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Mabel in the shed

Meet Mabel, the Vintage Caravan Bar

Meet Paul and Kylie Grimmer and the newest addition to their growing family – their 1960s’ Hillcrest Hamilton ‘Silvermist’ caravan, Mabel.

The two are restoring and repurposing a very vintage caravan, taking it from “an immobile derelict sleepout to a stylish travelling bar on wheels”, as Kylie puts it.

Mood board 1Coming to the end of renovating their first home, the couple were looking for “a new and exciting project that we could do together,” Kylie remembers. The pair delight in “taking tired objects and materials and recreating them in an innovative and modern way”, and it was from this love that ‘Mabel’ came into the picture.

Initially the idea was to create a holiday home for their family, just another creative project they could put under their collective belt. But the pair saw a potential business opportunity through Kylie’s experience with event management and marketing. “I believed there was a gap in the local market for boutique and unique goods and services, particularly for the wedding and corporate event market.”

Sandblasting, welding, wiring, painting, plumbing, sewing… the list is endless!

They started their search in 2012 for the right caravan and found it two years later in Whangarei Heads, some 12 hours north.

“The caravan had been located beachside and been stationary for 30 years. Needless to say, she had to be brought back on a trailer, which was a long journey that saw the loss of two windows along the way!”

Old lightsEvery inch of Mabel will be restored from the ground up, “along with a few sympathetic alterations in order for her to take on her new hostess role!”.

“Sandblasting, welding, wiring, painting, plumbing, sewing… the list is endless!”

With their passion for being hands on, Paul and Kylie are planning to do as much of the renovation process as they can themselves. “With the assistance of some talented local engineers and electricians for the tricky technical stuff,” Kylie says.

I believed there was a gap in the local market for boutique and unique goods and services, particularly for the wedding and corporate event market

The hope is to have the finished product looking “classic and romantic with a modern twist”.

Distressed wood, marble and brass – finishes often thought of as strictly ‘permanent dwellings’ – are going to be utilised in creative and refreshing ways.

Mood board 2The ultimate goal is for Mabel to be a “sophisticated and stylish” travelling bar that will be the home and centrepiece of their successful business “Meet Mabel”. Mabel will be ‘met’ and hired for private and corporate events once the renovations are complete, and will be equipped with all the trimmings, “of which many will be built and created by us”. “She will also be available for private photo shoots, dining and select local public events as well.”

“It’s about creating a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!”

Follow Mabel’s journey on here on

A world of creativity

A world of creativity

Thirty proud Maunga Kura Toi students celebrated their artwork last week with the launch of Nga Kete Toi – Te Wananga o Aotearoa art exhibition. The studio is now showcasing a whole world of Maori art waiting to be discovered, and the student artists are eagerly waiting to take everyone on a culture-filled journey. Beautiful weavings, carvings, and paintings are on display, each with a unique story behind it.

Oriwa Morgan-Ward, WaiwheroPainter Oriwa Morgan-Ward is one of the students with works on display, and is thrilled with the exhibition. “Maori art is not saturated, this is a great opportunity to bring it to the rest of the world,” she says. “It’s a way of expressing ourselves, to the public that haven’t experienced life in the world of Maori.”

Oriwa’s painting, Waiwhero, is one of many on display exploring concepts in colour, form, composition and light, to tell a beautiful story of womanhood. Each artist shows immense support and respect for one another, not shying away from showing off each other’s art. While Oriwa is speaking of the process behind creating a painting, she takes a moment to credit the patience carvers have when it comes to making mistakes, “at least we can paint over it! It’s a little harder when you’re a carver.”

Pru Robbie, RarangaPru Robbie, a level six student, has a striking Raranga (weaving) on display that wasn’t an easy task! “It takes a lot of practice to get it right, if the cuts are too deep or too shallow the whole things ruined.” Her approach was to have a simple pattern that was achievable so she could focus on neatness, “then I’ll do something amazing another day”. “I’ve named it Whakawhiti Korero, which means to make back and forth conversation. I have a lot of international people come through my house, then they’ll see this hanging on the wall and ask what it’s about. Well then I can explain Maori tradition, Maori art and create conversations about it.” This flax isn’t just any old flax from the bottom of the garden either – Pru had to travel a considerable distance from her home to find that perfect strong fibre content, and that was the easy part! It then took her two months to put her weaving together. “It’s about doing the practice, doing the hours.”

Up and coming artist, James Wall, whakairo (carving) that was 14 weeks in the making. He started with a piece of wood and has slowly chiseled away, creating a stunning end piece. Each carving presented in the exhibition represents a waka and two gods, depending on the artist’s iwi. Maori art is cleverly full of hidden meanings and spiritual beliefs that are left to be discovered by everyone else. Each line and mark carved into the wood means something. “I wanted to do this because I wanted to get back into my culture,” says James. However, he’s not shy to admit there were a few times things weren’t going to plan, causing a little tension between him and the slab of wood. Seeing the outcome though makes it all worth it. “I think Maori art should be shown to the world, these artworks are something I hold dear.” James is already planning for the future – “I want to try do a bit of contemporary art and maybe even a teaching paper.”

From everything on display in this exhibition, you can see there’s a lot of heart and emotion involved in the art. The spirit behind it, the feelings they evoke, the history… these artworks represent the artists’ family, heritage and who they are. For these students, who they are is all about where they’re from, and their art allows them to express and honour their ancestral knowledge.

The exhibition is open until the 1st October 2015 between 9am – 3pm Monday to Thursday at 32 Ngata Street, Palmerston North. Go check it out and discover a world of Maori culture.

Michael Bradley

The Chemistry of Creativity

Amy FowlerStory and photos by Amy Fowler.

I had previously only ever experienced any sort of dark-room photography a couple of times, with the world now having moved firmly into the digital realm. The first time was at school, when we spent a couple of days in a dark room processing photographs we had taken in and around the school. At the time I never thought I was going to go into training to be a professional photographer. This initial experience received no more respect for the art than a dismissive grunt before I moved on to other things.

_43A6362In April this year I got to spend a couple of days with photographer Michael Bradley as part of my prize for winning the Canon Eyecon competition.

The competition involved sending in a set of three images, which work together as a series to tell a story. The prize pack included Canon Dollars, real Dollars, a big printer, but most importantly, mentoring sessions with the Eyecon judges Michael Bradley, Aaron K and Danelle Bohane.

The sense of relief and excitement at the resulting image, after it came out of the darkroom, was immense.

A few weeks after posting off my images, I got a call one lunchtime from the Canon Eyecon judging team, informing me I had won the competition. I was absolutely blown away, in tears, and shaking with excitement.

When I spoke to Michael Bradley ahead of mentoring session with him, we discussed my portfolio and wondered what would make for a good day. Michael _43A6382made his name as a sports photographer; we joked about how a day at the cricket possibly wasn’t my cup of tea. I must admit, I can’t even watch a minute of it on television, let alone a whole day! Prior to the call I was absolutely fascinated with haunting portraits on his website that he had taken using a technique called wet plate photography. The conversation inevitably led onto what wet plate photography was and we decided to go ahead and plan for a day doing just that.

First off he decided to make a portrait of me. So we set up the lighting, and I got into place. With a digital camera, we could have snapped the image then and there, then get on with the rest of the day. But with this process, there is a lot to consider. It’s expensive. Every time you take a photograph you use a raft of different chemicals to produce the image. So getting it perfect off the bat is essential. So I sat down and he focused the camera. We had to fashion a makeshift headrest to keep my head very still. The slightest movement results in the image being completely out of focus. He poured collodion (a mix of ether and alcohol once used as _43A6416wartime field dressings) onto a sheet of glass, bathed it in silver nitrate to make the plate light sensitive, before popping the glass into the back of the camera. After refocusing, the back cover of the camera was pulled up, the lens cap came off, the lights popped, the plate came out, and it was ready for developing (using a range of chemicals including alcohol and mosskiller) and fixing. When the plate came out the dark room from having it’s developer bath, the image was there like magic. The intricate detail is incredible. The plate went into the fixer for the final part of the process and my portrait was complete

Prior to the call I was absolutely fascinated with haunting portraits on his website that he had taken using a technique called wet plate photography.

Next it was my turn to photograph Michael. I was extremely nervous. I didn’t want to bugger up the process and come away with no image recorded, or worse still, break one of the plates. We had a practice run with some old collodion on the first plate before moving on to my first real go at wet plate photography. I carefully repeated all of the steps that Michael had showed me. The sense of relief and excitement at the resulting image, after it img146came out of the darkroom, was immense. The day with Michael really inspired me to delve even more deeply into the fine art that is photography.

I’m indebted to UCOL in Palmerston North, where I trained in photography. During my time as a student I was fortunate to win the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography Iris Awards title of Student Photographer of the Year two years in a row, in 2013 and 2014.

Manawatu Walking Festival

Walking his way

Frank Goldingham is the face of walking for New Zealand. As the editor of ‘Walking New Zealand’ he has a passion for great walks and outstanding photography, and his magazine was the first in New Zealand to publish the ‘green prescription’, which refers to a doctor’s recommendation of using exercise to boost health.

Now in its 195th issue, the magazine has fostered the trend for designer walking. It provides stunning and spectacular pictures for the adventurous and artistic person, highlighting both national and overseas walks.

Manawatu Walking FestivalThe idea for the magazine came about fifteen years ago while Frank was visiting Australia. “I was walking the ‘city to surf’ when it occurred to me that there was a running magazine but not a walking magazine”. This idea has since grown into a successful nationwide magazine with more than 4,000 readers per month.

Another project that has grown out of the magazine is the Manawatu Walking Festival.  “I realised that there were walking festivals throughout the country such as Mangawhai and Waiheke Island but not in the Manawatu”.

The weekend long festival went from February 28 to March 2, and focused on putting Manawatu “on the map” and bringing people together to enjoy the great walks of the area.

“We had 170 participants which is great because even though it is small, it will grow. I prefer the idea of walking and ending up at a café where you can sit down and have a chat – which is what made the festival so popular”. Frank says he is already looking forward to organising next year’s event.

FrankIn terms of favourites, Frank feels the vineyard walk was one of the most successful because “you don’t associate Manawatu with wine. The biggest surprise though was the popularity of the Twilight Beach Walk, which is a 9km walk from Foxton Beach to Himatangi Beach”. Some of Frank’s personal favourites include the Bridal Track, the Gorge Walk and the Fern Walkway in Pohangina.

Along with his passion for walking, Frank is also a keen photographer and publisher. He started the Feilding Herald newspaper from scratch, and has also published a number of royal tour and photo books. “Back when there was no television I would be on royal tours, so I would write a book and it would be on sale the next day”.

For those unconvinced, Frank believes that walking has become so popular because it is cheap and enjoyable, and is an activity for everyone and anyone. “It is a great way to meet people and explore some great places of New Zealand. There are a lot of varieties and it doesn’t cost a lot. All you need is a good pair of shoes and you are on your way”.