West Coast Wearable Art Show WOWs All Comers

Karamea’s Creative Couture Transcends All Expectations  

Off the Top of My Head  

By Paul Murray  

WOW! The World of Wearable Art came to the small rural community of Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand on April 8, 2023. The town bubbled with creative ferment, and most of the community and many Easter visitors packed the old Hardware Store to take in the KaraWearable Arts Show and experience haute couture West Coast style.     

The wearable art show was part of the ninth Karamea Pop-Up Gallery Easter Art Exhibition. The outfits worn in the show were displayed with the other exhibits for people to examine closely before seeing them on the catwalk models. The show was timed to coincide with the busy Easter weekend, attracting many visitors and allowing Karamea to show that our region has more to offer than stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, rivers, estuaries, forests, the Heaphy Track and the Oparara arches, caves and lakes. Visitors returned home knowing we also have a vibrant and artistic population of fun-loving folk who are proud of where we live and our 700-strong community.      

Fabulously fashionable creations were sown, stapled, nailed, glued, woven and screwed together and modelled by Karamea’s finest ladies and a few handsome lads. Karamean supermodels donned the fashionistas’ fantastic creations and strutted their stuff on an S-curve catwalk that permitted much crowd interaction and feedback as the overwhelmed onlookers cheered, clapped and wolf-whistled their encouragement and appreciation. Traditionally, models are supposed to be straight-faced and aloof to deflect attention from themselves to encourage the audience to focus on their outfits, but our models danced, spun, twisted, twirled and beamed like Cheshire cats to present their outfits with enthusiasm and infectious excitement.      

Designer & Model: Odette Peter Presents Her “Odette’s Ballgown” Creation: Runner-Up in the Upcycled/Recycled Category. Photo by Paul Murray.  

Dairy farmers, schoolteachers, retirees, schoolchildren, parents, nurses and chefs became fashion designers for the occasion. They put their minds into creating beautiful, clever, stylish and outlandish outfits for their models to show off. Natural materials collected from regional forests, beaches, rivers and estuaries, and rubbish that would otherwise be in a landfill were all utilised in the creative process. Everything was recycled/repurposed/reused/renovated/restored, and, occasionally, rediculous!     

Spot Prize Winners, Madeleine (L) and Tessa Young, Model the Young Family’s “Ember the Fire Dragon and Sparkles the Sea Dragon.” Photo by Paul Murray. 

There were 39 wearable creations in the show, modelled by 16 beautiful locals. The youngest model was four years old, and the most senior was a sexagenarian! The show also attracted entries from Granity, and Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine visited the exhibition to check out the creations. Before the fashion parade, 241 people visited the gallery on April 8 and 9, 2023, and many came back to see the show, which was standing-room only. A visitor involved with the Nelson Wearable Arts Festival on condition of anonymity said, “The creations here tonight reminded me of the first WOW show in Nelson…This is as good as that!”     

The Karamea Pop-Up Gallery team of Liz Kerslake, Jessie Creedmore and Sanae Murray and the many volunteers who assisted them in making show deserve much credit for their dedication and effort in organising the event; this was their ninth exhibition. Sacha Healy joined them for this show as the director of the KaraWearable Art Show and absolutely nailed it by leading the way with her wearable “Paradise Lost” creation (which won the show!) and rallying the costume designers, encouraging and instructing the models, designing the catwalk and bringing it all together into a gala presentation on the night.  Across all the exhibitions, 58 local artists have exhibited their work, 271 artworks have been sold and 1,870 people visited the exhibitions (with over 200 attending the KaraWearable Art Show).  

Sacha Healy Prepares the Performers Pre-Show: Photo by Paul Murray 

Quillyn O’Dwyer Models Sacha Healey’s “Wind in his Wings” SUPREME Award-Winning Creation: Photo by Paul Murray 

The Crowd Lines the Catwalk in Eager Anticipation: Photo by Paul Murray  

Jason and Juliette James again permitted the use of the Old Hardware Store, which is an excellent venue for the art shows. Many of the models in the show are Irish dancers. Juliette James’ work with the Irish Dancing troupe prepared the models well and gave them grace, poise, confidence and the stage presence that comes from the experience gleaned from their many public dancing performances. They were all very comfortable and professional doing their “little turns” on the catwalk. Thank you Juliette for your efforts and dedication to the dancers.   

Karamea Area School teacher, Brett Mawson, lit up the catwalk and created a festive atmosphere with a smoke machine and excellent musical accompaniment (thanks to Karamea Area School for the use of the equipment). Vinnie Dunford’s delicious food platters kept everyone well-nourished, and audience members were soon passing the plates around, which made the visitors very welcome, and the nibbles soon disappeared. Undoubtedly, the world-famous Vinnie’s Café would have been busy over Easter once the crowd sampled his fare. Local bon vivant Nick Scarlett emceed the show and kept the event flowing with professional instruction and good humour. To all the designers, models and volunteers who created, presented and organised the show; thank you all for your efforts!  

The hardest job of all was borne by the judges; Jessie Creedmore, Jane Sage and Laila Klaver-Jones, who were tasked with ranking the modelled creations and determining winners for the categories of “Youth,” “Upcycled/Recycled,” “From Nature,” and several “Spot” prizes. The quality of the costumes and the wow factor and the presentation of the outfits by the models made the task of choosing winners very challenging, but the crowd helped with enthusiastic clapping and cheering. They drew heavily on the “clap-o-meter” to diplomatically make difficult decisions.  

Diva Murray Models Tina Wylie’s 1st Prize Winning Creation in the Upcycled/Recycled Category: “Earth Mother, The Seasons.” Photo by Paul Murray 

After a few disruptive years of social interruption and forced anti-social behaviour, the KaraWearable Arts Show was just what the community needed to reinvigorate social interaction, creativity, public expression, and confidence and was a great initiative in putting the unity back into the community in the post-COVID era. The show was very much a community effort led by a dedicated group of Karameans, with much behind-the-scenes support from their families, the staff and students at Karamea Area School, businesses who provided logistical support, a venue, cash prizes, donations for the raffle and help setting up the show, printing, lighting, music, promoting, compèring, documenting and catering for the event.     

A raffle on the night raised almost $1,000 to help fund the next KaraWearAble Art Show, scheduled for the 2024 Easter Weekend with the categories of “Upcycled/Recycled”, “Youth,” “Myths & Legends” and an “Open” class.  

Donna Chambers Wins the Karaka Meat Tray Raffle Prize: Photo by Paul Murray 

The dominance of Internet-based entertainment these days has all but put paid to community initiatives like the wearable art show. However, the excitement, energy and genuine laughter for all who participated in the show as performers, artists, designers, models and audience made it a memorable night that far exceeded a night with NETFLIX/Facebook/Fox Sports, SKY etc. The show enabled people to actively express their creativity instead of being passively entertained by others.    

Well done, Karamea…LOVE your work!    

Many thanks to the generous sponsors and raffle donations and congratulations to the prize winners! 

For more information on upcoming events or the 2024 KaraWearable Art Show, please contact:    

KaraWearable Director: Ms Sacha Healey: 020-4149-1184 / sachahealey@hotmail.com   

Karamea Pop-Up Gallery Curator: Ms Sanae Murray: 021-118-4691 / sanaenmt@gmail.com   

Karamea Community Coordinator: Ms Jessie Creedmore: 027-517-7107 / jessie@marketinghouse.co.nz   

Link to Additional Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/MQjr8iaNW13t1KSx7

KaraWearable Art Show Article Westport News Wednesday April 12, 2023.

About LivinginPeaceProject

Paul Murray is the founder of the LivinginPeace Project. www.livinginpeace.com Paul originally from Australia, but have been living in New Zealand for 14 years. Before that he was in Japan for a decade working as a journalist. He met his wife Sanae in Japan and they married in 2008.
This entry was posted in Art, Artist, Buller District Council, Community, Community-Led Development, Culture, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Funny, Karamea, LivinginPeace Project, Nature, New Zealand, Paul Murray, Photography, Property Brokers, Tourism, Travel, Uncategorized, West Coast and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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