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Dreams Die Hard - Creative Patience Rewarded

Natural Progression, Dylan Mulder, New Zealand. Photo: Supplied.
2015 WOW awards show, avante garde section. Photo: Supplied.
2018 WOW award show. Photo: Supplied.
2017 WOW award show. Photo: Supplied.
Get the Lowdown on what it's taken to get one of NZ's biggest productions back on stage, the latest creative winners and top talking points within the sector.

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There’s many a creative that can relate to this tale of woe and frustration over the last few years.

 

You pour your heart and soul into your mahi, you get told it’s good enough to get the spotlight you’ve worked so hard to step into - and then….

 

COVID.

 

Your hard work, your project of passion left on ice, at best - or worst case, in ruins.

 

Well, for 103 of those who have ridden this creative career roller-coaster, it’s set to have a happy ending.

 

One of the most iconic events on the artistic calendar, the World of WearableArt - WOW - has been missing for the past two years for the same reasons countless other outlets have been during the same period. But with Wednesday’s opening of ticket sales for the September-October sensory spectacle, this is worth celebrating.

 

Now that things are back on track - The Lowdown asked WOW Chief Executive David Tingey if there was ever a time that recovery to host this 32nd edition looked unlikely?

 

He replied “COVID and our two cancellations have been the most challenging moments in WOW’s 35-year history. Yet, while it was incredibly tough, it would be unthinkable for us to lose this iconic event, competition and artistic platform.

 

“Certainly, it is credit to the determination and tenacity of our staff, stakeholders and supporters that we have found a way through this.

 

“Part of the reason WOW has been so successful over the last 35 years is that - at its heart - it absolutely is all about tenacity, determination, innovation and creative problem solving.

 

“The first ever WOW Awards Show had 120 people in the audience and now we welcome over 60,000 to Wellington, and are among the biggest homegrown theatrical productions in the country. We are delighted to be back.”

 

During the WOW vacuum of the 2019 show until now, there has been a few tense moments.

 

The event was underwritten by Wellington City Council in 2021 - and some of the capital’s taxpayers were reportedly less than thrilled that that last year’s cancellation saw a bail out of $3.6 million, at a time where rates have rapidly risen.

 

While that sounds like a big figure (and it is) it should be pointed out that the last staged event in 2019 brought with it almost $28 million to the local economy, according to a report done by Wellington NZ and WOW.

 

Axminstress by Kate MacKenzie, New Zealand. Photo: Supplied.

 

Tingey states “we are extremely grateful for the support we have received from Wellington NZ and Wellington City Council over a very tricky time for us. We are also endlessly grateful for the ongoing support we receive from Wellingtonians more widely. They acknowledge the huge boost WOW provides to the local economy, workforce, and businesses.

 

“One retailer has said to us that WOW is bigger than Christmas for them in regards to sales, so we are happy to be able to give back in that way, too.”

 

Those who had the distinction of being named finalists for the 2021 edition (remember, dress rehearsals were just getting underway before Delta’s devastation) have had their entries pushed directly into this year’s show. That will see 88 entries by 103 designers from 20 countries around the globe get a second chance at the aforementioned spotlight.

 

While it is truly international, New Zealand well and truly holds its own, with 55% of the finalist designers based here in Aotearoa.

 

While most of those are based in Auckland or Wellington, there is also representation from Northland, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Waikato, Manawatū-Whanganui, Bay of Islands, Nelson-Tasman, Hawke’s Bay, Canterbury and Otago.

 

Competition Director Heather Palmer acknowledges “creating an entry for WOW is a significant creative challenge for designers at the best of times but it is especially humbling to look at the work of our 2022 finalists and know about the resilience and determination that they’ve all needed to complete their works of wearable art in the midst of a pandemic.

 

“To see such a high standard of work coming through despite the challenges has been very impressive.”

 

Itchy Stitch by Christopher Davis, New Zealand. Photo: Supplied.

 

Finalist Christopher Davis told The Lowdown “it seems like a lifetime ago I carefully placed my garment in its box. With shows being cancelled, it felt like a very strange limbo. Would it have its moment on stage?

 

“Designers put their everything into their garments, we are extremely blessed that WOW understands the commitment that goes into each garment. The disappointment of my garment not being used was always counterbalanced by the thought that somehow, WOW will make this work.

 

“It has felt like a strange void in my life, not having a yearly inspiring WOW show. Now that tickets are finally being snapped up by the public, it is finally feeling real. Two years in the waiting but it will be worth all of the mahi!”

 

Stephanie Cossens (standing) at a precious WOW awards ceremony. Photo: Supplied.

 

Stephanie Cossens, now a three-time finalist, told The Lowdown “when you do get accepted to WOW, it’s a pretty incredible feeling. Things like WOW’s Designers’ Week make it a huge thing to look forward to in so many ways. So, to get so close to the show opening, and then it be cancelled just weeks in advance, well, I was devastated because I’d been through so much with this garment. It was an emotional time.

 

“To be told our garments would compete in the next show was such a relief. In a strange way, you just want closure for your garment.

 

“While, with all that’s happened in the world since then, it’s felt like a really long journey, my excitement is definitely building. I’m so grateful to WOW and the team for keeping in touch with all the designers and being so transparent with us all along the way. They really care for the designers and have our best interests - and feelings - at heart. 

 

“It’s a big thing to put your all into something and then have to give your complete trust to other people in looking after your creations, so it’s nice to know we have such kind attention.”

 

Kākāpō Queen by Stephanie Cossens, New Zealand. Photo: Supplied.

 

Cossens and Davis will be competing for the prize pool of over $185,000 across six different sections - Aotearoa, Avant-garde and Open, while new in ‘22 are the  Architecture, Elizabethan Era and Monochromatic categories.

 

As for the show/performance itself, much is made of the Executive Creative Director Brian Burke, whose CV includes key producer roles for shows like American Idol, The X Factot and America’s Got Talent as well as Artistic Director for Celine Dion’s record Las Vegas residency.

 

But there’s some top local minds bringing it all together as well.

 

Malia Johnston is an in-demand and highly regarded choreographer, with a proven ability to help put the wow in WOW, while the dancers and performers will be working with two extremely talented musicians - Music Director Paul McLaney (perhaps known best by some as the driving force of Gramsci) and composer Eden Mullholland, a highly regarded figure in the world of theatre, film and dance.

 

Dame Doreen's legacy continues

 

Jaime Jenkins. Photo: Claire Mossong.

One of the most esteemed and most lucrative titles in Aotearoa contemporary craft has been handed out.

 

The 2022 recipients of the $10,000 Dame Doreen’s Gift - named after the late, great potter Dame Doreen Blumhardt and awarded by the Blumhardt Foundation - have been named.

 

Tauranga’s Jaime Jenkins and Whanganui based Andrea du Chatenier have received the annual acknowledgement as makers who have garnered the respect and admiration of peers

and sector leaders.

 

Jenkins, whose work can be found in Te Papa, told The Lowdown “I feel honoured to receive this gift. Doreen, as both a ceramic artist and a contributor into the arts community, is someone I have long admired.”

 

Fellow winner du Chatenier agrees “Winning the award was magic. It’s so rare to have someone call you up out of the blue to tell you you’ve won something. Usually there are applications to write, referees to be found, in depth explanations of your art practice to be made, embarrassing interviews to be had.

 

“There is nothing as nice as being told that what you are doing is relevant, important, and worthy of acknowledgement.”

 

Andrea du Chatenier. Photo: Supplied.

 

While she says this acknowledgement “generates happiness, goodwill, and oodles of positivity”, du Chatenier told The Lowdown that she gets a similar buzz from seeing the practice grow nationally.

 

“New Zealand has a great love of ceramics and there are a wide range of collectors, from those who are proud owners of beautiful hand made breakfast bowls to those whose collections border on the obsessive.

 

“It’s attracting a lot of new practitioners who are enjoying getting their hands dirty and are filling our local pottery societies in their droves. After years in the wilderness, ceramics has become very popular.”

 

“I have seen a huge growth of interest in ceramics over the 10 years in which I have been working in this medium,” Jenkins adds. “But I do often encounter a long-held hierarchy of value placed on different mediums so I think we still have a way to go in this area.”

 

Both recipients plan to invest in their craft with their newfound five figure sum - with building and purchasing new, bigger kilns top of their list.

 

As for what’s next on their agenda, Jenkins is taking advantage of the cold winter air to help slowly dry the large slab built pieces she’s working on to exhibit at Aotearoa Art Fair with Jhana Millers.

 

Du Chatenier is currently working with lustre glazes. “They were used a lot in Art Nouveau ceramics and fell from grace due to the expense of materials and an aesthetic which some might consider a little too glitzy’” she explains.

 

“The technique is tricky and just when I think I’ll give up, I open the kiln to a glittering array of pots, and I’m in love again.”

 

Hitting the right note?

 

There’s plenty to digest this NZ Music Month - including here on The Big Idea. 

 

Chris Forster's spoken to some of the driving forces of Aotearoa's 7" vinyl singles re-revolution in an interesting read - finally a new trend not designed just for the digitally savvy!

 

We’ve put out the challenge for New Zealanders to get out and support local performances in one of our latest stories here. Music Manager Paula Yeoman makes a strong argument.

 

“For artists to make any money from their music, we need a healthy live scene. But a healthy live scene depends on people supporting acts and actually buying tickets.

 

“It breaks my heart that people don’t hesitate to buy a $6 oat milk flat white and an $8 sandwich, but they’ll um and ah over paying $10 for a show that’s been the culmination of months/years of blood, sweat and tears.”

 

If you’re not up to returning to venues just yet - or are saving yourself for the weekend - there’s an incredible line up for the Waiata Reo Māori Live online concert tonight (Thursday 19 May) including Anna Coddington, Kings, Huia and others to watch from the comfort of your own duvet.

 

 

Kings and Queens of the kids

 

Last week we brought up the NZ Children’s Music Awards not getting the credit it deserves, so it’s only right we celebrate the winners.

The APRA Best Children's Song Tuī went to Kath Bee, Ryan Beehre and Luke Epapara for the inspirational E Tū Tāngata – Stand Together (performed by Mika Elley ft. Kurnel MC).

They had to conquer two songs from Music with Michal to win the price, but Michal Amy Bush would still get her acknowledgement, winning the Recorded Music NZ Best Children’s Music Artist for Summer Days.

 

Chris Lam Sam’s Song About Nothing was awarded NZ On Air Best Children's Music Video, while TV producer Luke Nola was this year’s recipient of the Baysting Prize for Children’s Champion.

 

 

Creativity on the agenda

 

Back in March, The Lowdown brought to light the role the creative industries are set to play in Auckland’s new 50 year plan from a report called Reimagining Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland: harnessing the region’s potential.

 

To build on this, leading business and economic thinkers are being invited together on Tuesday for Auckland’s Future, Now - a summit organised by Tātaki Auckland Unlimited to explore how private and public sectors can collaborate to harness Auckland region’s potential.

 

One of the talking points on the table - the topic of creative industries driving the Super City’s recovery. Given that one of the nine scenarios that the Reimagining Tāmaki Makaurau report put forward was  “a strong focus on further developing Auckland as a region of creativity and culture” - this is one of the first big occasions it will be discussed among influential minds and thinkers.

 

Among the speakers on the creative industries panel are music super-producer Joel Little from Big Fan, Matt Bostwick from Microsoft, StaplesVR’s Aleisha Staples, Maru Nihoniho of Metia Interactive and co-founder of Outset Ventures, Imche Fourie.

 

It isn’t open to the public, but there will be access to the discussions on Auckland Unlimited’s Youtube account after the event.  For those interested in what was said on the same topic last year, you can watch here.

 

The next best thing

 

Photo: Pasifika website.

 

Circling back to events staying the course through COVID cancellations - one of the many big losses in 2022 (and earlier) was Pasifika Festival, slated for March at Western Springs before the plug was pulled.

 

But there’s still a will - and now a way - to ensure those craving a cultural and performance experience get their fix. After the Festival was cancelled, the Pacific community expressed a strong desire for the event to go ahead in some form, particularly as 2022 is its 30th anniversary.

 

Taste of Pasifika has been introduced to fill the gap - with the line up recently announced.  The event starting Queen’s Birthday weekend, before  The rolling event that will spread at several venues throughout Tāmaki Makaurau from 3-19 June, touted as taking the best from the annual Pasifika festival.

It includes two performance stages at The Cloud to host Pacific cultural dance groups and a Taste of Pasifika showcase, as well as Moonwalkerz, an exhibition of recent works by Pasifika artists, curated by Nigel Borell.

All going well, Pasifika Festival in all its glory will return in February next year, but this will be a welcome early winter pick-me-up for lovers of Moana creativity.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

19 May 2022

The Big Idea Editor