New Zealand is a place of prehistoric beauty, ancient, vibrant green plants, and animals seen no where else on earth and is the home of the Brancott Estate World of WearableArt Awards Show. This extravaganza happens once a year in Wellington, New Zealand at the TBA Arena on the waterfront of downtown beautiful but windy Wellington.
Amazingly WOW is in it’s 23rd year of production and just keeps growing. Open to everyone, young, old, professional, novice, knitters, crafters, welders, it doesn’t matter; WOW is for everyone regardless of age or nationality, religion, or station in life and is probably the only show of it’s kind that brings together a group of people that have such an amazing artistic talent.
WOW originally started out in Nelson New Zealand. Nelson is on the very northern side of the south island of New Zealand and Wellington is on the very southern tip of the north island. To give a perspective they are about as far apart as Portland Oregon is from Spokane Washington by plane, round about a half hour flight. I had the opportunity to go there for a short visit. I planned out my trip by googling hostels to stay at because they generally are very much less expensive than a hotel and you get the same basic amenities it’s just more of a self help type of deal and you get to meet some of the coolest people.
The Palace backpackers hostel in Nelson is a great old plantation style home turned hostel. After such a long flight and a walk up a very steep driveway (I am getting a suitcase with wheels next time), I met the owner and manager Dave Enting. The Palace was originally built in the 1920’s and I was awed by some of it’s beautiful woodwork and after some pleasantry’s and a much needed shower Dave gave me a tour of the old place.
The old girl is much like a museum and has a collection of paintings and antique nick-knacks stuffed in all sorts of places. Everywhere I looked there was something interesting to see. After explaining to Dave why I was there he was eager to show me his small collection of puppets that he purchased at auction when WOW was reducing it’s stock of items some years before
I got the impression from Dave that Nelsonites are very proud to have been the progenitors of the WOW show. The puppets were from the children’s section and I was just amazed at the character in their faces and the beauty of the hand died silks. They were really fun pieces and I felt pretty lucky to have chosen just the right place to stay the night.
While looking around the home a hand drawn picture done in pencil caught my eye. Dave explained that the picture, done by his grandfather, was of his grandmother, known as Madam Helga, who was a dressmaker in London before the war. (I am going to be doing some research on her for a future article if I can, she sounded so interesting.) His grandfather was an illustrator for magazines back in the day and there were several portraits of women in the styles of the day (late 50’s and 60’s) on the walls. All of them were hand done and colored and are great! What I wouldn’t give for a collection like that in my home. Lots of items or pieces in the house were given to Dave from people who have come to stay and one piece was of a Maori face done in felted wool by a gal from Australia. It was so interesting I had to take a picture. (Maori’s are the natives of New Zealand.)
A piece of advice when traveling is, don’t be afraid to ask where the good places to eat are! I can get McDonalds at home, when I’m traveling I want fair of the land. I ended up at a really nice little place called Café Affair that served an excellent fresh, pumpkin and lamb meat pie. It was just what I needed after a long flight and an even longer day. While finishing my meal and just letting the day sink in there was a commotion outside. A group of people were gathering around the front windows of the cafe and there were a couple of girls doing the hula in tank tops and grass skirts. I think they where either being hazed or it was some kind of bacheloret party. A gentleman came into the bar and came right to me after going and looking out the windows and tucked a little bit of money into my hand and whispered for me to go and put money in the bucket. I did and there was much applause and clapping. It’s little things like that, that make New Zealand such a great place to visit. The people are friendly, personable, and fun. I thought, what a way to be welcomed back to the country even if they didn’t know I was visiting or had been there before.
After a good meal, a little walk in the cool night air, a fabulous sleep, and a morning of coffee and a lovely visit with some of the Palace’s residents I was very kindly driven to the WOW museum by Dave. He took me on a bit of a long route so I could get a view of Nelson. If I had, had more time I would have loved to spend another day or two in Nelson. They were having an art forum in the town and all the galleries and shops where open and inviting. Dave said that, that night there was going to be some incredible Jazz players at one of the pubs and it was to be a really fun night. Oh, for more time. But I digress.
The World of Wearable Arts and Classic Car museum is truly a one of a kind experience. That I know of, there is no other place on earth that has quit this kind of a collection and I‘m not talking about the cars, even though those were cool too. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures in the wearable art section of the museum but I was allowed to take pictures of the classic car collection. Just my luck some of the older garments from previous shows were displayed with the cars.
I must have spent four or five hours just gazing at the garments and trying to figure out how things were made. Questions came to mind such as, Why doesn’t America have anything like this? And what is That! And how was it made? What did they use to get that piece twisted like that? I didn’t even realize that the self illuminated section was also about using black light. I wondered what my garment would look like in black light. I am going to have to try it when I get my piece back from the show. That is if I get it back.
For a late lunch and before I needed to head back to the airport I sat in the café at the museum and had a beautiful pumpkin pasta dish and a chocolate desert that made my taste buds very happy. I’m not afraid to ask to sit with people and I met a lovely businessman who comes to the café on his lunch hours. Turns out he sells flowers all over the world and especially to the US. Our visit was very pleasant and he had some great advice for me on networking and building my business.
I was so inspired by what I had just viewed that I had to just sit and draw. I drew until it was time to go to the airport. The ladies at the Museum made sure I got to my flight on time, specifically Jahmiel Sowman, who drove me to the airport in one of the classic cars. I think it was poignant that it was an American car and it gave me a bit of a giggle. I loved riding in it and kind of wish I could have driven it. However they drive on the opposite side of the road down there and that can get a little confusing as to which way to turn and how on some of those roads.
To be continued.