Mother Nature: Giving us everything we need to create beautiful, natural, art

The chill of frosty mornings. Puddles to splash in. Trees a-flame with orange, red, and yellow leaves… and the crunch of those leaves underfoot. There’s no doubt about it. Autumn is here, and she’s arrived in all her glory. Sure, she’s on her way out, and the early-morning frosts are starting to creep in, but let’s enjoy this season while we can.

This time of the year marks the start of the Māori New Year, and the celebration of Matariki. It’s a time of preparing for the coming year, and celebrating with our friends and whānau. This year, Christchurch City Libraries is celebrating the ‘earth stars’ (Tupu-ā-nuku, Tupu-ā-rangi), and the ‘wind star’ (Ururangi), with a focus on sustainable natural resources, and the ways we can protect the environment around us.

Relax Stone Balance Zen Stacking Stones Rock

During the colder months, it can be tempting to just stay indoors, but since we know that being outdoors in nature is good for our mental and emotional well-being, why not find a way to bring nature inside? Sure, we could go out, buy paint, and create a mural on a wall …  but leftover paint may get poured down a drain, end up in our seas and rivers, and kill our fish. We could go to a gift shop and buy a cool plastic bird to put in our bedroom, or go and buy an African wall-hanging … but the plastic bird will be wrapped in plastic that will end up in the landfill, and the plane trip the wall-hanging took to get here to Aotearoa New Zealand has a huge carbon footprint.

So let’s see if we can support the kaupapa of this year’s Matariki theme, look for ways to decrease our  more environmental footprint, and use sustainable natural resources to decorate instead.

I’m not overly artistic, but even I know that there’s something relaxing about collecting objects from the outdoors, then creating something from them. Leaf people, pinecone animals, bookmarks made of leaves and flowers covered in contact paper – I spent hours creating these when I was little, and I’m not ready to stop making natural art just yet. There are multiple ways of artfully stacking stones, creating leaf art, and using attractive twigs in ways that are as fun for adults as they are for kids, and as the days start to get shorter we can use those longer evenings to let our creative juices flow.

So why not make the most of the natural resources around us, and create some art using just what Mother Nature has given us? If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out some of these Christchurch City Libraries’ books for ideas.

The Wild Dyer
by Abigail Booth

Cover of The wild dyer

I have always loved the idea of staining paper with coffee or tea to make the paper look tattered, old, and parchment-like. In this book, you can do the grown-up version of this! Learn how to use plants, seeds and foods from your kitchen, garden, and surrounds to dye fabric and create lovely soft furnishings to keep your home cosy and welcoming. This is a great way to use up the ends of veges when you are cooking, and minimises green waste.

Hand Printing from Nature by Laura Bethmann
Cover of Hand printing from nature

Wandering around outdoors, you find so many interesting shapes in the leaves and nature around you. What better way to celebrate this variety than by creating your own unique prints on stationery, clothing, and furniture? With ideas for projects ranging from simple to complex, you’re bound to find something that suits your tastes, and your talent levels.

The Organic Artist by Nick Neddo

Cover of The organic artist

If you would prefer your arts to your craft, this could be the book for you. Pencils, inks, bowls for the ink, paintbrushes, books – this book teaches you how to make all this (and more!) using just the resources around you. Even if you are like me, and don’t have the time to create all your gear from scratch, this is a fascinating read, and the photos throughout the book really demonstrate how versatile the world around us can be. If you are up for the challenge, though, instead of buying plastic paintbrushes or commercially-produced books which have travelled from overseas, give this try.

Green Crafts for Children by Emma Hardy

Cover of Green crafts for kids

Children are made to be outdoors, moving, exploring, and discovering the world around them, and they naturally scavenge to find little treasures in their environment. This book has a whole section on crafts using natural resources, from natural inks, to pinecone animals, to games of driftwood noughts and crosses. Creating and playing with natural toys and games is much more environmentally-friendly than using disposable plastic toys, so next time your little explorers need to stay inside, why not use some of these ideas for a fun afternoon of creativity.

Christchurch City Libraries will be celebrating Matariki throughout the month of Pipiri/June, so keep an eye out for an event near you!

  • Bring your tamariki along for some Matariki-themed Wā Kōrero Storytimes.
  • Got little crafters in the whānau? Check out our Matariki Toi (community art projects) at your local community library.
  • Bring the whole whānau along to the Matariki Whānau Fun Days at Aranui and Ōrauwhata: Bishopdale for a morning of storytelling, crafting, and discovery.

Cold climate knitting

Wow, we have some great knitting titles from the Scottish highlands and islands, and Scandinavia at our libraries.

Other titles:


Our Zinio for Libraries collection includes several knitting eMagazines that you can download for free and keep. PressReader has knitting magazines that you can view online. You will need your library card number and PIN/password.

Celebrating Cook Islands Language Week 2016

Kia ariki au i toku tupuranga, ka ora uatu rai toku reo
To embrace my heritage, my language lives on

Sunday marked the start of Cook Islands Maori Language Week (31 July – 6 August). Cook Islanders make up the second largest Pacific Island group in New Zealand (behind Samoan) and there are more Cook Islanders in New Zealand than there are in the Cook Islands. Despite this Cook Islands Māori does not even register in the top spoken languages in New Zealand. Cook Islands Māori has been identified as one of UNESCO’s endangered languages.

There are several different dialects across the Cook Islands and the Pukapukan language has a very strong Samoan influence. Cook Islands Māori is very similar to Te Reo Māori, Hawaiian
Maoli, and the indigenous Tahitian Ma’ohi language (as you can tell from what they’re called).

Cook Islands Language Week 2016

To celebrate Cook Islands Māori Language Week, and highlight the resources we offer in our network, four libraries will be hosting paper tivaevae craft as an add-on to their regular sessions.
These are as follows:

  • Wednesday 3rd August : Aranui Library – Rocket Club – 3.30-4.30pm
  • Thursday 4th August : Linwood post-Storytimes – 10.00am
  • Te Hāpua post-Storytimes – 11:30am
  • Saturday 6th August: Shirley Super Saturday Storytimes – 11:00am

For more information see our events calendar.

If you would like to celebrate Cook Islands Language Week try a few of these phrases….
Kia orana = Hello (literally, “may you live long”)
Aere ra = Goodbye
Meitaki = Thank you
‘Ae = yes
Kare = no
Tane = man
Vaine = woman
Manea = pretty/handsome

Meitaki Ma’ata (Thank you very much) & Happy Cook Islands Language Week!

Find Cook Islands language resources:

Jan-Hai Te Ratana
Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

World Wide Knit in Public Day 2016

Cover of WanderlustWhere do you knit? Do you knit in the privacy of your own home? What about in the tearoom at work or the waiting room? Have you knitted on the train, tram, bus or ferry? What about the park? Have you taken your knitting to a café or library?

Saturday, 18 June is World Wide Knit in Public Day and you are encouraged to do just that. Grab your knitting and knit in public. Do I hear you ask ‘why’? I say, ‘Why not’? It is a great way to show the world that knitting isn’t just for little old ladies with grey hair and pink cardigans.

World Wide Knit in Public Day at Central Library Peterborough

Join us at Central Library Peterborough with fellow Peterborough Street-ers Knit World to celebrate World Wide Knit in Public Day. Bring your knitting or crochet and enjoy tea, coffee and a chat on Saturday 18 June from 12 to 2pm. Better living through stitching together! Find out more.

Midwinter Woolfeast at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

This year, Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre will be hosting a Midwinter Woolfeast from 10am to 5pm. The Midwinter Woolfeast will have artisan dyers selling their wares as well as a whole series of workshops for knitters.

Knit around the Orbiter

How about knitting on the bus? Knit around the Orbiter!:

Celebrate World Knit in Public Day with fellow knitters and crocheters doing a loop on the Orbiter bus. Then we will pop along to a café. Bring your knitting or crochet and friends. There will be some wool and knitting needles and crochet hooks and tuition available. It takes approx 1hr 40 mins to knit all the way round.

Here’s our blog post on last year’s Knit around the Orbiter event.

More knitting action

If you can’t make it to a Knit in Public Day event, don’t worry, some of our libraries have knitting groups. Just look in our events calendar.

Cover of Cozy country knitsNow if you like the idea of knitting in public, but don’t want to be seen doing it, you could try yarn-bombing, but I think I’d prefer the company of others at a WWKIPD event. I might meet someone new, learn a new technique or introduce someone to the art of knitting.

Are you struggling to come up with ideas for Random Acts of Kindness Day?

September 1st is Random Acts of Kindness Day. I must confess to having a certain cynicism about these type of days. Surely every day should be a day of random kindness, just like every day should be Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Children’s Day.

Cover of Random Acts of Kindness by AnimalsPerhaps I should try to be more randomly kind and hope that days like this highlight that there are always opportunities to do something nice for someone else, be they a friend or a complete stranger. Even animals are doing it!

So I had a look at some of the suggestions on the RAK page, and wondered how the Library could help out.

I could bake for friends, neighbours, workmates (maybe not  strangers – they might be a bit suspicious!).

Flowers from my garden. Hmm, I might have to work on that one for next year as my garden is not up to much, so some flower gardening books might be useful, or maybe paper flowers would suffice.

I could volunteer; our webpages have plenty of suggestions.

Maybe I could make somethinganything

Make someone laugh, try out some magic tricks!

Take the neighbour’s dog for a walk, perhaps do some training while I’m at it?

Hold a themed party. Sounds like a lot of work, but these party books might give me some ideas.

Reading a story to a child. Now this I can do! These two titles have been suggested by our children’s selector: Oi Frog and Tge Tiny King.

Whatever you do as a random act of kindness on this day, or any other, the Library is sure to be able to help you out.

Cover of The Tiny King Cover of The Cut Flower Patch Cover of 101 Dog Tricks Kids Edition Cover of Cardboard Creatures Cover of A Good Baking Day

Get crafty in your local library

Knitting is making a resurgence as a hobby, and nowhere is this more evident than at your local library.

Six of our libraries hold knitting and craft sessions, where you can bring your latest craft project – something you can fit in a bag may be the only restriction – no potters’ wheels or full size looms!

Knitters at Fendalton LibraryJust turn up and join a friendly bunch of like-minded people who like to indulge in their knitting, crochet, embroidery,  or other crafts, while chatting and sharing their skills with others.

You can also browse the library shelves while you’re there for inspiration for your next knitting, crochet or other craft project; the 746 section of the Non-Fiction area is a good place to start.

A few of our libraries are also celebrating World Wide Knit in Public Day . Peterborough Library is having a knitting event on Saturday June 8th, Lyttelton library will be gathering to knit on Saturday June 8th, from 11am -12.00pm and Akaroa will be getting the needles working on Friday, June 7th from 2-4pm and Saturday,  June 8th from 10am-1pm.

So come and join one of the groups listed below, meet new people and get that project finished.

Parklands Library: Craft Group –  alternate Mondays, 10.30 – 11.30am

Upper Riccarton Library: Knit ‘n’ Stitch – Tuesdays, 1 – 2 pm

Shirley Library: Knit, Crochet & Yarn Club – Tuesdays,  2 – 4 pm

Central Peterborough Library : Knit ‘n’ Yarn – Wednesdays, 12 – 2 pm

Hornby Library: Knit ‘n’ Yarn – Thursdays, 10 – 11am

Fendalton Library: Knit ‘n’ Yarn – Thursdays, 2 – 3.30pm

The last day of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival

IMG_07186pm on Sunday night and I am in my hotel room looking forward to the trip home tomorrow.  Auckland has been itself in that it has rained and shined, sometimes all at once. I have marvelled at all the people and the beautiful old stone buildings. The festival has been a whirlwind of facts, figures, stories, discussions, a bit of famous author watching and endless cups of coffee.  There has been no time for shopping and barely time to eat. All in all very satisfying indeed.

Today I started off with a visit to the 1920s through to the 1950s with Rosemary Mcleod and The Secret life of aprons. A lovely hour spent looking at her slides of aprons she has known, from the beautiful to the downright odd. It was a lovely slice of New Zealand domestic history which was very much appreciated by the audience.Rosemary’s droll wit was perfect for the occasion. The Art Gallery was looking great, and I had time for a quick trawl around the contemporary art exhibition, with a quiet nod to Jacqueline Fahey’s piece that I could look at with new understanding having heard her speak on Thursday. I also loved the huge hand-made flowers created by Choi Jeong Hwa that hung in the atrium seemingly opening and closing at will.

IMG_0721Next up was a free session, Fifty Shades of WTF. I was to be disappointed, it would seem the fifty shades phenomena has reached the festival and it was full half and hour before it started.

What the Internet is doing to you with the author Aleks Krotoski was often way over my head, but she was an author with a mind like a steel trap who could probably have talked all day. Her interviewer Toby Manhire only needed to ask a couple of questions and away she went! Her basic premise was that the Internet isn’t doing anything, it is what we are doing to each other that is the issue. The Internet will not destroy and neither will it revolutionise, it is just a thing….we are still communicating, the means are different but not what we are talking about. She touched on cyber-addiction and whether there is such a thing (there isn’t apparently), romance on the Internet, and is the Internet capable of serendipity. That’s where I lost her.  The book sounds very readable, and if she writes like she talks it will be entertaining and full of information.

Lastly I toddled along to Faction, a bit of a silly choice as it was about the film The Red house which I haven’t seen, however Annie Goldson and the Alyx Duncan who made the film did a great job breaking down what it was all about.  Alyx used her father and step mother in the film, it started out as a documentary about their lives that didn’t work out and ended up with them acting themselves, but to a script that included some aspects that were true and some that were fictional.  I enjoyed the session and hopefully the library will be able to get the DVD once it comes out.

Thank you Auckland for providing such a great festival. 13,000 people was the last tally that I heard had attended the festival, which is amazing, and certainly warms a librarian’s heart.  To all those authors who spend hours writing, usually in quiet isolation,  I thank you for coming out and sharing your craft, your beliefs and passions.

A conversation with Rosemary McLeod

IMG_0680This is an unreliable memory of my conversation with Rosemary McLeod, writer, crafter and author of With bold needle and thread. Unreliable because due to background noise I had abandoned the recorder, which left me to take notes as we talked, which also failed as I became so engrossed and involved with what we were talking about that I forgot to take the notes!

The first question I asked was about the design of the book.  If you have seen it you will agree that it is beautiful. Rosemary had a large part to play in what was included from her vast collection of magazines and other collectables. Jane Ussher came to her house and photographed the collection in natural light so that all the colours were true to the original. The care and dedication are evident, it is a book to browse and enjoy.

Search catalogueRosemary is a collector of art, pottery, tablecloths, tea cosies, books, magazines, fabric … the list goes on. However once art became too expensive to collect, Rosemary realised that she enjoyed collecting the things that no one else valued. This led to the collecting of women’s craft, or applied art, and this in turn led her to realise that she wanted to make the sort of  things she was collecting, and to also use the patterns from the women’s magazines as a basis for her craft.

We talked about the process of making craft, how wonderful it is for dealing with stress. Rosemary had with tongue in cheek suggested that the book could have been called “Better than  Prozac”!

Rosemary described enjoying the process of working out how to make something and then deciding on the colours and materials to use, often relying on that wonderful crafters ‘Stash’.  Can there be anything more satisfying than finding a use for that tiny piece of 195’s cotton that you bought for 50 cents at the school fair in 1980?

IMG_0676I had been curious for a while about why there was the need to decorate the everyday items that were made. Rosemary described a scheme first started in Scotland in the 1930s called the  Needlework Development scheme. This project was to encourage a high standard of embroidery. It was disbanded during the war but started up again in 1945 to encourage women to start making and sewing again, possibly because they had been too busy working outside of the home in the war, and it was time to get back to the domestic again. Craft has always however been about meeting up with other women, company and creativity.

I also wondered if many of those women in the earlier years would these days be at art school, which led her to tell me that in the early 1900s embroidery was part of the Christchurch School of Art, and that if I managed to find a copy of The Studio year book of decorative arts that I would be amazed with what it included. If anyone knows anything further about this I would be very interested.  Here is a link to some art, including embroidery that was donated to the Macmillan Brown Library at the University of Canterbury.

We talked about colour and how we both like the old fabrics and colour schemes of the time. I especially love her embroidered flower tea cosy with the pastels and gentle colour combinations. We bemoaned the colours of bought felt in New Zealand, garish primary colours, but I am now off to view who Rosemary assures me stock half-tones that are far more pleasing on the eye.

Rosemary has had exhibitions of her own craft work as well as curating a number of other shows depicting applied arts in New Zealand.  Alongside all this she writes her weekly columns. Her parting comments to me were that she would like a couple of weeks off just to sit down and plan her next craft project. I hope she gets time soon as hopefully there might be another beautiful book to come out of it.

Migrant Quilt Group exhibition

Migrant Quilt Group exhibition at South LibraryMigrant Quilt Group exhibition at South LibraryMigrant Quilt Group exhibition at South Library
Migrant Quilt Group exhibition at South Library
Migrant Quilt Group exhibition at South Library

Migrant Quilt Group exhibition at South Library until 14 April 2013.