Creativity celebrated

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Association of NZ Embroiderers' Guild Otago Southland regional representative Sue Elliot, of Te Anau (left) and national president Trish Hughes, of Whangerei, among one of costume and fabric artist Jenny Gillies' creations during the Southland Embroiderers' Guild 60th anniversary celebrations in Invercargill last month. Photo: Janette Gellatly

MEMBERS of the first embroidery guild in New Zealand celebrated its 60th anniversary in colourful style last month.

More than 70 fabric artists of the Southland Embroiderers’ Guild enjoyed catching up, sharing ideas and listening to guest speaker Jenny Gillies, of Christchurch.

Guild president Christine Whitaker said the afternoon was an opportunity to celebrate the past, the future, and what people brought to the organisation.

From the original guild established in 1957, there were now 58 guilds throughout the country, with more than 2500 members, including men. The Southland guild has 35 members.

A life membership was awarded to member Betty Snell, a member of 31 years, for her “outstanding service”, including many years as an office bearer and president.

Costume and fabric artist Jenny Gillies, of Christchurch. Photo: Janette Gellatly

Mrs Gillies, who described herself as a costume and fabric artist, had created a multitude of wearable vegetation over more than 20 years. Well-known for her human-sized flowers, vegetables, and some weeds, Mrs Gillies had shown her creations at World of Wearable Art shows, including various wearable bras, in Wellington; Ellerslie Flower Shows in Auckland and Christchurch; on TV and at overseas events. An extensive exhibition of some of her creations was currently on show in the Christchurch Botanical Gardens pavilion.

Draped in a creation of her making, the striking, shimmering green summer coat, accentuated with a collar of leaves, Mrs Gillies talked of her creative journey and what inspired her.

As well as being therapeutic – creating was basically an overwhelming desire, she said.

“I always try to be as botanically correct as possible,” she said of her flora and fauna.

Although never trained as a seamstress, Mrs Gillies said sewing had “always been a passion for her”.

“My mother encouraged me… from when I was small.”

What began from learning how to sew an apron and a pillowslip had evolved into a wonderful lifestyle.

Referring to the intricate work an embroider did, Mrs Gillies said she used her sewing machine as an embroider would use their needles.

It was that she just loved to make “things big”, hence the walking gardens she created.

Guild members meet every Monday, 7pm (winter hours), Hearing Association Rooms, 126 Leet St, Invercargill, as well as one Monday afternoon a month at 1.30pm. For more information, email christine.whitaker1@outlook.com

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