Here we are in the land of Kiwi’s. The day we were leaving we had some news that will impact us greatly for the future & we were on the verge of cancelling our trip. After some discussion we decided to go anyway & use the time to reflect & plan & work out a way forward. One of the big disappointments, due to the financial implications of this news was not being able to get the new camera that I have had my eye on, which I had hoped to buy duty free before we went…..so I am limping along with my old one – very disappointed with some of the results. It was the right thing to do, we were both exhausted (having missed our normal Christmas break) & already in just a couple of days we have been refreshed & invigorated from meeting some fascinating people, seeing some inspiring things. Before we even left, just waiting at the airport, I was inspired by the amount of art I saw, everywhere I looked……..
Already, there is a theme emerging in my art & expressions from this trip despite only being a couple of days into it…….the importance of nurturing my heart & allowing it to express grief & loss, but leaving it room to experience joy & new growth. If you have the time to read my journaling below, you will notice there has been a big emphasis on homes & accommodation. One of our original motivations to come to New Zealand was to do some investigating into their ‘Sustainable Building’ methods & broaden our understanding of Eco friendly building materials. We normally like to stay in middle to higher end accommodation when we travel & due to our ‘pre-holiday’ news we needed to drastically cut our holiday budget. Consequently we are staying in VERY ordinary places, which has made the emphasis on nurture & home even stronger in my psyche. Consequently, ALL of the art that I have produced so far has been around those two topics – nurturing your heart; & homes & houses. Using MS Photoshop I have created a range of Moo Cards & a whole series of tiny little houses using Collections chipboard houses which are great fun to do……….unfortunately, the little houses aren’t photographing very well, (ditto about the camera) so you will have to be content with my Moo Cards & travel photos.
We arrived in New Zealand at midnight local time & we were both so numb from the goings on of the day that neither of us wanted to sleep. We hired a car & just drove into the early morning. We had made an appointment with the fabulously inspiring Mosaic Artist & adobe builder Dhaj who was located about 6 hours drive North of Auckland. We slept for a bit in the car, then kept driving on, heading up into the Northlands, mountainous sea coast North of Auckland. The coast is beautiful, the people lovely & friendly.
EUTOPIA Heading up the coast we encountered a little town called Kaiwaka where we came across an AMAZING organic structure in the form of a café called Eutopia created by the artist Peter Harris. A ‘Gaudiesque’ (*notes below) organic shaped structure, it was a fascinating arrangement of little domes in a courtyard, with a huge plenary ‘tented’ dome form & the tiniest working kitchen you could imagine. I am not sure how well it would function as an actual café, but I think that the ethereal appeal of the place would be enough to make people go there regardless of how inefficient the service was (due to poor operational facilities) or what the food tasted like (we didn’t eat there). You would just WANT to have coffee sitting in one of these little domes, or order at this quaint little kitchen window…….the structure has an visual intrigue all of it’s own.
HUNDERTWASSER Continuing to drive into the Northlands, our next exciting encounter was a town called Kawakawa. This town was adopted by the internationally renowned architect & ecologist Friedrich Hundertwasser who settled there in 1975. Hundertwasser was also a painter & philosopher & in 1997 accepted a commission to design the public toilets in the town’s main street. The Kawakawa toilet block has ceramic columns, a garden roof & a cacophony of colour grounded in a black & white scheme. It is organic in shape & style & integrates interesting bits & pieces to create a whole picture. Tiles were made by students of local schools, bricks were recycled from local buildings & windows in the block were constructed using old bottles from the district. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, however, it’s a pretty spectacular sight & I think because of it’s artistic value, there is no vandalism or graffiti, which is refreshing.
Still continuing North we moved went up as far as Cable Bay, up past the Bay of Islands, where we saw some breathtaking coastline beaches & spectacular view. Trying to keep our expenditure as low as possible, this time we dipped out badly – our budget accommodation was just plain AWFUL & included an infestation of grasshoppers & a cold morning shower. From here we went to visit Dhaj
THE HOUSE THAT DHAJ BUILT This incredibly inspiring mosaic artist & painter built her own in situ adobe brick house when she was 62 years old! (YES – SIXTY-TWO; that’s not a typo!) Again inspired by the work of Antoni Gaudi, she has liberally decorated every stationary surface with elaborate mosaic detailing. The home has bulbous, curvaceous walls, there is furniture integrated into the structural elements & includes non conventional uses of space. Coming
from a building background, I could see some technical improvements that could make functional differences; however, the house really was a wonder to behold. As we left, my pretty straight, conventional hubby turned & said to me ‘Let me guess, you want to make a Mixed Media house right???’ Oh I love him!!!! He is SOOOOOOOO flexible (which is NOT always good) He trusts my sense of style & HE has the SKILLS – so viola – it’s a great team – we just have to learn to handle our frustrations with each other better. I swear it was easier when we were both worried about what example we were setting for our children! LOL!!!
KOANGA GARDENS One of our stops was an EcoVillage called Koanga Gardens. This is an fabulous little community complete with it’s own group of Eco built houses. It also has an organic fruit & vegetable garden & nursery that protects, conserves & develops heritage plants (specialising in food producing plants) Here I encountered what I originally thought was a ‘mutant bee’ – you know, HUGE from feeding on all that good organic stuff – BUT in reality it was a Bumble Bee. I hadn’t seen one before, so I didn’t realise how big they were, it was about 2 inches (60mm) long!! You don’t get any scale from this macro shot, but it was lovely to see.
We had been highly recommended, if we had the time & were able to, meet with Prof. Yoshimasa Sakurai, former head of Architecture of a Tokyo University, Prof. Yoshi has had funding to develop an ‘The Experimental House’ which is a house that had been made to perfect zero environmental impact housing. This means that all waste is regenerated or neutralized & that the home is naturally warmed & cooled through ingenious ducting systems & airflow & that much of the food required is produced off the land. It seemed, in summary, that granted, everything was home grown & energy efficient, DH & I felt that neither of us would actually keep this up & that we didn’t want to return to a feudal lifestyle of the 1700’s in Europe where your whole day was spent to work to feed yourself & keep yourself warm & cool. If you are interested in reading more about Prof. Yoshi’s work it’s at http://www.ecohouse.co.nz
NEXT STOP – AUCKLAND We are currently in Auckland, we arrived late last night & since we have practically been driving, ever since we arrived here (we have already driven 1500kms – I don’t know what that is in miles – but a long ways!) we have had a pretty slack day – last night, though, just before we got here, we encountered this little fellow.
We had pulled over on to the grassy strip at the side of a major road on the outskirts of suburban Auckland to make some phone calls for accommodation & find our way around the map a bit. As I was on hold on the phone, I looked across in the grass & saw this little ‘ambling’ body about the size of a rat slowly making it’s way through the grass. It didn’t look like a rat, we got out of the car to look closer & found it to be a little baby echidna. It was SOOOO cute………….a little scared when DH picked him up, but obliging for photos, never the less!!!
Today I have been able to download heaps of my photos & play around with those a bit this morning & this afternoon we have done our MOST favourite thing – being lost in a book shop for hours. At one point it was my turn to move the car (due to car parking restrictions) & in the process I met yet ANOTHER kind generous souled New Zealander called Libby & discovered her FABULOUS shop called Trees. I could have EASILY just moved the WHOLE contents of her burgeoning ‘warehousy’ shop into my home were there not a plane trip between us. She had a tasteful mixture of new, old, repo & shabby chic bits & pieces. We got chatting & she invited me downstairs to her workroom to fossick through her bits ‘n’ bobs. WELLLLLL…………….. at this point……….. I was THERE for the duration……..DH was lost in book heaven (with, mind you, no idea whatsoever where I was) & I was like a pig in mud as Libby pulled out drawers, boxes, jars & spools to see if there was anything that she could ‘bless’ me with. I have come away with a bower bird collection of book pages, ledger entries, buttons, trims, drawer handles, old bakelite bits & pieces & fabulous trinkets.
Gaudi – Antoni Gaudi was a Spanish architect who specialised in organic forms extrapolated from Art Nouveau styling & you can see much of his work in Barcelona in Spain.