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With A “Flour-ish”!

Anne Garvey – Solo Exhibition.

June 1st – July 10th 2023

Anne Garvey has a long running involvement with our studio gallery, both as a contributing artist and as an instructor. We have been waiting some time to see the wonderful research – art making project that Anne has been working on around NZ Flour Mills and the Flour Sacks they produced to hold their flour. Here is Anne’s exhibition statement.

Intro statement:

NZ Flour Bags with their distinctive labels are a link to early flour mills that “flourished” across NZ, where today there are few still functioning.

What fascinates me are the screen printed logos and labels that are so varied and unique to their own mill.

I’m still wondering who designed them, and while there is information about old mills, I am assuming it will remain a mystery who their designers were.

My main body of work is to highlight the printed labels, using thread the same colour as the bag itself, and the technique of freeform stitching or thread painting. In order to leave the design intact, only the background is worked on. Additional symbolic additions are made to the background. The idea is to celebrate the original designs as a work of art, and give them a new life…to allow them to “flour-ish” again! 

My techniques in this body of work includes, freeform quilting, and thread painting, but instead of covering the images and letters, I have chosen to keep the patterns intact and only stitch in the background, so the graphics are unaltered, and the colours remain.

My connection to them is real, but I never imagined I would be stitching them into fibre art works. I hope some will end up on household walls, a reminder of days gone.

Stay in touch with this exhibition using the QR Code.

The gallery invited Author Linley Wellington to interview Anne as the show was opened to the public. The following is the review:

Anne Garvey radiates energy and bonhomie.   She has inherited her father’s ‘cup half full’ view of life.  As a textile artist with decades of experience and a large body of work, she loves texture, colours, shapes and lines.   Her current solo exhibition – With A “Flour-ish“ showing at ‘from out of the blue studio gallery’ in Opunake is quietly engaging, a meditative reflection on personal and social history. I was curious about the themes behind the works.

A born storyteller, Anne told me that from an early age knitting and sewing have been a large part of her life.  She grew up in a practical household whose economy was shaped by her mother’s experiences in the Depression and where ‘not a jot was wasted’.   As a child Anne vividly remembers begging her mother to teach her to knit one winter.  Not with new wool mind you, it was ‘unwound stuff, blue and yellow’ with which Anne laboured to produce a scarf that was full of holes.  There was also mention of a hot water bottle cover knitted for a Brownie badge.  Anne’s mother clothed the family and furnished the household with sewing skills learnt at secondary school. Make do and mend was the theme of the day.

Using the family’s Baby Singer sewing machine, Anne set about teaching herself to sew.  Manual training at intermediate school added to her skills and eventually, driven by the desire to curate her wardrobe, Anne was making her own clothes.  With much laughter Anne described her 7th Form blue, crimplene ‘very short school skirt’ and a terrible blue polka dot fabric salvaged from her grandmother’s dress to make a shirt.  Perseverance and a fortuitous flatting arrangement with a fellow teacher led to a leap into more complex projects.  Watching her talented colleague and learning on a clunky old Singer machine, Anne mastered skirts, shirts and even a tailored jacket.

A Wearable Art Competition entry pinpoints the start of what Anne calls her ‘out of the box thinking’ when she began to look at an item and see multiple possibilities. She transformed a used shearer’s singlet into an elegant little black dress.  Numerous holes in the singlet were blanket stitched, reinforced and embellished creating a stunning metamorphosis.

Anne feels a strong personal connection with the flour bags.  As a child she gleefully enjoyed pulling the thread sealing the bag in just the right way so that it magically unzipped.  Repurposed, they were used to line pot mitts, oven gloves and clothing.  A bag became the bodice to a skirt which was worn with a firm remainder not to take her jersey off in case someone would see the printing.  Constant washing made the cotton soft to touch and the print faded to a whisper of its history.

A large part of the bags appeal is the printing.  Anne is fascinated by functional graphics on practical things.  She notices manhole covers, industrial designs, labelling and advertising signage.  The idea that the manufacturers of flour bags didn’t realize that they would have a life beyond being a receptacle for flour intrigues her.  Anne’s thread painting on the bags outlines the labels for emphasis. She has subtlety filled the background with patterns and movement preserving and enhancing the integrity of the lettering and images. The addition of McNab and Robinson tartans are a nod to Anne’s ancestry and strong connection to all things Scottish.  

Anne says when she is creating, her focus narrows to the work in front of her and she is totally absorbed in what she is doing.  Perhaps that is the clue to viewing her flour bags.  Focus on the lettering and images, trace the background patterns and dwell on their history and connections.  

Thank you Linley for this great review.

The major works in this collection are gradually being added to our gallery webshop. Please check out the details.