that human response: not the heroic actions of emergency services and civilians, but the continuing responses of everyday people to the utterly changed city we find ourselves in – artistic, practical and creative.

Christchurch Cover 1

Christchurch Road Cones

The book itself is a plain design, with a simple solidity that belies its diverse and colourful contents: a collection of transitory projects, memorials, political commentaries and protests, responses to immediate community needs and efforts to bring a smile or two in the vacant spaces. In total it records 153 temporary and transitional projects that have occurred in Christchurch since September 2010. The introduction is kept simple and brief, but manages to vividly convey the emotional rollercoaster that has been the last few years for Christchurch residents.

The projects are presented simply – participants have answered a series of questions and their responses are printed along with images of their project. Flicking through the pages, I was immediately struck by the range of voices represented and their differing viewpoints – a lack of unity that is eye-opening and refreshing when compared to the mainstream media’s portrayal of post-quake Christchurch. This sense of disunity (and I use that word positively) is enhanced by the complete absence of any attempt to categories the projects – they are presented in simple alphabetical order.

Christchurch Smash Palace

Christchurch Wikihouse

Artistic and crafted projects are numerous. Murals are strongly represented – a natural response to newly-exposed walls – along with landscaping and gardens, decorated portaloos and the efforts of Gap Filler, Greening the Rubble and the closed Christchurch Art Gallery to bring art life and colour to the city’s growing empty spaces. The heart-wrenching “185 chairs,” delightful “Dance-o-Mat,” and the practical efforts of the Student Volunteer Army are also documented, again showing just how varied the experiences and voices are that make up this historical record.

I was delighted to see my favourite pieces of paste-up wall art preserved in this book’s pages: a cartoon “nibbler” crane saying “Nom Nom!” and the large rosette pasted to the fence of the demolition site of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. They perfectly captured the quirky humour of post-quake Canterbury but, being paper, had a limited life-span. Nom Nom was carefully preserved on its wall for a couple of years before being built over, but the more vulnerable Best Demo rosette lasted only a few weeks.

Many of the projects in this work have already had their time and disappeared. Their ephemeral nature, whether by design or by circumstance, is what makes this book such an important record. Official histories and mainstream media have a tendency to record the “big events” and iconic images, never seeing the grass-roots, less dramatic efforts of individuals and communities. Individually many of these projects may not have even been seen by the majority of Christchurch residents and have already faded into memory, but collectively they are an expression of an important part of the mental and physical recovery of a city and its people, as well as a time of amazing creativity.

Jo Drysdall has a variety of alter-egos, running the gamut from librarian to corsetiere, archivist to horticulturalist. When not facing identity crises she enjoys ogling books on textile art and vegetables.

With bold needle and thread

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Wellington-based writer Rosemary McLeod is recognised by most as a columnist and commentator, but she is also well known in the maker movement as a knowledgable speaker about – and collector of – domestic handcrafted items. From pinnies to rag rugs, toys to tea cozies, McLeod rescues and values them all, both for the painstaking work they embody and the stories they tell about women’s lives.

 
apron

With Bold Needle and Thread, a touring exhibition created by McLeod and Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga, and currently on display at the Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato in Hamilton, showcases her vibrant collection in a way that immediately draws the viewer in and encourages reminiscence. In fact, I was not there more than a couple of minutes before I was drawn into a “My grandmother had one of those…” conversations with a complete stranger.

The pieces in this exhibition date from the 1920s to the 1960s, and what struck me first was the way even the most mundane and functional pieces were painstakingly decorated – even the robust hessian aprons and the linen bags for laundry and delicates.

Wash on Monday

My mother reminisced that her aunties wore very similar hessian aprons in the mornings – while doing the heavier household tasks like washing and cleaning – before they donned the pristine, fancy cotton and linen aprons in the afternoon for receiving guests and serving tea. This variety of aprons and pinnies was of course a necessity in an age when the washing of clothes was much more arduous than simply throwing them in an automatic washer.

One large wall display held 1920s and 1930s aprons that were near-identical in shape and clearly based on the same pattern, but all showed highly individual flourishes of embroidery and appliqué. Popular subjects included fashion-plate portraits of elegant European flapper ladies or more ‘exotic’ oriental and Maori women, as well as commemorative designs for coronations, Jean Batten and even Phar Lap. Perfect miniature aprons for dolls and little girls allowed daughters to imitate the roles of their mothers.

aprondetail (1)

The issue of gollies and stereotyped “exotic” racial representations was tackled, as these were popular subjects: appearing on bags, aprons and decorative embroideries, as well as in the form of dolls. Mute left overs of the colonial past, they nevertheless remind us that this chapter of social history is still uncomfortably recent.

Vast numbers of bags for the various needs of the housewife – projects, handbags, laundry and storage – several carrying labels such as “dusters,” “stockings,” or “pyjamas,” in flourishing embroidery – show not only that there was a place for everything and everything in its place, but also that that place was ideally as attractive as the housewife could make it. Not only were tea pots wrapped in tea cozies (made to resemble everything from whares to Victorian belles) but those tea cozies were sometimes even topped with an additional decorative linen cover.

bagdetail

toy

A display of decorative and framed embroideries shows that English scenes were a popular theme – revealing the time’s nostalgia for the old country. Many of the period still referred to Britain as home, even though they had never seen it. Magazines such as Needlewoman and local department stores provided numerous patterns and transfers for those in need of inspiration.

What this exhibition highlights to me is the sheer talent of the (often forgotten and nameless) makers of this work. In a time when women were discouraged from pursuing “fine” arts and design, their skills and creativity shone through in the pieces they made for the home.

The exhibition also contains a display of replica pieces made by Rosemary McLeod and Marilyn Daly, and is supported by a sumptuous catalogue, With Bold Needle and Thread: Adventures in Vintage Needlecraft. The exhibition will be open at the Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato until 15 June, so make sure you don’t miss seeing this important collection of New Zealand domestic decorative work.

McLeod

Jo Drysdall has had a variety of alter-egos over the years, running the gamut from librarian to corsetiere, archivist to horticulturalist. These days she is the friendly face behind the customer service keyboard at Felt’s HQ. When not facing identity crises she enjoys ogling books on textile art and vegetables.

toyredjacket

First take your genuine medieval priory…

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

"Reclaiming Style: using salvaged materials to create an elegant home" by Maria Speake and Adam Hills

Reclaiming Style: using salvaged materials to create an elegant home
By Maria Speake and Adam Hills · Reviewed by Jo Drysdall

The title and cover of Reclaiming Style are promising: a clever storage space is finished with panels of reclaimed weatherboard, their timeworn surfaces creating a characterful finish and promising, with the superimposed text, a treasure-trove of ideas for outfitting your home in repurposed goodness.

However, this book is not quite what appearances imply. If you’re observant you’ll note that the authors’ names appear on the cover as “Maria Speake and Adam Hills of Retrouvius.” This is the clue to what is within – essentially a very nicely put together hardcover advertisement for their West London salvage and design business.

Now, I’m not saying it’s not an interesting and thoroughly readable book – it is both stylish and inspirational, as is their work – but much of what it contains is a portfolio of their commissions, rather than a how-to for the keen salvage-spotter. (The authors’ habit of referring to themselves in the third person, as though someone else is reviewing their efforts, also grates a bit.)

"Reclaiming Style: using salvaged materials to create an elegant home" by Maria Speake and Adam Hills

"Reclaiming Style: using salvaged materials to create an elegant home" by Maria Speake and Adam Hills

To be blunt, Retrouvius’ clients are not lacking in funds. Their homes are lovely to look at but they don’t really have a budget or starting point many of us can relate to. (First take your genuine medieval, timber-framed, wattle and daub priory… Ummm, yeah.) Many of the salvaged materials, too, are well beyond the reach and purse of the average DIY recycler (Two hundred tonnes of Derbyshire fossil limestone from Heathrow’s now-demolished Terminal Two? Drawers from Edinburgh’s Natural History Museum?)

(Now, I did actually know someone who used to dumpster-dive the British Museum’s trash – and, oh boy, did they have some quality trash! – but we probably don’t all have access to such superior sources of salvage. Me, jealous much?)

Reclaiming Style is a beautiful coffee table tome and I will not deny that its elegant images are drool-worthy and inspirational. There are definitely many aspects of Retrouvuis’ work that a resourceful maker could interpret and adapt. I am particularly enamoured of their delicate bathroom blind, made from scraps of vintage lace handkerchiefs and trims on a gossamer net, and I covet more of Speake and Hills’ drawer and shelving ideas than I could ever possibly have drawer and shelf space for (though the free-standing kitchen shelves, open on both sides and laden with crockery, made my wee Christchurch-based innards squirm a tad).

Just do not open this book expecting salvage tips, step-by-step projects and accessible sources for the average DIY-er. Interpret away, and be inspired – but you’ll have to find another book or helpful teacher to learn any new practical skills. Just sayin’.

"Reclaiming Style: using salvaged materials to create an elegant home" by Maria Speake and Adam Hills

Jo Drysdall has had a variety of alter-egos over the years, running the gamut from librarian to corsetiere, archivist to horticulturalist. These days she is the friendly face behind the customer service keyboard at Felt’s HQ. When not facing identity crises she enjoys ogling books on textile art and vegetables.

Grow Your Handmade Business

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Grow Your Handmade Business
By Kari Chapin · Reviewed by Jess Soutar Barron

Grow Your Handmade Business is the book to give someone who is setting out on the professional handmade journey. People who are gungho enough to pursue such a trip won’t necessarily stop long enough to buy the book themselves, but it is one they should read.

On the gift tag you might write something similar to the quote found on page 65: “Surround yourself with people who support you, people who understand the long work hours, the importance of making dreams happen, and people who share their resources and community with you.”

For all its brash American “dream this” and “visualise that” (“Dreaming big is one of the best business skills you have”, writes author Kari Chapin) it’s a humble, honest, human and very personal book. I enjoyed its morselised structure, its grown-up pragmatism and its Greek chorus of creatives who add weight to the tools and advice penned by Chapin herself.

Some of the language is suitably American OTT: “Actualise your dreams!” Chapin coaches, shamelessly calling someone a “possibilitarian”.

I know the ‘slow made’ industry in the US is far larger and the ability to ‘make it work’ far grander than in New Zealand but the rules and tools are still valuable.

The book carefully balances strategic financial forecasts with “trust your gut” mantras, and allows you, nay encourages you, to have professionals on board. But that’s scary when you’re making $5 soaps or $20 bunting strands.

I salute its acceptance of new tech, and the ability to communicate is a strong theme throughout: communicating to the world about your business; communicating with peers, associates, mentors, helpers and your creative business community; self-communication.

The book’s a little hit and miss in terms of style with one page being sanctimonious sugar and the next helpfully honest. The addition of the Creative Collective is a nice way to move it from self to a wider view point but there are perhaps too many voices and it’s hard to keep them all straight in your head.

Overall Handmade Business is reassuring. It’s a good friend, a tough mentor. It makes you tackle the age-old working in versus working on balance and that double-edged sword of success: you are no longer a potter or a knitter or a baker, you are a BUSINESS OWNER and those two things are quite different.

Bite-sized information is supported by formatting that invites you in and charming typesetting that rewards reading.

There’s a lot of probing questions in here that, if faced seriously, could leave you asking “Am I starting a business or going in to therapy?” But early on it sorts the mice from the makers and forces separation between a “sometimes profitable hobby” and a “fully fledged business.” Handmade business ventures always rely on one pivotal thing: YOU, and because of that this type of book becomes a self-help one full of: get enough sleep, know your limits, make time for yourself, be clear with boundaries.

Grow Your Handmade Business asks you to dig deep on a personal level then wrenches you, kicking and screaming, into the hard reality of financials, mission statements, boundaries and support systems – it counsels: “Saying no makes more room for saying yes,” – and in some ways lets you off life a bit so you can concentrate on your BUSINESS. After all, that’s always been the issue with ‘pin money’ – taking it seriously and forcing those around you to as well.

From page 59: “You don’t have to accept every challenge that comes along, you can skip a community obligation or two, and you don’t have to do everything all by yourself.”

Phew! Now back to reconciling the accounts.
____________________________________________________________________

Jess Soutar Barron is one half of the dynamic duo behind Hawke’s Bay’s fledgling craft empire Coco and Co and the fabulous Fruit Bowl Craft Jam.

Grow Your Handmade Business is available from Bookreps New Zealand, who have a special offer just for Felt readers – purchase your copy and have it shipped for free by entering the code FELTFREE at checkout!

A powerhouse of all things rose-printed

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Coming Up Roses – Cath Kidson with Sue Chidler

Coming up Roses: The Story of Growing a Business
By Cath Kidston with Sue Chidler · Reviewed by Katy McRae

Cath Kidston is famously quoted as saying her shops provoke a ‘Marmite reaction’ – “People either love it and want a little bit of it very much, or want to stab us.” Regardless of whether or not her aesthetic makes you homicidal, you have to admire the woman for pretty much single-handedly leading the whole modern vintage trend. Describe something as ‘very Cath Kidston’ and chances are everyone around you will understand what you’re talking about – her particular style of rose-and-polka-dot hell has grown into a global brand with a cult-like following.

Coming up Roses: The Story of Growing a Business is the official business biography of Cath Kidston. As the company celebrates its 20th anniversary, Cath shares the story of how her idea for modern vintage came about, how the business was born and how things have grown from her first shop in Clarendon Cross to the multi-million dollar global business that it is today. It is an interesting insight into the woman, her motivations and inspirations.

Coming Up Roses – Cath Kidson with Sue Chidler

Coming Up Roses – Cath Kidson with Sue Chidler

Given her penchant for roses, it is something of a relief to discover that Cath doesn’t take a rose-tinted view of her company’s history. She narrates her story in a way that is genuinely engaging, and refreshingly honest. It hasn’t all been plain sailing and she has made mistakes. The early years were hard slog and, even once she was established, she still had ‘growing pains’ (which is the name of a whole chapter and the reason why you don’t see Cath Kidston in the US).

Fascinating fact (or at least I find it fascinating) – the Cath Kidston company has never advertised. They do catalogues, but not ads, which makes their brand awareness all the more impressive.

Another fascinating fact – Cath’s first prints were based on old, out-of-copyright designs that she tweaked. That seems a bit uninspired . . . until you remember that Cath did it first. Before vintage was cool. She recognised the appeal of the old designs and had the vision to give them a fresh, contemporary twist. She also had the balls to do patterns when patterns weren’t fashionable and she just bided her time until consumers caught up.

Coming up Roses is a really easy and engaging read, helped by the fact that the text is quite big and there are plenty of full-page pictures. The narrative can be slightly choppy – you have to make a conscious effort to keep track of the speech marks, else you can end up a little confused about why Cath is suddenly referring to herself in the third person. However, if you are at all interested in how this powerhouse of all things rose-printed and spotty came to be, then this is the book for you.

Coming Up Roses – Cath Kidson with Sue Chidler

Coming Up Roses – Cath Kidson with Sue Chidler

Katy McRae likes formica tables, sharp scissors, fabric (especially felt), strong-smelling solvents and words. She also likes to make stuff. She’s not a fan of the colours peppermint and royal blue.

Idyllic childhood days

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Piano Rock: A 1950s Childhood by Gavin Bishop

Piano Rock: A 1950s Childhood
By Gavin Bishop · Reviewed by Anne Mortimer

With a “to be read” queue that will take me easily into retirement, Piano Rock immediately drew me in thanks to the beautiful silhouettes, line drawings and watercolour illustrations that pepper the bite-sized chapters. However more importantly, this was 1950s spelt correctly, with no superfluous apostrophes thank you very much.

Piano Rock tells the story of Gavin Bishop’s 1950s childhood, growing up in Kingston beside Lake Wakatipu. Each chapter offers a snapshot of life and the variety of memorable happenings that shaped Gavin’s childhood between the ages of four and eight, beginning with the Bishop family’s journey via goods train from Invercargill to Kingston sitting on their couch in the guard’s van with the doors open taking in all of the scenery. Despite the different time period, the themes covered are ones that younger readers can associate with, or imagine: looking forward to visits from Grandma; learning to swim; an out of the ordinary school outing in the back of a  farm truck to the Nevis Valley; the arrival of a new baby brother and the impact that has on an older child.

Piano Rock: A 1950s Childhood by Gavin Bishop

Piano Rock: A 1950s Childhood by Gavin Bishop

I particularly enjoyed the description of the food, which is all very “matter of fact”. The baking of girdle scones was a Sunday ritual and a recipe is included for readers to try. Mrs Bishop’s traditional fare was influenced by the neighbouring Greek and Romanian families. This really struck me as my mother’s cooking didn’t take on any cosmopolitan influence until the late 1970s. I remember thinking how experimental my friend’s mam was because she cooked spaghetti bolognaise and such like when we were faced with leek pudding and neck chops with barley! Piano Rock draws to a close with the dramatic recollection of a bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night through the eyes of a small boy. The tale is neatly brought to a close, with Gavin reflecting upon a family photo, which mirrors the start of the book as the Bishop family prepare to leave Kingston for Invercargill in 1954.

I have re-read the book with Miss X who often asks me tell her about “the olden days” or, a story from when I was little. Piano Rock offers younger readers an affectionate reminiscence of a 1950s childhood, ably assisted with delightful illustrations and a handy-dandy glossary in the back.

Anne Mortimer is a sometime mum and sometime administrator. She also makes handcrafted felt items and will occasionally sell these. Anne has worked for museums, galleries and libraries in the UK and settled in New Zealand four years ago.

The Art of Handmade Living

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Cover of The Art of Handmade Living by Willow Crossley

The Art of Handmade Living: Crafting a beautiful home
By Willow Crossley · Reviewed by Katy McRae

Things got off to a good start with this book, when I read in the introduction that Willow has a son called Wolf. I also have a son called Wolf(gang), so I liked her immediately. However, I endeavoured not to let her good taste in naming her offspring bias me as I progressed through the rest of her book. I tried to be impartial and, to be honest, it wasn’t hard as having sons with the same name is pretty much where our similarities end.
 
It’s fair to say that Willow’s aesthetic is not minimalist. In her own words, “I don’t really make things that anyone might need, just things that enhance your life (or at least the way it looks).” She appears to be on a one-woman mission to decorate the bejesus out of everything. Nothing is safe or sacred. House pegs are zhushed up with washi paper, coat hangers get a fabric face-lift and no lampshade is complete if it isn’t festooned with ribbon and finished off with pom-pom trim.
 
I’m all for adding personal touches to things but Willow can be, at times, a bit excessive in her determination to beautify everything she touches. Case in point – ‘decorative sticks’. To clarify, these are sticks that have thread wrapped around them. As Willow herself acknowledges, “They don’t do anything or have any secret purpose. They are purely decorative.”
 
Realistically, I don’t think decorative sticks would have a place in my home but I do have a respect for the way Willow is determined to transform the mundane, the functional and the downright useless into things of beauty. She is a firm believer that functionality does not have to be at the expense of form.

Page spread from The Art of Handmade Living by Willow Crossley

Page spread from The Art of Handmade Living by Willow Crossley
 
The book is divided into four chapters – ‘To Decorate’, ‘To Hang’, ‘To Use’ and ‘To Nest’ – though really they are all ‘to decorate’. In the introduction she makes a point of saying that you don’t need to be a technical whiz or expert stitcher to be able to make the projects in the book, and she isn’t kidding. Some of these projects really are super, super simple. For example, putting a ribbon band on a hat (though she does include some handy hints on how to hide the join) or sticking felt to the back of an old tile to make a heatproof kitchen coaster. There are, however, some slightly more involved projects, particularly in the ‘To Hang’ section, which have real wow factor.
 
As well as being straightforward, these projects don’t require any great financial outlay (sticks, anyone?). It’s all about using what you have to hand, or what you can rummage up from nature or the local flea market.
 
As you would expect from a woman determined to make things beautiful, this is a beautifully presented book with photography that showcases the projects to best effect. It’s an easy read and the instructions are very simple – almost to a fault. At times I felt some of the steps go without saying. For example, you must leave the glue to dry completely before hanging anything from the fabric-covered coat hanger. Bit of a no-brainer, that one.    
 
The Art of Handmade Living is the ideal present for that friend who is ‘getting into craft’. It’s also a lovely addition to the bookshelves of those hardened crafters who are looking for some fresh inspiration on how to make the world a more beautiful place, one fabric-covered notebook at a time.

Katy McRae likes formica tables, sharp scissors, fabric (especially felt), strong-smelling solvents and words. She also likes to make stuff. She’s not a fan of the colours peppermint and royal blue.

Good enough to eat

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Whittaker’s Passion for Chocolate
By J. H. Whittaker & Sons Ltd · Reviewed by Andy Heyward

The very instant I picked up this book I wanted to eat it. The book is so sumptuous looking I was tempted to lick the pages. The rich chocolatey brown and sepia tones, coupled with the golden inlay and type, made me feel like Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory carefully peeling back the cover to show a hint of gold below. Holding and reading this book is a treat in itself, let alone actually making the recipes.

Whittaker’s Passion for Chocolate boldly declares in its introduction that it has been over 100 years in the making. It begins with the family history, starting in England in 1890 and moving through the generations of family involvement to the present day – the company having operated in New Zealand since 1896. There is the story of chocolate and handy tips on choosing and melting chocolate, but what I really want to do is get stuck into the recipes.

The book features recipes from some of New Zealand’s finest chefs as well as selected submissions from its extensive Facebook fan base, including a tried and true fudge recipe by our very own Ana Lydiate, also known as Ami Ana.

Choosing what to make is difficult as it all looks so good. The generous and beautifully photographed recipes make it so much harder. If you have any type of chocolate addiction this book will make you salivate uncontrollably and, a bit like a Labrador dog watching you eat a chop, drool will slide out of the side of your mouth as you turn each page.

As it was my mother’s birthday, I decided to invite her to dinner and make a couple of recipes out of the book. I came across a recipe by chef Marc Soper which I decided to make as a main. I had great pleasure in announcing that I was creating lamb rump with rosemary-infused Whittaker’s Dark Ghana sauce, served with carrot and mango julienne, green beans, turnips and olive and grape salsa.

Not having a lamb rump on hand I substituted it for a leg of lamb and set to making this dish – it turned out delicious (and not too difficult) with many compliments from my family, the kids especially smitten with putting chocolate sauce on their meat. For pudding I chose to make an equally tasty chocolate and raspberry brownie by submitter Jo Knowles. Served with whipped cream and fresh coffee, this went down well and earned good-son points for me.

Whittaker's Passion for Chocolate

Whittaker's Passion for Chocolate

More than just a recipe book that gets put on the shelf, Whittaker’s Passion for Chocolate sits equally well on the coffee table and will lure the wary into a path of chocolate desire, containing enough history and facts to make a casual and informative read and enough recipes – ranging from marbled chocolate meringues and cinnamon cardamom blondies to white chocolate and macadamia cheesecake – to satisfy the hungriest of chocolate lovers.

Watch out chocolate-induced coma – here I come.

Andy Heyward is Director of Possibilities at Fat Spatula. A graphic artist, he also paints as a creative release from his other serious and stressful positions of being President of the Haumoana Lemon Marketing Board and founding member of the Haumoana Men’s Knitting Club.

Home Sewn: a Kiwi design story

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Home Sewn
By The New Zealand Fashion Museum · Reviewed by Jo Drysdall

I still remember the thrill of being allowed to look through my mother’s wardrobe of home-sewn clothes when I was a little girl. Being allowed to touch the fabrics and try on the odd piece was a formative experience in retro dress-ups, I think. As a fashionable young woman, my mother had sewn most of her own outfits: party frocks with fitted bodices and flared, flirty skirts, neat little shift dresses, and tailored, timeless Chanel-style suits.

Home Sewn begins with a brief historical overview that places these homemade treasures in their Kiwi context, making the point that in New Zealand (until, arguably, the last quarter of the twentieth century) if stylish, individual clothes were desired, most women had to make them for themselves.

It goes on to capture the stories of ten contemporary New Zealand fashion designers and highlight the beginnings of their careers. Each designer offers a design from their collection as a pattern included in the book.

While some of the designers featured in this book (and the accompanying exhibition) found their passion for sewing at high-school or design college, many first learned their skills at home – from mothers or grandmothers, making dolls’ clothes or outfits for themselves, friends or siblings. Their backgrounds illustrate this point again and again, presenting stories of home-grown talents that will no doubt resonate with many in the Felt community.

For me this book underlines my feeling that a passion for innovative, quality clothing design and construction can be born and nurtured in many places other than a tertiary course, though these courses certainly have their valued place. It also makes the welcome suggestion that there is room in the New Zealand fashion scene for these varied origins – and the interesting and innovative approaches to fabric they tend to foster.

The patterns provided by the ten featured designers are offered as inspiration for readers to express their own “creative individuality,” rather than as templates, which is perhaps the reason they’re only drawn in the 10–12 size range. Because of this, I couldn’t recommend this as a book for the beginner – while some good tips are offered on construction and finish, there is no guide to fitting or resizing (despite the rather context-less inclusion of a basic diagram on taking measurements) and the compact pages of pattern instructions assume a basic skill set. However, that said, it is actually quite refreshing to find a dressmaking book that is pitched at more experienced seamsters.

Home Sewn is published to coincide with the Home Sewn exhibition from the New Zealand Fashion Museum, currently touring New Zealand. In 2013 you can see the exhibition at the following venues:

Whangarei Art Museum
17 December 2012 – 17 February 2013

Dunedin Art Gallery
9 March – 7 April 2013

The Dowse Art Museum
10 August – 24 November 2013

Jo Drysdall has a variety of alter-egos, running the gamut from librarian to corsetiere, fabric artist to horticulturalist. When not facing identity crises she enjoys ogling books on textile art and vegetables.

Creating memories

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Cover of Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects & Activities for Dads & Kids to Share

Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects & Activities for Dads & Kids to Share
By Ken Denmead · Reviewed by Andy Heyward

I always judge a book by its cover and this cover appealed to me in a blokey, nostalgic sort of way. The orange and yellow colour scheme reminds me of the old electronic user manuals I would find lying around my own dad’s workshop. He was a sparky for the power board and would have countless, unfinished repair jobs on the go to poke around and explore. Some of my fondest memories of childhood are doing projects with my dad, making rubber-band guns out of wood and wire, giving his racing pigeon transport boxes a unique paint job, building a shed to fill with shelves of old power-tools and parts. He was also the person who introduced me to Star Wars, taking me to see each movie as it was released. It was our father-son treat, which continued with all the latest re-mastered movies and my own kids in tow.

So when I saw this book needed reviewing I jumped at it. I believe I am qualified because: a) I am a dad, and b) having grown up with Star Wars, computer games and an eighties fashion sense I am probably a geek on some level.

Gathering my 11 year old, we flicked through the book together to see what projects appealed. The first thing I noticed about Geek Dad is that it isn’t meant to be read from front to back. You are meant to skim the projects, pick one and then dive on in. The projects are separated into general areas, making it easy to choose if you want a crafty project, an outdoor project or something with electronics and so on. The projects range from making compost bins to creating an outdoor movie theater, from making Lego props for home cartoons to making a kite you can fly at night. There is a good range of projects to suit all budgets, skill levels and interests. Most of the projects don’t take too long, and you can easily modify the ideas to suit what you have on hand. I found myself reading through a project and thinking of what would be cooler to add, or what could I use this with and wondering if anyone would notice if we rigged this up in the fridge…

Interior spread of Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects & Activities for Dads & Kids to Share

Interior spread of Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects & Activities for Dads & Kids to Share

Geek Dad is a starting point for doing projects, an excuse to hang out with your kids and vice-versa. It’s not so much the task or the project but the “doing” that is the fun part and what is remembered long after the object has bitten the dust. The book is a good prompt for us big boys to remember to do things with our children, whatever it may be, and start creating memories for our own kids to pass on. This book would make an ideal gift for the blokes in your life with kids aged 5 to 15 years or for dads who need to work less and play more.

Anyway I am off to modify a Lego car that is due to do battle in a demolition derby with my son in the arena of impending doom.

Andy Heyward is Director of Possibilities at Fat Spatula. A graphic artist, he also paints as a creative release from his other serious and stressful positions of being President of the Haumoana Lemon Marketing Board and founding member of the Haumoana Men’s Knitting Club.