Rolling with the wallpaper

In late November of 2013 upon arriving back at the museum after finishing another busy year at Victoria University, I was given my project for the summer. My mammoth task was to go through a large box full of pre-selected wallpaper, catalogue it and enter it into our ever expanding collection.

The box of wallpaper was gifted to us by Betty Weeber. In the correspondence which accompanied the wallpaper; Betty Weeber wrote of the collection, “They are a record of old wallpapers that my late husband Raymond and his father used in their wallpaper hanging and Master Painters business”. Originally our gracious gift was of numerous boxes of wallpaper, but after a rigorous selection process by the powers that be, these boxes were whittled down to just one box containing over seventy examples. 

My job was now set out in front of me, I knew what I had to do, it wasn’t going to be pretty (believe me when I say this, some of the patterns on the samples were pretty ugly).  I now had to painstakingly document and catalogue each individual wallpaper sample, measuring the lengths and the widths, taking detailed notes of maker’s marks and manufacturer’s logos, describing in detail what the patterns were, what colours were involved in the pattern, gently vacuuming the accumulated dust and dirt from some samples, taking detailed notes of rips, tears and damage and then entering all this information onto our collection database system.

Wallpaper Border Sample, c.1920s, gifted by Betty Weeber, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/63/25

Some samples were large, some samples were small, some were long (and I mean extremely long, like over nine metres long), and some were short.  Some were old and in bad condition, while others were, well, old but were still in extremely good condition, which is pretty impressive considering the majority of them date back to the time when Napier was being shaken to its foundations in the early thirties and some samples were even older. Some examples were hidden, rolled up inside other rolls of wallpaper, which added a surprising aspect to this particular task because, like a parcel in the game pass the parcel, you never quite knew what you were going to find once you started to unroll a roll.

What I found while cataloguing these wallpaper samples is they could be lumped into three different groups, the wallpaper frieze’s (for those reading this thinking “what’s a frieze?” Flash fact: a wallpaper frieze is the strip of wallpaper that goes around the top part of the wall where it meets the ceiling); wallpaper borders, which went around the bottom and the wallpaper drops, which are the samples used to cover the majority of the walls. The examples of the frieze’s were more often than not the examples in the worst condition as the perforations holding them together had come apart or were torn in places due to the continued unrolling and rolling of them over the years.

I also found that these samples and rolls came from all over the world, like Sunworthy and Canadian Wallpaper from, you guessed it, Canada; Crown Wallpaper and Shand Kydd Ltd from England; Griffen Wallpaper Manufacturers from America and even some examples from New Zealand’s very own Ashley Wallpapers.

After these steps the papers had to be photographed, which was done by our collection photographer. I then had to attach the photographs to their collection records and wrap them up and pack them into their packing units where they will stay until they are one day needed for research or exhibition.

2013.63.34bWallpaper Drop Samples, c.1920s, gifted by Betty Weeber, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/63/34b

To be honest at the beginning of this project I didn’t think I would enjoy it, just because it was wallpaper that I would be working with, but the more that I worked my way through this box of wallpaper samples, the more I started to look forward to the next sample. Not because I was one sample closer to the end, but because I wanted see what the next sample would be like, and there were some examples that stood out. One example from the 1930s had a continuing pattern of dense blue tree branches and leaves, through the gaps in the branches and leaves was a bright orange background and scattered randomly throughout the branches and leaves were small yellow star-like flowers. Why this particular example stood out for me was probably because it was visibly the brightest example amongst the lot.

To say the least this project was awesome and I enjoyed it a lot. I consider myself quite lucky to be able to come back to the Bay and to the museum every summer to work on different projects. Hopefully I can come back again at the end of this year to another interesting project.

Tom Mohi
Collection Assistant
January 2014
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MTG Friends Enrich Collection Stories

To all our MTG Friends who have generously donated to the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust Collection, we would like to say a huge thank you. Current Friend’s donations have allowed the recent acquisition of three pieces to add to the collection. These were selected as works important to highlight and expand on the stories of artists, art movements and designers already held within the collection, with significance to the Hawke’s Bay region, New Zealand and beyond.

Thomas McCormack OBE is one such artist. Renowned for his skill and application of watercolour, he is considered one of New Zealand’s most important twentieth century painters. Artist Roland Hipkins (1894 – 1951) noted that ‘His efforts…have a remarkable freshness, breadth and simplicity, with spontaneous brush work and a rare quality of colour’ Art in New Zealand 1936 (1)

Born in Napier in 1883, McCormack was largely self-taught and excelled at drawing from an early age. A severe illness at the age of 17 left him unable for many years to partake in his other passion, sports and it was around this time his focus turned solely to painting, consequently cementing his lifelong path as an artist. Thomas McCormackThomas Arthur McCormack in his studio, taken 3 May 1963 [2]

McCormack moved to Wellington in 1921 where he lived and worked for much of his life. In his own words:

  ‘An artist develops from his surroundings – the sea, rivers, plains, and mountains.   His friends and fellow artists, Wellington with its magnificent harbor, its art gallery, exhibitions and artists, a trip to Sydney of about nine months duration; these were factors in my development. A little wine, a sardine or two with their little eyes. A little bread to soften the road and help me on.’ (3)

TA McCormack painting

Untitled, c. 1906, T.A McCormack, b.1883, d.1973 Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/35 Purchased with funds from MTG Hawke’s Bay friend’s donations.

The Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust Collection includes many of McCormack’s works. Our recent acquisition being significant in that it is a very early piece, painted when the artist was just 23 years old. The untitled watercolour (c1906) depicts the Ahuriri foreshore, Douglas Lloyd Jenkins – Director MTG Hawke’s Bay notes ‘It is around this time that McCormack arrived at a recognisable, mature style. This work is a key example, in its own way, a big part of the overall story of the artist and the development of his career’.

Another of McCormack’s works ‘Tapestry’ can currently be viewed in our Architecture of the heart exhibition, on display until March 2nd 2014.

Our second purchase, a vase by English ceramic designer Dame Susie Cooper, adds another page in the collections story of a design period close to the heart of this region. Cooper was a prolific English ceramics designer with a career spanning more than seventy years. Beginning with a placement in the early 1920’s as a paintress at Grey & Co Pottery Company in Burslem, England Susie was quickly promoted to lead designer, allowing her the freedom to explore the geometrics and pattern associated with the Art Deco period.

By the late 1920’s Cooper had branched out on her own, forming ‘Susie Cooper Pottery’. Later merging with ‘Wood & Sons’, another local Burslem company who provided her with quality white ware, which she would transform with her vibrant hand painted designs.

Susie Cooper Cup & SaucerCup, saucer and side plate, Susie Cooper (OBE) (b.1902, d.1995), Designer, The Susie Cooper Pottery Limited (estab.1930, closed 1966) manufacturer, purchase, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 91/54ac

Susie’s company grew, eventually supplying Harrods, Selfridges and Waring & Gillow among others with her wares. In 1940 Cooper was presented with the Royal Society of Arts ‘Designer for Industry Award’, the first woman to ever receive this. Our latest addition of Cooper’s work is a vibrant hand painted, green earthenware vase, featuring a Sgraffito design of deer and foliage, a popular Art Deco motif.

The Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust Collection holds many Susie Cooper production pieces, however this vase is significant in that it is an example of her earlier one-off designs. This piece is currently featured in our decorative arts exhibition in the MTG Annex.

Susie Cooper VaseVase, glazed earthenware, C1930, Dame Susie Cooper b.1902 d.1995 Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/39/1 Purchased with funds from MTG Hawke’s Bay friend’s donations.

Another prolific English designer, Archibald Knox is the maker of our third acquisition. Much like Cooper, Knox mastered the balance of expressing an individual design voice while still remaining accessible to the masses. In 1899, with an impressive variety of talents, Knox began designing for London store Liberty & Co. Wallpaper, jewellery, ornaments, textiles, silverware and clocks were all part of his extensive range.

Archibald Knox

Archibald Knox, Art Nouveau artist and designer for Liberty & Co., London (1864-1933) Courtesy of Manx National Heritage (4)

The Liberty & Co store specialised in selling fabrics, ornaments and objects from Japan and the far-east, and is attributed with introducing this style to the west. This had a great influence on artists and designers of the time and by the 1890’s founder Arthur Liberty had tapped into the English Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau design communities.

With Liberty’s encouragement and business behind them, these designers and the Arts and Craft movement flourished. Liberty aimed for “the production of useful and beautiful objects at prices within the reach of all classes.” (5) This was achieved by keeping manufacturing costs low, meaning lower pricing for customers at the register. This was in contrast to other Art Nouveau Pieces at the time which were generally one-off and therefore priced to match.

Liberty & Co

Liberty & Co Store (undated) [6]

Pewter Vase

Pewter Vase, c1905. Archibald Knox, Liberty b. 1864 d.1933 Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/43 Purchased with funds from MTG Hawke’s Bay friend’s donations.

Our recent addition to the collection is the above Arts and Crafts pewter vase, an interesting example of the Liberty & Co ‘Tudic’ range, blending Celtic with Oriental style c1905. During the period this vase was produced, Liberty & Co products were also sold in Hastings, Georgina White – Curator Social History at MTG explains;

From 1908 Hastings businessmen Reginald Gardiner and John A Fraser acted as agents for Liberty and Co, selling fabrics and ‘artistic wares’ first from their offices in the Dominion Buildings on Queen Street and soon after from the Arts and Crafts Depot on Station Street. The Depot showed paintings, metalwork and leatherwork by international and local artists alongside Liberty fabrics. The Depot marked the beginning of Gardiner’s push to generate and promote local arts and crafts in Hawke’s Bay’

Again, we would like to thank everyone who has generously contributed and made the acquisition of these works possible. To become part of the MTG Hawke’s Bay legacy, donate to the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust or join as a Friend and enjoy the extensive benefits our friends membership offers. We are currently offering our membership package at a reduced rate (membership re-news 1st July 2014) you can find further information on our friend’s package and how to join HERE

Vanessa Arthur
Friends & Volunteers Coordinator
January 2014

[1] Janet Paul. ‘McCormack, Thomas Arthur’, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Nov-2013 URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/4m4/mccormack-thomas-arthur

[2] Thomas Arthur McCormack. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1963/1513-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22433154

[3] ‘T.A. McCormack’, The New Zealand Academy of fine arts, Catalogue of painting exhibition, December 1971, 2. Collection of the Hawke’s Bay Museum Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi W (62341)

[4] Manx National heritage site, archives. http://www.gov.im/mnh/collectionsonline/People/View.mth?entryid=2536156#

[5] The Archibald Knox Society, Liberty & Co. to ‘Liberty Style’ http://www.archibaldknoxsociety.com/page_112141.html

[6] Liberty London, Our heritage. http://www.liberty.co.uk/fcp/content/about-liberty/newsarchive

Walking among the headstones

Image

Napier Hill Cemetery 5

During January, February and March, 2014 MTG Hawke’s Bay will again host three guided tours in the Napier Cemetery. These highly successful tours were launched in November 2008 in association with the exhibition Somebody’s Darling, Stories from the Napier Cemetery, curated by Peter Wells and Gail Pope and have run every summer since.

Row upon row of hand crafted headstones contrast vividly against the startling blue of the sky, shadows cast by the varying hues and patterns of the trees and leaves produce constant movement and dance over headstones and the air is punctuated with birdsong. Spectacular views looking out towards Cape Kidnappers and Te Mata Peak can be glimpsed between trees contorted by age and weather. The beautifully crafted headstones identify well-known local and national identities as well as the ‘everyday’ men, women and children who also have extraordinary stories associated with their lives, and their deaths.

In conjunction with the exhibition a group of keen volunteer gardeners, Jenny Horne, Jenny Baker, Heather Carter, Sue Langford, Peter Wells and Gail Pope formed the Greening the Graveyard Group. Their aim, with the support of the Napier City Council, was and is, to turn a stark grey environment into one of colour, fragrance and life.

Napier Cemetery 4

The income received from the cemetery tours each year has been used to support the museum redevelopment project and for the Greening the Graveyard Group to purchase plants to enhance the beauty of the cemetery. For the last three years the Greening the Graveyard Group have also used the funds to purchase new works for the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection.

Napier Cemetery 2

Napier Cemetery 1

The first item purchased by the Greening the Graveyard Group was A Study of Two Figures by George Wood (1898-1963). Wood was a New Zealand draughtsman, illustrator and artist. He is best known for his graphic stylized images which capture form and light through simple line with the use of unbroken colour.

His work reflects the concerns and style of the Art Deco movement, which fed into the modernist Avant-garde and also shows the influence of Māori culture and the Pacific Islands. Such works as this are extremely rare and particularly resonant within the context of the Hawke’s Bay Museum’s Trust collection.

George Wood (1898-1963) A Study of Two Figures Printed in ink on paper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2012/29

George Wood (1898-1963), A Study of Two Figures
Printed in ink on paper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2012/29

The second piece purchased by the group was a repoussé tray made by Cedric Storey. Storey was an artist, panelbeater, sculptor and jeweller. He designed the Auckland City Council official coat of arms and created the much-loved dragon at the Auckland Zoo in the late 1950s. This tray is rare example of a New Zealand made piece of Arts & Crafts metalwork, rectangular in design with raised decoration at either end in the form of grapes and vine leaves.

Cedric Storey Repoussé tray Brasswashed copper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

Cedric Storey, Repoussé tray, Brasswashed copper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

Cedric Storey Repoussé tray Brasswashed copper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

Cedric Storey, Repoussé tray, Brasswashed copper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/25

This top, a sample garment from the Laurie Foon label, a designer and founder member of the Starfish clothing range was purchased for the collection in 2013. One of the many attributes of Starfish clothing was the understated detailing and relaxed lines that allowed the wearer to integrate the garment into their own unique style. The label was also known for a commitment and focus on environmental sustainability.

Laurie Foon Sample garment Silk and cotton Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/34

Laurie Foon, Sample garment, Silk and cotton
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/34

The most recent purchase, in late 2013 was the painting titled, In the Bath by New Zealand artist Murray Grimsdale. Grimsdale’s recurring concerns as an artist are the events and the people which surround him. His works are often domestic in scale and familial in subject.

Murray Grimsdale In the Bath Pastel on paper Collection of Hawke's Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/49

Murray Grimsdale, In the Bath, Pastel on paper
Collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 2013/49

The money raised over the summer 2014 tours will continue to be used to develop the collection and we look forward to sharing new acquisitions purchased by the Greening the Graveyard group over the coming year.

The guided walks are being held on the following dates at 2.00 pm:
Sunday January 26th
Sunday February 16th
Sunday March 23rd

Cost: $12 per adult, children free
Payment to be taken on the day.

Please wear sturdy footwear, a sunhat and take a bottle of water.
The tour meeting point is at the gates of the Cemetery, situated on Napier Terrace, next to the Botanical Gardens.

Tours do book out, so please book early to secure a place by calling MTG Hawke’s Bay, 06 833 9795 or email events@mtghawkesbay.com

Gail Pope
Curator of Archives
January 2014

The photographs of the cemetery used in this post were taken by David Frost, Graphic Designer & Photographer, MTG Hawke’s Bay