ABOUT Val

My Mother always told me I was creative, and so it came to be. Surprise.

I remember my childhood paint boxes, colours with seductive names like sap green, rose madder and chrome yellow. They disappointed me, failing to deliver the hoped for strength of colour. I still love bright colours.

granny_gee
My mum.

My Mother was a domestic science teacher, and taught me the ‘correct way’ to do blanket stitch, make perfect button holes and the neatest of continuous strip openings. One summer, when she was too busy. I cut up all my clothes, in the hope of remodelling them. I made garments to stand up in, but not sit down in, and learned much about three dimensions and pattern making.

I liked art at school in Cornwall. I failed O level, but scraped through A level. Dad said” naughty girls go to art school”, and the art teacher said it was only worth going to The Slade. So I went to photography school, where I was fairly naughty. I still take bad photos. I worked as  medical photographer, having developed a social conscience, (wanting to do ‘useful work’) but soon married and came to New Zealand.

I had four delicious boy babies, and was a very contented Mother. At that time we all sewed all the clothes, spun wool, wove mats, batiked anything and everything, patched and mended.

In the early 80’s, in order to have time out (from an over-long visit by overseas relations) I went to Joan Beattie’s Fabric art class. I was electrified, finding out that my art could be constructing a large woman hiding in a fridge eating doughnuts, or a self portrait escaping domestic life on a fabric motorbike.

The Fabric Art Company emerged from that weekend, and we made the Stuffed Stuff Show, which (until the Monet Exhibition came along) broke gallery attendance at the Wellington City Gallery.

I sewed and stuffed in isolation for another 6 years and my subsequent solo show, Stuffing On, went on tour to galleries throughout the country. The themes of men, marriage, motherhood, maidens and me were expressed in fabric sculptural works: women’s issues of the 80’s created in women’s ways.

 

A reporter asked me if making the sculptures was cathartic. I said ‘yes’, and agreed with myself when I went home and found the meaning of the word in the dictionary.

The Dunedin Public Art Gallery held a public meeting to discuss my show, asking the question Is It Art? I was not invited to defend myself, but have no doubt that the answer was Yes. I am happy that my art has remained autobiographical, it is still necessary to tell women’s stories.

I became gloomy in the isolation of my studio, and ventured out into the world.

Since then I have been divorced, remarried and become a grandmother  many times over. I became a counsellor and facilitator, and spend 2 years in Tonga with VSA. I have worked for various agencies in the field of Stopping Violence. I have made hundreds of pairs of hand painted lycra tights and other clothes to sell at market stalls, and run workshops to encourage people to make their own creations. I have had work selected for the World of Wearable Art four times, won an award and have had two pieces bought for their permanent collection.

I have climbed up, paddled round and cycle toured across all sorts of lovely places, and introduced many people to the delights of sailing in the Marlborough Sounds.

I shifted to Picton in 2003 to live with Don and ‘Do Art”.

Naming shows is fun. Here are a few

“Are you Sitting Comfortably”, ‘I made my bed…..”,   ‘Do Make/ Make Do’ and “ A Wry View”

I loved my time as guest artist at Waikawa, Catlins, with the Southern Arts Trust.

“Wicked Stitch” showed  at The Millennium, Blenheim, and The Forrester, Oamaru.

I joined in “He Manawa Titi” at Pataka, Porirua.

Works taken into the collections of Eastern Southland Gallery, Gore and Marlborough Museum.