I recently had the opportunity to attend a printing workshop with Susan Holmes, a renowned fabric artist in New Zealand, where she taught us her tips and tricks of fabric printing using stencils and brilliantly coloured fabric paints – skillfully dabbed on with a sponge. Her quick wit and sense of fun made the experience unforgettable and as a bonus I left with my own handprinted tote inspired by her handpainted textiles.
The workshop was run as part of public programmes in conjunction with the Objectspace exhibition Susan Holmes: Fabric Artist. The exhibition is the latest in the series of Objectspace’s Master of Crafts exhibitions and celebrates and reflects on Holmes lifelong contribution to the arts sector in New Zealand. Co-curated by Cerys Dallaway-Davidson and Doris de Pont, of the New Zealand Fashion Museum, the exhibition runs until the 4th of February and I recommend heading along if you are in Auckland to view these beautiful creations in person.
Holmes was born and raised in Auckland and began her venture into fabric art in 1971, selling her earlier works at Auckland’s only craft market, Brown’s Mill. Her imaginative and brightly-coloured creations have led to numerous awards at the Benson & Hedges Fashion Design Awards. She is perhaps best known for her World of Wearable Arts entry, Dragonfish, a costume constructed from split cane and brilliantly coloured silk and when you see it in person it’s no wonder it was the Supreme Winner in 1996. The Auckland Museum has lent one of my favourite Holmes pieces to the Objectspace exhibition, titled The Night Moth, which consists of a dress, cloak, belt and hat made from hand dyed crinkle silk, with stencilled and appliqued decorations. This costume was created for the “Dress Art” exhibition at the Govett-Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand in 1990. The darker reds and purples, contrasted with the soft blue hues and pops of gold make this a truly beautiful piece.
Holmes technique of hand dyeing and hand printing fabrics is what she is most known for in her works, both everyday women’s wear and her wearable arts creations. She is also renowned for creating her own printing techniques and “…constantly improvising and devising new techniques, over time she developed her own methods for treatments such as block printing, stencilling and spraying fabrics, along with dyeing and fabric manipulation, such as crinkle silk. An intuitive engagement with fabrics is the cornerstone to her creativity, with the material always influencing the design in many ways. “
More of her work and her life story can be seen over on the New Zealand Fashion Museum website, and the accompanying publication to the exhibition, Susan Holmes: Fabric Artist, can be purchased from the Objectspace website .