The evolution of the 'Sites of Experience' series, 47 Oak is a fabric reproduction of my childhood home. A site no longer accessible, its demolition symbolic of my transition from child to adolescent.
Utilising a diverse range of textile techniques, I have recreated the site as a portable installation that encourages interactivity and inspires play; attitudes his parents always encouraged. Viewers are invited to enter the little house, interact with the different components and feel the tactility of the textural finishes. This experience seeks to catalyse reflection and create discussion about how others affect our identity, and the role we play in the lives of the people around us.
The portability of the structure is reflective of my role as an arts educator - generating temporary sites of critical and creative thinking, while the impermanence of the installation is representative of the fleeting nature of these experiences and the necessity to savour them. 47 Oak acknowledges the continued encouragement of my parents and family, as well as my transition to the giver of encouragement, as a teacher and friend in adulthood.
Presentation made possible by the Sidney Myer Fund and Myer Foundation - National Assistance Program for the Arts
Billie and Banks wear huni
(2019 - 2020)
Throughout my childhood, I built and curated sites. Little houses, tents, impermanent and permanent structures all became relational spaces that involved interaction and engagement.
I have continued to do this in both my practice as an artist and arts educator, endeavouring to create interactive works, units of study and classrooms that inspire creativity and social interaction.
The interest in creating these sites of experience was nurtured and actively encouraged by my parents. As I created my own spaces, I watched my parents develop theirs – redesigning, repainting and remodelling our childhood home, sometimes in collaboration with me.
It is these opportunities to create and curate alongside my parents, as well as express my thoughts and opinions, that have established this practice within my professions.
In the same way, we collaborated in the real house, each of my family members were involved with the production of 47 Oak, still working in creative collaboration.
California poppies grew outside our kitchen window, sunflowers down our driveway and marigolds in the flower beds at the edge of our deck. These are just some of the flowers that filled our gardens.
The California Poppies – even once removed – returned annually, their seeds so abundant in our soil. The stems of each poppy have been felted onto the house in green wool – enforcing their permanence, the blooms are hand-painted fabric with beaded stamens.
Each year sunflowers lined our driveway. They are recreated through hand-painted and recycled fabric. The stems and leaves of each flower feature free-motion sewing, that mimics my collage works. The head of each flower has a felted centre, with beaded seeds and hand-painted petals.
House Exterior and Snail
I always used to play with snails as a child, they were one of my favourite things to find in the garden. They were particularity populous at the backside of the house, where I would emerge with a snail or two stuck to my face.
Embroidered in a combination of wool, embroidery thread and handed down crochet cotton, the snail features a hand-beaded, iridescent trail.
On the side of the weatherboard house is the fuse box, an opening and closing fabric door full of buttons and switches to "fix the electricity".
The fireplace was an important location in our childhood home. The perfect place for an indoor picnic in winter and the crime scene of my sister's first self-cut fringe.
I have recreated the fireplace as a felt sculpture, fully interactive with an opening door and shining flames. The interior of the fireplace features textural 3D logs and free-motion sewn flames with a metallic thread.
The chimney of the fireplace is made from felted sheets, to replicate the perforated metal of the original. The body of the fireplace is felt and cardboard that has been sewn together by hand.
Similarly, when my Mum decided to sew big floor pillows for us to sit on, she let me choose the fabric. This time I chose striped rainbow cotton. The slightly smaller reproduction is made from a remnant of the original fabric, which twenty-something years later became a miniature version of the original form.
When I was two years old, my Mum let me choose the fabric for our new curtains. After looking through the fabric store, I settled on a bright floral print. These curtains remained in the house until it was demolished. Experiences like this encouraged my creativity and were one of the ways I began to use textiles as a medium of expression.
Each curtain has been hand-painted, using techniques that I have developed in my collage work. I had often thought of how to paint the curtains as a child, the hand-painted look of the fabric part of my attraction. Actually recreating them, acknowledging their influence on my life and aesthetic, felt like I had come full circle.
At the edge of our deck were brick flowers beds with ever-changing blooms, my favourite were marigolds.
To recreate the marigold blooms I used paper raffia to make pompoms, which were then painted with watercolour. Paper flowers have special significance to me, having made paper flowers as a gift for my grandma, who kept them for years.
The abstracted leaves and stems are felt wrapped wire, the flower beds are made from hand-painted fabric.
My sister and I loved the opportunity to climb onto the roof whenever Dad was doing work up there. The roof of our house was tiled, which I have reproduced by layering different denim look fabrics, utilising different textures to create dimension.
Between my sister and I's room hung three watercolour prints by Beryl Yeoman – Pohutukawa, Kowhai and Manuka. These prints were a gift from my grandmother to my parents when they bought our house in 1996. They remained a constant feature of the house, surviving each renovation and linked our family to my parent's roots in New Zealand.
These three prints have been reproduced through fabric collage. On fabric painted backgrounds, intricately cut pieces of fabric and simple stitching replicate the original watercolours. The collages have a green linen matte board and corduroy frames.
Exhibition and Press
47 Oak was exhibited at studioFive UNESCO Observatory of Arts Education as part of the TAP - SPACETIME exhibition.