Basket of knowledge
Various definitions exist, but Warren Feeney defines kete aronui as “the treasures, arts, and crafts which benefit the earth and all living things.”
“In principle the phrase sits perfectly with what this event wants to do,” says Feeney, the director of the Academy of Fine Arts and creator of Kete Contemporary Craft & Design Fair, a new Wellington event. For three days, contemporary jewellery, ceramics, glass, textiles and furniture will be showcased in the Academy’s Gallery, accompanied by a symposium of speakers reflecting on the place of craft in the artistic and lived world.
“The experience of art for most people is at a gallery. If it’s in a gallery it’s art and that’s where the question begins and ends,” says Feeney. However, that’s not the entirety of the conversation, he asserts. “There are a whole lot of issues, debates, discussions going on in contemporary craft design.” Kete, he hopes, will be a place to air and examine those thoughts while also viewing superior works by New Zealand designers.
David Trubridge, an internationally acclaimed designer based in Hastings, will give one of the six floor talks, and says that’s the most exciting part of the fair for him. “For all of us who go, the greatest value is that networking and chatting over a coffee. Ideas start bouncing around.”
Trubridge is known for his woven, basket-like lights – some of which he named after Tane’s baskets – and he plans to talk about the kete mythology as a metaphor for the integration of art, design, and craft processes. “Unless you’re doing all three I don’t believe you can do good work,” he says. He contends that how something is made is part of its story, and if made well that story will be evident to the viewer or user.
Thirteen other designers, galleries, and groups, including The National, Toi Maori, Whitespace, and Designtree, will join Trubridge’s work in what Feeney envisions as a seamless display rather than partitioned stalls typical of fairs and trade shows. Christchurch-based Dilana Rugs is providing rugs for each individual display, lending an overall cohesion.
Jenny Neligan and Penney Moir from Bowen Gallery will be showing Sam Duckor-Jones’ ceramics. Neligan says Sofa in San Francisco and London’s Collect are similar to Kete and for a long time she’s thought New Zealand should host the Southern Hemisphere’s version. “I’d love to see a contemporary craft and design fair that becomes internationally recognized with a symposium and workshop aspect that’s really involved and gives something back to the artists. That’s the dream I have for it,” she says. “I think that Wellington is a great place to start it.”
Feeney says the presence of World of Wearable Arts, the film industry, a high number of textile makers and dealer galleries, and the design programmes at Massey and Whitireia – both of whom are involved – provides “a very good infrastructure for projects like this.” A new trust, called Craft Aotearoa, will also officially launch during Kete.
Feeney envisions it becoming an annual or biennial event with international speakers and attendees. “In my dreams it would be fantastic to have it recognised as a benchmark for where craft in New Zealand is – the place to see what’s happening and what’s being made.”
Kete Contemporary Craft& Design Fair, Academy of Fine Arts, September 7-9.