volunteering with collections

22.10.2014 Carol Portrait

Volunteers play an important role in museums and galleries and MTG Hawke’s Bay is fortunate to have a regular volunteer, Carol Dacey, who holds the honorary position, Keeper of Textiles. In the weeks prior to the opening of the current exhibition Travel in Style which features items from the wardrobe of New Zealand politician and style icon Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan, Carol offered advice and assistance in mounting the garments. She was also involved with a number of projects at the time of the redevelopment and continues to provide invaluable assistance. I caught up recently with Carol to talk about her role at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

With so many organisations requiring volunteers, what appealed to you about volunteering at the museum?

I was told that the former Honorary Keeper of Textiles, Joan Maclaurin, was leaving and someone was needed who was able to sew and work with textiles. Having just retired and being a keen sewer, it fitted in well and I liked the idea of working in a museum environment. Since joining the museum I have learned many new skills and I thoroughly enjoy helping alongside the enthusiastic staff of the museum.

When did you first begin volunteering here? In 2006.

Who have you worked alongside at the museum?

I have helped in the Access/Collections and Design and Build teams and I have also worked with the Education team.

Prior to the redevelopment of the museum, what sort of projects were you involved with?

I made calico covers for the men’s suits that were hanging in racks. When the covers were made it was difficult returning them to the hanging racks because of the extra bulk from the fabric and because the space was so confined. I also made ‘sausages’ of different sizes from scraps of calico. These were put into the shoes to stop them from bending and to help prevent the leather cracking. I saw many shoes ranging from babies shoes, which had to have the sausages custom-made, to army boots which required stuffing with several sausages to hold them in shape.

I have re-covered chairs for exhibitions and before the museum closed, I helped a staff member check the accession numbers in the Textiles and Social History department, to make sure the items were correctly catalogued. This was an interesting task as I saw many items in the collection and as some of them were quite large and the accession numbers minute, it could be tricky to find where they were located.

IMG_1280

When the museum closed in 2010 were you able to continue in your voluntary role?

My main job when the museum closed was to make different sized cushions to fit inside the packing boxes.

What did this involve?

During the closure there were two or three sewing and box-making ‘bees’ where staff and volunteers sewed and stitched the cushions and assembled the packing boxes. I washed and ironed many loads of 20 metre lengths of calico, and in my sitting room which became a sewing workshop, I cut out between 750 and 800 cushions. My husband Richard patiently avoided this room for the duration of the project! I measured and cut out the calico and Dacron and marked the cushions individually so although I sewed many of them myself, some could be easily handed on to other sewers.

Was there anything else that you helped with during this time?

Prior to the re-opening of the museum I helped to mount some of the mannequins for the opening exhibitions. This was a new experience for me and I really enjoyed it. The 1870’s wedding dress required about 5 different petticoats made of tulle and calico to recreate the full style of the skirt. I also mounted a small boy’s dress which was challenging because the neckline of the dress was much wider than the small size mannequin. To overcome this, I had to extend the shoulders of the mannequin in a life-like way to support the dress. I did this with calico, Dacron and conservation card and I also made a small petticoat to support the skirt.

At the museum’s off-site store, I helped the Curator of Archives during the scanning and cataloguing of the photographic collection for the online catalogue by sorting through the photographs and identifying any duplicates. I have also helped the Collections photographer mount clothing and jewellery for photography for record purposes. Some of these were the beautiful beaded dresses in the collection. I also sew accession labels into newly acquired garments.

What has been one of the more challenging tasks you have undertaken?

The most challenging to date was preparing and mounting the garments for the current exhibition ‘Travel in Style’.

Why was this challenging and what did it involve?

A lot of people think you just put the dress on the mannequin or stitch it to shape in some way. In reality you have to make the mannequin fit the dress, using calico, Dacron, card and a lot of ingenuity! Making and attaching legs to fit inside the trousers required a lot of thought and a certain amount of dexterity, partly because of the mannequin’s supporting pole! As ironing the garments is not permitted we used a steamer needing two people to operate it – one holding the steamer and the other manoeuvring a pad underneath the garment. I made a large and small pad shaped like a table tennis bat. This help to safely apply the right amount of pressure underneath the garment as it was steamed.

Carol also volunteers as a host in the museum’s upstairs galleries where she meets and chats with visitors and answers questions or offers background information about the setting and the exhibits.

Linda Macan, Collections Assistant

 

Behind the scenes: Treasured Korowai

Last week we were delighted to have some special visitors to the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection. A group of avid raranga harakeke (flax weaving) enthusiasts, mostly students, had arranged to come in to research techniques and examine customary methods of toi raranga – the art of Māori weaving.

The manuhiri (visitors) were keen to view the tāniko and raranga harakeke items in the collection. Tāniko is a uniquely Māori variation of whatu (twining). The weavers counted and measured sections of work to establish how things were done back in the day. We can say for sure that the raranga experts of the past were incredible mathematicians and designers. We looked at a variety of woven harakeke items, including whāriki (floor coverings), kete (baskets) and kahu (cloaks).

 

Kete whakairo / Patterned bag, Gifted  by Miss M E Ramsden, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 60/144

We have some really special examples in our collection and it is always a privilege to “give them life” by bringing them out from their protective storage and sharing them with people who are truly excited to view them up close. All the books and photographs in the world do not give you the look, smell and “age” of the real thing.

IMG_3480Tāniko

Māori weavers developed tāniko by using coloured horizontal threads with the whatu technique. By weaving the colours together detailed geometric patterns can be created. Tāniko is a very complex technique. On cloaks tāniko is only used as a border, making use of the same threads as the cloak’s main body, so weavers plan the entire cloak before beginning to weave. Tāniko is also used to make pari (bodices), tīpare (headbands), tāpeka (sashes), tātua (belts), and taonga whakapaipai (jewellery).

39.28(1)39.28(4)39.28(3)Paepaeroa / Bordered cloak, gifted by Mrs M.C. Navin, collection of Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 39/28

Kia ora to our generous visitors for their enthusiasm and sharing of knowledge. Your visits make our job really enjoyable and worthwhile.

A snippet on our creative visitors:

Alyson Bullock (Kahungunu me Rangitāne ki Wairarapa)
and Karen Roberts (Whanganui) who are studying with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa for Te Maunga Kura Toi – Bachelor of Māori Visual Arts, majoring in raranga.

Debbie Maulder (Mohaka) and Wiremu Ngawaka (Ngāpuhi)
Both studying with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa for Kawai Raupapa Diploma in Māori Visual Arts majoring in raranga.

Ani McGuire (Heretaunga, Kohupatiki te marae) who is undertaking a weaving commission for Tainui.

Kahra, Jahana and Shaatchi Te Whaiti, Alyson’s daughter and mokopuna; the next generation of raranga enthusiasts.

Karen and Alyson travel to Te Kuiti each month for study, Debbie and Wiremu travel to Te Papaioea (Palmerston North) but all live either in Ahuriri (Napier) or Heretaunga (Hastings).

Ngā mihi

 

Dena Hale
Kaitiaki Taonga Māori
June 2014

vinka’s bridal wonderland

I have just returned from a flying visit to Te Papa, where I was speaking about one of my favourite designers from our fashionable past – the fabulous Vinka Lucas.  My talk was part of the programme for Te Papa’s exhibition Unveiled – 200 years of Wedding Fashion from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and it lifted the lid on the bridal wonderland that Vinka, and her former husband David Lucas, developed in the 1960s.

The focus of my talk was the innovation and big-thinking that made Vinka’s Maree de Maru boutique such a key destination for New Zealand brides. In contrast with the contemporary bridal industry, in which women largely expect to be provided with finished garments, Vinka established her business at a time when her core clientele wanted to sew their own gowns. To meet this market without compromising her vision as a designer, Vinka developed a comprehensive range of services that ranged from fully finished couture gowns through to customised mail-order patterns, fabrics and trims.  With David Lucas working hard to cook up new marketing schemes and opportunities to promote Vinka’s designs, Maree de Maru soon become a high profile bridal business. 

One of the things I spoke about at Te Papa was the pattern service that Vinka offered via Maree de Maru and a network of fabric stores the couple developed known as the United Bridal Salons. Using this service, brides across New Zealand could select a gown from a comprehensive catalogue of Vinka’s designs, purchase a customised paper pattern and specified material from a member of the United Bridal Salons network, and then get to work making their dream gown.  

Vinka's designs were available to brides across New Zealand via publications such as 'Maree de Maru Marriages' and 'New Zealand Bride'.

Fabrics obviously became a key part of this process, and Vinka and David made considerable efforts to ensure that their business had a secure supply of exclusive fabrics.  However, when Vinka required extra special fabric for a key showpiece gown, she often went beyond the existing supply chain and commissioned customised fabrics. It was these unique gowns that were on display in the Maree de Maru salon, and appeared in private showings and bridal parades, inspiring brides across New Zealand.

Vinka's romantic gown and headpiece first appeared on the pages of 'New Zealand Bride' - a magazine run by David Lucas

The Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust textile collection is lucky enough to include one of these rare examples of a custom-printed Maree de Maru wedding dress, donated to the collection by Vinka herself in 2009. 

Vinka's gown is now in the collection of Hawke's Bay Museum's Trust / Ruawharo Ta-u-rangi (2009/36). The beadwork was retrospectively added by the designer many years later.

The fabric of this gown was printed by a Bronwen Mooney – a screenprinter who completed several key commissions for Vinka.  Various sources I have come across have led me to understand that Mooney worked in Hawke’s Bay for a period of time, and I wonder also if she might be a textile printer that also collaborated with Taumarunui designer Michael Mattar.  I would very much like to find out more about Mooney as a textile designer, as her work would have such a good fit with the strong New Zealand textile design and fashion collection held here at HBMAG.

Vinka's design was brought to life by custom screen printing by Brownen Mooney

This talk was a lovely excuse to delve back into the wonderful world of Vinka Lucas, and find out a little more about a designer who has made such a big contribution to New Zealand fashion history.

Lucy Hammonds, March 2012

Images appear with the permission of Vinka Design