I wanted to create a work that honoured the legacy of the amazing women who paved the way for feminism and and showed how to be committed to equality and equity – a battle we are still fighting.
I chose the colours that were associated with the suffragettes; purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity and green for hope. I’ve used white camellias because they were the flowers that were used by the suffragettes to give to supporters of womens vote and the build up to the pass of the legislation. I couldn’t find the Kate Sheppard camellia in bloom at the time, so I collected a huge variety of white camellias from my neighbourhood, my friends, my Mother’s garden and the odd grass verge. Quite a bit of foraging goes on when I am making a work!
It’s a bit like women’s lives generally. We need to make do, and problem solve as a matter of routine. While my work looks very polished and ‘studio’, in actual fact it is created on a shelf alongside the stairs to the basement, at the center of my home. It happens amongst the chaos and flurry of children, friends, and all the events of my daily life. Making this particular piece reminds me that our lives are never simple and women often have to occupy so many different roles in a day.
I included the koru to signify new growth and new beginnings, and also to symbolise that NZ was the first nation state in the world to give women citizens the vote. The butterfly, chrysalis and caterpillar symbolise the cycle of life, and are often present in my work. I like my works to reveal more details as the viewer spends time looking at it.
Camellias come in the middle of winter, they are an adornment among the greyness. It’s quite a tough plant, yet the flowers bruise easily and only last a day before they drop off. When they do demise they tend to hang together, so the flower drops whilst still whole. I love the metaphor of beautiful strength combined with frailty.
I included the lace because it was such a big part of women’s lives when Kate Sheppard and her fellow suffragettes were fighting for the vote. It is symbolic of both women’s work and our femininity. The lace has complex patterns which allude to the complexity of our lives as well as being synonymous with purity, innocence and new beginnings. It is under the vase at the base of the image, because in the past it was something that kept women in their domestic place.
But lace is structurally complex and tough in some ways. Having this sense of the lace crowned with the flowers suggests we have, in some ways, overcome being defined just by our domestic role, and now we have literally blossomed to having freedom and choice, thanks in part to the work of those amazing women.
I love to keep fallen flowers in my compositions. We do drop, but we stay intact. It’s about how our lives are not perfect, our bodies are not perfect, and the world is not perfect. I have a whole series of work, imperfect, that reflects this.
I found the Crown Lynn vase in a second hand shop in Nelson. It was one of those wonderful coincidences because I had seen it in a magazine three days before and fallen in love with it thinking I would probably never find one, and there is was.
Flowers are a universal symbol of hope, joy, love and peace - all our important events in life are marked by flowers. I’m trying to put as much of that into the world as possible, because I see the world as a complex, difficult place, but also beautiful and hopeful. For me, if i focus on things that can bring me joy, that is a little bit of a help.
As a self employed artist and single mother, I am proud to be able to support myself and my family. It is because of the work of these heroic women, our ancestors, that we can achieve what we do every single days of our lives. As an artist, I feel so fortunate to have the unique opportunity to celebrate the work of these extraordinary women. This piece is my tribute to them.