Gordonton artist Jacquie Haselden really shouldn’t be talking to me. She’s dashed back from next door’s Woodlands Homestead, where she works part time. Today she’s been putting together the Christmas display, which still needs work.
And she’s been finishing three pieces for an art exhibition which opens in Pukekohe this Friday.
Then, the morning after that she and husband Nigel fly to Cambodia, to take part in a Habitat for Humanity house-building project.
Sitting on a couch in her cowshed-turned-studio, she tells me it’s all under control, but she did start packing a few weeks ago.
“And it just meant I worked a little harder, keeping at it in the evenings.”
A descendent of the Woodlands branch of the Riddell family, Jacquie grew up in the Waikato on dairy farms, and moved to Gordonton about seven years ago.
Art has always been a part of her life, from both sides of her family. She has exhibited in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North and Wellington. One of her paintings was recently unveiled at Woodlands, and another painting with a focus on colonial rural women’s work is planned for next year.
The pieces to be exhibited in Pukekohe are depictions on paper, in silver pen, of early needlework, especially filet crochet – which she says was referred to as poor man’s lace.
“This was for people who couldn’t afford the bobbin lace, so they did this instead, spending hours and hours making lace collars, tablecloths, and clothing.”
“In the past much of this work was overlooked, and not valued. There is a huge amount of history on the physical side of early farming; clearing the land, how it was done, in photographs and writings. But to me there seemed to be very little from the women’s perspective – yet there are so many stories attached to it.”
Not much needlework has come down to her through the Riddell side of the family, so she has collected bits and pieces from op shops.
“A lot of it is not perfect, so I draw the imperfections and holes in the cloth.”
It is labour intensive, exacting work, almost as time consuming as creating the lace in the first place.
She has also created sculptural pieces, in silver wire and perspex – net-like structures also based on early stitch work. These were for her Masters of Fine Arts, completed in 2008 from Auckland’s Whitecliffe College.
“That was three years work, crammed into two; I didn’t get any holidays. When you fall out the other end of a Master’s you have to decide what to do after that. I then decided to teach art in my studio, in Gordonton.”
This was a former 12-bale rotary shed, which the couple converted after building their house next door. It has worked well, she says.
“It’s a beautiful space, perfect for me to do my own work, as well as to teach others in. It’s very rewarding, and encouraging to watch people discover they have this creative talent, and help them develop it. I also like to treat my ladies, so I’ll often bake morning tea. ”
She offers art lessons in six week blocks, but not this term – because of the Cambodia trip this coming Saturday.
“A total of 150 kiwis are going, and there are 15 in our team, and also 200 Americans. We will build a small house, it’s like one big room, with an ablution block at one end. We’ll be finishing off a convention room. It will be our first time and we all looking forward to it.”
But first, there’s the finishing touches to the Christmas display at Woodlands, and the little matter of the exhibition.
“I’ll get there, it will all get done.”