Finding Old Wool

Deep in the cupboards of hundreds of houses lie jerseys and cardigans mostly unwanted, or at least unused. They are considered old-fashioned and a little ‘home made’. They have patterns which today are considered ludicrous, and some of the colours might make us run a mile. But for some this is treasure waiting to be reworked – upcycled – into exciting new presentations. It is a resource to be extracted from friends and swept up from thrift shops.

Coromandel-based Emma Churchill, a 2009 graduate from Massey University, loves the wool that nobody much wants. She has a keen sense for recycling based on both an ethical sense of abhorring casual waste, and also the artistic spirit of ‘this is still useful’.

She unpicks garments, surrounds herself with yarn, then re-knits this into lengths of cable. This is the hobby-like, unhurried, technique of French knitting. The cables are all lengths and all colours, sewn together side by side. The cables stand out like paint squeezed straight from the tube. The result is bold, painterly, and visceral. Further, the garments possess the decided patina of being art pieces; it is not necessary that they are worn. The works shown here come from her collection titled ‘Consume This’ – a title whose subtext says consume this instead.

This balaclava is a tea-cosy hilarious accessory with its meandering lines of confectionary colour. It would, of course, be superbly rejected as an item of camouflage for a Special Operations unit.This work of garment/art retains its spool showing how a single thread ends up being a thick cable. It’s like an instruction manual attached to the finished item. And, stitched in white, is the ‘designer label’ – Churchill’s brand name and web address // 

Welcome Home

The materials for this piece called Welcome Home are enamel fused onto copper, set around lengths of found chain. The work is both a necklace and also a work of pinned-up art which you go up to from time to time and simply peruse. The tags read of actual places – Ealing, Rangitata, Hinds, Tinwald – and sayings like ‘hook, line and sinker’ as well as depictions of items like an axe, a milk bottle, a fishing hut and a magpie. 

The lettering is done in big capitals; the informal typeface we might find down rural roads warning us not to trespass or dump rubbish. The locale of these place names is the countryside around Ashburton, and up into the headwaters of the rivers of the Canterbury Plains. We read the tags, but the tags are saying more than just the words. For this piece is a protest. 

The tags recall a clear, unhurried time full of childhood destinations but now, on revisiting, pollution, overcrowding and bulk farming practices have spoiled the land. The name of the necklace has now become wry and cynical.The necklace is by jeweller-artist Kay Van Dyk whose childhood years were spent in the district. Now based in Nelson, Van Dyk trained both in New Zealand as well as at the Guildhall University in London where there was great attention paid to the art of silversmithing. 

Her accomplishment in techniques, coupled with a spirit of wishing to memorialise recent events and nostalgia, gives her work a great presence as both jewellery and one-off works of art. Van Dyk is represented in Wellington at Quoil gallery at 149 Willis Street