Whanganui Artist Open Studios

Well, my studio isn’t actually open – it’s more that a friend has invited me to park myself and my mahi on her back deck with a view of her garden.

Last June I had an exhibition in Ōpunake. It was really bad timing as Covid was rife in Taranaki, the cost of petrol went up considerably, and it seemed as though there was a storm blasting through every other weekend. Not great for sales however I did enjoy a short residency and seeing my work out in such a lovely gallery as From Out of the Blue allowed me to gain some valuable insights. It was not only my motivation at different times, but I could see commonalities across a variety of mediums both two dimensional and 3D, and of course knowledgeable feedback from Viv Davy, the gallery owner, and others.

In December I contributed some of my work to A Gallery and now . . . Open Studios Whanganui. That led to a time of selecting work, framing, and pricing. Sales have been fair and feedback valuable – there is something really wonderful listening to people talk about how they feels about work and it’s intriguing what attracts and arouses curiosity.

As a result of having all my work out, talking to people coming through, I’m valuing and regaining interest in mediums I haven’t used in a while such as encaustic. Recently I’ve spent a good bit of time painting where once I said that I used paint but wasn’t a painter. I still don’t consider myself a painters as such, but I’m dabbling, learning, enjoying myself of a flat surface for a change . . . knows where I’ll go next.

Encaustic pod with pūkeko feather ruff. 21 x 9 cms

Call & Response

Do I still remember how to do this? It’s hard to say why I don’t keep posting with the regularity I once did. Sometimes I have little to say and sometimes so much but it’s more personal than I wish to share yet both ends of that continuum are important to my work. But now I need to write an update, to let you know of my exhibition around the coast in Opunake at From Out of the Blue Studio Gallery.

In setting up the exhibition this week I can see how my work has changed in the past 6 or 7 years to have more meaning, more of a narrative. I notice I often comment on issues facing society, my personal insights, or simply find meaning as I work with materials and new techniques. I’ve gathered old work and new to form a retrospective of sorts. Some is work I wasn’t ready to part with before and of course some I never will as it’s deeply personal.

There is also some samples of the work of two friends, Bobby Duncan and Finola Chamberlain with whom I meet monthly for support and encouragement. We set ourselves some challenges to respond to, and with the same brief came up with very different responses.

I hope those nearby will make the trip to Opunake, nestled there next to Taranaki which, often shrouded by cloud is a magnificent live volcano. Many of you will only be able to view the work online of course and I will endeavour to post images on Instagram.

Three of the 40 or so “Seekers”. Ceramic, 10-16 mm
“In all respects, lost”. Perhaps she’s the leader of the seekers, no eyes, or ears yet looking for truth in this climate of disinformation. Head in the clouds, feet off the ground, untouchable in a translucent shield. Ceramic head, bird netting, wire, eco-dyed silk, cotton cord and fabric. 340x300mm. NFS

More images to come!

4 big pods

This about as big as they can go at 24 inches or 60 centimetres. I’d like to make them significantly bigger but that would mean using a heavier gauge or more rigid wire which would complicate the initial construction. What if I twisted 2 pieces together? That’s a possibility but perhaps too hard on my hands. What if I secured the ends and rigged up the drill on a slow speed to twine them together? Worth exploring? It would make the tip and stem really tricky. What if I had that step done for me? I tend to dismiss this idea because I want to take the raw materials and make it myself. I’m not asking for idea, simply musing.

Some explorations, experiments, some new shapes, less pod-like, more sculptural. What could be better that sitting outside in the spring sunshine playing with wire, fabric, my mother’s old linen thread.

4 pods, wire fabric, vintage linen thread. 60cms

late again

I wrote a post, late, months late, and then hit discard instead of publish. It was carefully worded, with complete explanations about the work and the a few muttered swear words when I realised what I’d done . . . here we go again!

Each year the Sarjeant Gallery hold a Whanganui Arts Review in conjunction with the local Artists Open Studio event. It is also the Pattillo Art Award event which is externally judged. This year it was Reuben Friend, director of Pataka Art & Museum from Porirua.

My submission to the review was a result of my musing about marginalised land and people, such things and the beauty of the weeds I was passing that are unnoticed and unappreciated by many. I was considering the ephemeral nature of this beauty and the transitory presence of such beauty. The fennel, grasses, Queen Anne’s lace (cow parsley), nasturtiums, and delicate grasses were all in bloom.

To express these thoughts I chose to work with silk chiffon, the plants themselves, and create cyanotype prints. I suspended the work from metal scraps found near where the Aramoho railway station had been,

In 2020 I felt I’d accomplished a goal just having made something that I felt proud of to submit and whether anyone else found it worthwhile was beside the point. I did, both in the making and in how it told my story which is not to say I didn’t feel affirmed when it was accepted. Somebody ‘got’ it.

My feelings about my work this year were similar: the piece was exactly as I envisioned, said what I wanted it to say, and I was satisfied . . . that’s all I ask. If I accomplish just a few pieces which evoke that feeling within me I’m content. I’m not trying to make a lot of work, just what matters to me.

On the Margins: Late Summer

The accompanying artist statement reads: “Marginal land is defined as of little use to agriculture or industry; marginalised people might feel likewise yet on the margins there is both beauty and nourishment. In combining found materials and the delicacy of silk the ephemeral nature and beauty of the margins is revealed. Walking the Whanganui riverbank margins daily, Wendy contemplates different viewpoints about waste, usefulness and beauty.”

There is a video of the prize giving (unfortunately an online event due to a temporary Covid 19 lockdown) here where my piece features at just after 6:40. To receive a merit prize was completely unexpected as was the sale: for others to see some small part of your creative self and affirm it in such a way is gratifying indeed.


I always joked that I used paint but I wasn’t a painter and to some extent that was true however over the last 18 months or so I’ve been drawn to it more and more. My first commission was at age 11 by a classmate for a girl in an ‘itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka do bikini’ however there was no payment and my first memory was yellow and blue creating magic in front on my 5 year old eyes.

I guess since childhood I’ve flirted with painting. My first course was with The Learning Connexion about 30-odd years ago and then again about 20 years ago with the school art teacher who held some classes for friends in her garage . . . I still have that work on my wall. In 2015 a weekend with Gill Allen and then a course with her a couple of years later reawakened my interest.

I was always more interested in making things Though, the physicality, exploring materials, and then using my skills to explore concepts but now I guess the material I’m exploring is paint and the physicality of applying it is what appeals. It will take time, it will not replace making, however it will have its season.

An exploration in colour and texture on a 30 x 30 cms panel.
A delicious detail!
Sometimes I find gems.
Yet to be finished . . . or maybe it is.
Another 30 x 30 cms panel . . . although this was a step along the way, and I almost fell in love as it was but it’s received another layer of exploration.
Had it been this size . . . .

Now all I need to do is continue with the experimenting, the exploring, and then work out how to scale it up without the aide of an app on my iPad! I’m aiming for bigger surfaces, bigger tools . . . because I have big ideas.

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a visual review

Far too much has happened in the 14 months since I last update my blog to go into all the details and I have spent very little time on social media or commenting on blogs I follow. Settling in to a new home in a new location has had its highs and lows, some expected and some, not at all. But here I am living in a lovely home, I keep in touch with old friends and have made some interesting new ones. There is a variety of delightful walks close at hand for the dog and me, and Whanganui, while small, has everything I need for the most part.

In my last post I shared details about a pennant that has been to Sydney and since returned. The installation was co-ordinated by Mo Orkiszewki over at It’s Crow Time and you can see a stunning display of everyone’s work here.

Earlier this year I participated a workshop organised by Fibre Arts Australia with Hannah Lamb where I stitched a memoir of sorts on a top that I wore until it died and then deconstructed to use as a pattern. There is more of this work to come . . . right now it’s just notes and sketches.

An Internal Landscape: Beneath the Surface is a comment on my life.  A family of orgin gone separate ways, events seldom straightforward, occasionally unraveling, messier beneath the surface, support often unseen by others, always moving on creating a new landscape.


An Internal Landscape: Beneath the Surface.       Wendy Watson – Late Start Studio



An Internal Landscape: Beneath the Surface. Front, exterior.    Wendy Watson – Late Start Studio



An Internal Landscape: Beneath the Surface. Back, exterior.       Wendy Watson – Late Start Studio



An Internal Landscape: Beneath the Surface. Back, interior.       Wendy Watson – Late Start Studio

Later a 5 day course, organised by Fibre Arts New Zealand, with Mary Hettmansperger set me off twining (a skill I taught myself almost 40 years ago because I was fascinated by taniko) and working in wire.

Wendy Watson – Late Start Studio

Wendy Watson – Late Start Studio

Wendy Watson – Late Start Studio

Wendy Watson – Late Start Studio

Then it was gum nuts picked up on the riverbank . . . 100 gum nuts bound in cotton. Remains is a comment on individual difference.  I also wanted to comment on how when a primary use, or perceived usefullness, has been served there is usually another purpose to be found. This came about when I was musing on the number of gray-haired woment who were out that day walking their dogs and how they could be so easily dismissed as just a member of a particular demographic.

A converation overheard during the exhibition:

A:  One is diferent.      B:  They’re all different.

Remains.                   Wendy Watson – Late Start Studio

I’ve continued messing around with a quick collage as a warm up most days or eight very quick androgynous sketches in acrylic and charcoal.

Wendy Watson – Late Start Studio

I continue to enjoy learning new skills, developing old ones, using them to express my thoughts . . . and generally enjoying my life.

A sun-filled studio has been set up in the house and another workspace in the garage so I can fling paint around. My last attempt to paint was a brief dalliance with oils about 20 years ago and a play with acrylic on a orkshop in 2015 so I’m not sure why I’m drawn to it again: I always said I use paint but I don’t paint. At the moment I’m playing with colour and texture and aren’t at all certain of where it’s going. Somewhere? Nowhere? Does it matter?

I’ve taken a few painting and mixed media online courses with Misty Mawn and Jeanne Oliver.  Both sources offerings are reasonably priced, specific and professionally produced by knowledgeable and supportive tutors.

Wendy Watson – Late Start Studio

More of my results with later perhaps.

That’s it! There are no plans for attending future workshops at this stage . . . time to consolidate and just work with what I have.   And while I have work at a couple of outlets I’m more interested in developing the work than exhibiting or selling at the moment.

Catch up soon?  Soon is a relative term.

a review

What better day for me to have a review? It’s my birthday, one with a zero although I don’t consider that to make it any more important than any other, it’s the International Day of Peace, and this morning I photographed a finished piece of work which I will send to Mo Orkiszewski over at It’s Crow Time.

I consider a birthday a day to count my many blessings: to reach seventy with a strong healthy body, to have good friends and family I can count on, my faculties are intact . . . I’m aware this more than many have. I’m grateful to have the ability and opportunity to develop my creativity and to travel if I choose and I’m immensely grateful for the friends I can meet up with when I do.

Having moved house recently I’ve been a tad busy but have still managed to finish my contribution to Mo’s idea for making use of an old satin wedding dress and veil she was gifted. The theme is ‘I Dream of a World Where Love is the Answer’. She bravely cut it up and sent it to artists around the world and now she has the immense pleasure of unfurling them.

1035 x 135 mm. Satin, silk, linen thread, pearls.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Mine includes a piece of the veil which fell apart even as I took it from the envelope. I gave it the burn test so I think it’s silk and has not stood up well unlike the man-made fibre used for the satin.

I had the idea of using the veil on top of the satin, attaching it loosely with small blue/green pearls knotted through the layers as if holding on to hopes and dreams. I decided to back the satin with some 2 ply silk however when I finished stitching them together I realised the satin would be lost behind the silk so I turned it over and made the dress fabric visible. The veiling is so fragile it disintegrated as I worked but aren’t hopes and dreams like that? Unless they become goals they can dissipate leaving little trace.

Pennant detail reverse side.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Pennant detail.

When Mo opens the package, there will be traces left behind in the wrapping, if people touch it when its exhibited along with the other contributions more damage will be done, but that’s okay because even if most of the veil falls away, the foundation and the pearls will remain. Love is like that . . . it needs a strong foundation because what is built will get knocked about however the most precious aspects will remain. I wanted my contribution to reflect this.

Cheers people! It’s not wine o’clock yet but cheers anyway.

ready for framing

Earlier this year I went to Rockhampton, Queensland for a 3 day workshop with the lovely, and generous Cas Holmes. I say generous because she shares her wisdom and experience so freely. She’s one of those tutors who talks about their process of why the the way work, works for them . . . no imposition, just their practice in action.

Since returning from Rockhampton, with a side trip to Mackay where I saw Peta Lloyd’s book Black Saturday at the local art gallery (a very moving artwork), I’ve been somewhat busy what with buying and selling houses, moving towns and such. I have however managed to complete this experimental piece as a follow-up . . . along with the 100 encaustic pieces.

Wendy @ Late Start Studio 2018.
Untitled: textiles, paper and stitch. 145 x 410mm

I used only what I had. Muslin, calico, hessian, some eco-prints of rose leaves, paint stained baby wipes, embroidery cottons and linen thread.

There is something wonderful about French knots. The care required and the repetition is soothing.

hitting the reset button

I allow far too many things to get in the way and then start beating myself up about a lack of diligence . . . does this sound like you? Or perhaps you’re much more diligent that I am, your ability to persevere is stronger than mine. Thinking of Yoda’s wise words “do or do not, there is no try” I will do and write this post, and next week I will write another. After next week I will either do or do not but I know my limitations. Even the draft for this post has been waiting to be completed for almost a month.

The “Mindscapes” exhibition last October/November was successful and I had plans for what I wanted to do next however they fell into disarray and I did diddly-squat for some weeks . . . and then some weeks more until I got fed up with myself, got some help and worked my way out of the Miasma of Bleah. I made some goals and went from woah to go with a 100 day challenge.

I decided that for me to do something daily for 100 days would be to invite failure but to focus on producing 100 small pieces of work over 100 days would be achievable.

My goal was 100 10x10cm encaustic works over the 100 day period and limit my colour palette to black, white, yellow ochre, Payne’s grey, and deviated just a little. I could work in a series, experiment and build toward mastery, and most importantly, play. There were 10 artists involved in the challenge and exhibition which added to my commitment as it seems I can let myself down and not others but that’s another story.

100 10x10cm encaustic works for the “100s & 1000s exhibition at Gallery on Guyton Whanganui

I was interested in how the other artists approached the challenge. Some did something daily for 100 days resulting in perhaps 15 works, others focused on 1 work each day, another combined her efforts over the 100 days into one piece (a small bound book of tea bags from a daily cup of tea, sometimes drunk alone, sometimes with company).

So now I’m back into making . . . a little pottery purely because I haven’t done anything for almost 40 years, and stitching.

And I’m moving. I’m leaving the beach for a delightful small city and a home across the road from a river. I’m questioning how I want to live for the next 5 to 10 years, what do I want to take with me . . . physically and metaphorically. More on that later.

I’m resetting in more ways than one.

reporting in

The exhibition is on and almost over.  It opened on October the 6th with eight pieces being sold over the first weekend.  Very affirming.  Unfortunately I have done little since although I did have plans.  What’s with that? I know from when I was doing a bit of acting that there would be a bit of down time after the run of the play . . . a time when I felt as if there was a huge gap that couldn’t be filled by anything other than another play.  That’s how I feel now, as if I should be working toward something else but what?  My get up and go seems to have got up and gone for one reason and another . . .

It’s time to get back to work . . . something . . . anything . . . maybe one of the ideas that had excited me while I was doing the tedious work of mounting and framing the work.  I made a few notes at the time but somehow getting myself across the threshold and doing some work just isn’t happening. At least I can do this . . . post a few images of the smaller 10 x 10 cm pieces albeit rather late in the piece as the exhibition, having been up for a month, comes down tomorrow. 

When I bring the work home I’ll take some decent photos of the rest of the work and and post some more, promise.