Posted by: aquaplusflora | February 20, 2012

A Weird Story

I have just completed my entries for the Changing Threads textile awards which have now become an annual event here in Nelson (NZ) .  One of my pieces came about through a strange set of synchronis events when I was helping David install his piece ….. ( electroseance for CMcC) for the Dionoia show at the Suter Gallery in late 2011. These resulted in my being given a copy of a very bitter letter written by Colin McCahon to the Suter Gallery in 1979.  In a conversation about the letter with Nelson artist Errol Shaw, he explained why Colin was still so bitter about Nelson 30 years after he had lived here.  In the late 1940s Colin and his family were renting a house in Tahunanui in Nelson.  When his landlord discovered that Colin was an artist, he evicted the family.  As things were so tough at that time, Colin’s wife and children were forced to go to live with her parents in Dunedin and he went to Christchurch were he lived and worked for a time in the laundry at the home of fellow artist Doris Lusk.
As soon as Errol related this story to me, an image of what his bed may have looked like in that laundry.

This is the result –

I had seen some wonderful big jute bags at a local gardening store and was totally taken with them and they were very inexpensive – just the thing to turn into an art bed! I made eco prints with rose leaves on it.  For the script I had part of the letter enlarged and I copied it onto the bag.  I dyed some Soya yarn I had in my stash with Banksia Rose foliage in an iron pot and then used it to embroider the script.

Once it was finished, I filled the bag, made a pillow out of a cut down small jute bag which had also been naturally dyed, added an image of a 1940s laundry and low and behold, I had Colin’s Bed!  I hope the selectors like it and it gets included in the show!

(An apology – I had added links for Changing Threads, Dionoia, Colin McCahon and Doris Lusk but they didn’t work so you will have to google them yourself if you are interested.)


  1. McCahon is one of my favourite artists despite having seen the conditions in which his poor chillun had to sleep under the house at Titirangi

    This is a wonderful piece you’ve made me dear.

    • Thanks so much India – I thought you would be particularly interested given your long interest in McCahon. Its sub title is “An Artist’s Life Isn’t Always a Bed of Roses” – as we all know only too well. I will have to tell you the full tale when I see you next. jxxoo

  2. so glad of the explanation Jo – brilliant and very empathetic work…

  3. Such an incredible story and such an incredible piece of artwork Jo.
    Has it been accepted for the Changing Threads textile awards?
    Love the whole concept!
    Hugs and love,

    • Thanks Suzy – I am happy to say it, along with another piece, have been accepted in the first round of selections but I feel confident they will go through into the final show.


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