The road trip to WOW and back

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Vivienne by Lara Macgregor

I begin with the destination, for there are approximately 650km between Auckland, where I live, and Wellington, the city I drove to last week with my daughter Lara. This was a long-planned road trip to see the phenomenon of the World of Wearable Art show, which so many have seen in its thirty-year history, but has managed to elude my  daughter and me. This may have remained the status quo if I hadn’t seen a figurative print in a local gallery earlier in the year that I instantly desired, and wished to hang on my  newly-painted studio wall.

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Conversation by Béatrice Carlson

I asked if I could leave my phone number for the gallery to pass on to the artist, Béatrice Carlson, as I wished to know more about the printing process. Oh yes, I bought the print and hung it on the wall. I was thrilled when Béatrice phoned, and said yes to my invitation for coffee and conversation. I learnt that she had been a finalist in WOW for eight years, and that I had seen her 2015 entry exhibited, but had not connected the exhibit with the print. The exhibit, Accordéon Illusion, had impressed me. It was made with intricate printing on perspex and lycra, was incredibly creative and of the highest quality. When Béatrix told me ‘you have see WOW’, I knew I’d be going this year. I was even more pleased to find, after I booked, that she’d been selected as a finalist for the ninth consecutive year.

Lara and I set off in my car early on Wednesday 3rd October on an absolutely perfect spring day. We stocked up on petrol, water and sweets and headed south, excited about taking this trip together. At Taupiri we followed Highway 2b, zig-zagging through lush farmland. Cambridge, our first stop, for coffee and a walk. Off again and south to Lake Taupo. The lake shimmered under blue skies.

We were a little way along the Desert Road when the first Wow! hit our lips.

Ruapehu

Ruapehu and Tongariro from the Desert Road

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Ngauruhoe

Umber-coloured tussock swept across volcanic soil. Unbelievably the mountains were free of cloud and caked with snow. We stopped to take photos; challenging as it was against the bright sunlight. I couldn’t fit all three mountains in one frame but the single shot of Ngauruhoe turned out well.

On we went, stopping with friends for the night to break the nine-to-ten hour trip. It was relaxing, knowing there was only a two-hour drive to Wellington the following day. We arrived at our hotel in Cuba Street, and were pleased to have our room upgraded. Showered and in our finery, we headed out, looking for a place to eat before the show. The vegetarian restaurant next to the hotel was perfect for ‘girls’ who’d munched on sweets and carbs all day. Feeling healthier after our meal we headed down to the wharf. And that’s where we found the WOW sign that Lara took the photo of in the header. Just a few steps further on and we were entering the stadium.

World of Wearable Art. The stage was already buzzing with a live band playing as we made our way to our seats. A woman touched my shoulder, told me she loved my coat. I wished I could have said I’d designed it. And then the show began, with dancers, aerialists, musicians, singers; it reminded me of the Cirque du Soleil stage, and later I discover that Cirque had recently collaborated with WOW. It was good to see the way the stage had been designed to enable the large audience the best opportunity to view these wonderful pieces of art. And then, the models appeared wearing the fantastic garments fashioned by artists from all over the globe. The six categories were: Open Section: explore without boundaries; Aoteroa: expressing our way of life; Avant-garde: collision between art and fashion; Reflective Surfaces: catch our eye, make us catch our breath; and Bizarre Bra: hidden no longer.

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Mohua by Béatrice Carlson

There are too many images of the show for me to document here, but I can let you have a close-up look at Béatrice Carlson’s entry Mohua/Golden Bay from the Aotearoa section, which I was thrilled to see. She has used perspex on which she has carved and printed her striking figures and leaves, and used hundreds of metres of raffia in the costume.

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Eye See You Fluffy Kowhai by Tina Hutchinson-Thomas

My daughter was also looking out for her friend’s work. Tina Hutchinson-Thomas’ entry was, Eye See You Fluffy Kowhai: a moth like no other, in the avant-garde section. She used a combination of cotton, leather, hand-dyed faux fur and over 3500 crystals to create this unique piece. She received the New Zealand Design Award for her entry.

The dedication, time and industry which goes into creating such magical garments, is frankly mind-blowing, and all the contributors need to be congratulated for their creative designs and inventive use of so many different materials in their work. They all have made WOW a show not to be missed.

The return. We left Wellington Friday morning and drove all day, determined to stop where and when we wanted.

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image by Lara Macgregor

Lara suggested we visit the new library and museum in Foxton, which was a somewhat rundown town for many years, and I was keen to see the change. Another Wow! This was a region where Dutch families settled post-war and these citizens have been the moving force behind this change. The Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom Dutch and Cultural Centre is a treat to visit. And we loved this contemporary artwork alongside the Dutch history section.

We continued on our journey, going back along the Desert Road, oohing over those majestic mountains again and again. We stopped beside Lake Taupo and munched on falafel and fish and chips, chatting away about the highlights of this brief trip to Wellington.

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And for all the wonderful Wow! experiences we had along the way I know that best part of all was being able to share them with my daughter.

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