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 Ericas.com 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.

Anticipated highlights #2 – AWRF 2013

My paper copy of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival programme is a sea of pink as the highlighter continues to get a work-out.

My second most anticipated event features Rosemary McLeod; cartoonist, journalist, collector and all-round great writer whose work has been entertaining, annoying and making me think since I was a teenager. Actually that may be something of an exaggeration because she’s not much older than me, but then she could have started working on Thursday magazine when she was a teenager.

Thrift to FantasySearch for With bold needle and thread

I still look for her column first in The Press on a Thursday and her book Thrift to Fantasy is one of my favourites, so I’m really excited to hear her talk about The Secret Life of Aprons and her new book With bold needle and thread.

The occasion may call for the wearing of a very special ceremonial apron. Like a female Mason, if there was such a thing.

Embroidery Embroidery