Adelaide’s Downton Abbey: Ayer’s House

I have been moving my home and office since I got back from New Zealand, so I am behind on blogging about my trip. I cannot help but notice that all US social media is leaving a little space (after election coverage) to talk about the last episode of Downton Abbey airing on PBS this Sunday evening. The season traditionally ends with a Christmas episode that plays on Christmas Day in England.–obviously delayed in the USA. I bought Season 6 on Google Play so I have already seen the conclusion and I will not spoil it.

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It did make me think about Adelaide’s equivalent of Downton Abbey: Ayer’s House.

Growing up in California I can relate to places like Adelaide, South Australia. The sprung up, new fortune, scratch-a-community-out-of-the-bush feeling is one I know well. Whether it is a gold rush or agricultural land rush, the place history is not very old and the challenges of creating a “showplace” home to create status in a brand new community is familiar. When I walked up the circular drive to Ayer’s House in Adelaide it felt like a mansion in Grass Valley of another mining tycoon.

This particular tycoon, Henry Ayers, exaggerated his work experience. He was an office clerk but he claimed other skills so he could get a subsidy to emigrate to Adelaide with his wife Anna. He did well with the Burra Burra mines and ultimately served as the Premiere of South Australia five times between 1863 and 1873. He built a huge house in downtown Adelaide near the Botanic Garden. Even now it is gracious.

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The clothes are right for the 1920s Melbourne AND they feel modern.

I went to see it because I saw a flyer on the bookshop window advertising the exhibit of costumes from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I have watched all of the episodes on Netflix and the costumes depicting a wealthy feminist detective and her entourage solving mysteries. Sometimes with television I am disappointed with the reality of a set or costume because the camera can fool you. These costumes are the real deal–recreated couture to emulate the roaring 20’s.

I was ready to join the enthusiast crowd of women who sew or craft to go through the exhibit, but first I stopped and spoke with the docent at the front door. It was he who told me about Henry Ayers and why the house is worth a look even when there is not a fashion display in every room.

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This mermaid costume was worn by Phryne when she was undercover.

To make it more interesting, the museum staff also created a bit of a whodunit to solve while you walked through the rooms. I did not need anymore entertainment as I was completely enraptured with the clothes themselves. Beautifully made from exquisite fabrics, I enjoyed talking to other women who sew about where they source fabric and how hard it is to find. We all laughed because even though we were from USA and Australia, both of our mothers used to look at a garment in the department store and say the equivalent of “You could make it yourself for less.” Now it is quite the opposite. No one can say they are sewing to be thrifty.

This gives full permission to sew as a creative expression. Many of these garments are impractical and designed and executed as a celebration of beauty.

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The show, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, is based on Australian author Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher book series. I have looked for them in the US and have not found them. The gift shop had a new copy of the first in the series Cocaine Blues. I bought it for my Mom. Then when I found a secondhand bookshop at the Central Market I was able to pick up quite a few more in the series. My Mom read them first and now I am reading them. They are not as complex as say Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series, but neither do you have to worry about gore or upsetting physical violence.  I hope Ms. Greenwood makes her books available electronically in the USA so more people can enjoy them.

If you are interested in fashion that pushes the envelope and is inspiring and beautiful, the check out WOW! The World of Wearable Art dates for 2016 are September 11-October 9 in Wellington, New Zealand. Tickets are available here.

 

 

 

Kiwi Ingenuity, Part II: World of Wearable Art

This is the detail of the Grand Award winner from 2014 WOW.

This is the detail of the Grand Award winner from 2014 WOW.

I love, love, love the World of Wearable Art. It is a show, an inspiration, a collection of amazing “garments” and more. A year ago I traveled with my friend UK Sarah to see the show in Wellington. On this visit to Auckland I was able to share the amazing craft that is WOW with my adult children at the Auckland War Memorial and Museum’s exhibit.

The catwalk at the WOW exhibit allows you to see some of the best designs from various years.

The catwalk at the WOW exhibit allows you to see some of the best designs from various years.

You can take any one of the amazing dresses or bras or other creations and marvel at the design, construction and whimsey for a long time. This exhibit allows you to linger as long as you want AND to get up close and personal (without touching).

Or you can create your own WOW inspired paper doll and add it to the wall in the exhibit. Sarah Harriet making her paper doll

The Auckland Museum is located in the Domain near Parnell in Auckland. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $25 per adult and $10 per child. The WOW exhibit is included with admission. Also worth checking out: the Maori Experience (musical performances), the cafe, and the gift shop for quality gifts made in New Zealand.

The backside of a crayfish dress.

The backside of a crayfish dress.

Ready, Set: Tickets for World of Wearable Art on Sale

WOW red dressTickets for the World of Wearable Art go on sale today. You might have written February 1 on your calendar, but if you are in the US or Europe, New Zealand is a day ahead and should go on-line today for the best selection. One show per evening is scheduled from September 25-October 12 (Monday and Tuesday off) in Wellington. Make it the highlight of your visit to New Zealand.

The World of Wearable Art is an inspiring entertainment event if you are interested in fashion, art, or textiles. If you are a crafter you will marvel at the techniques. If you appreciate beauty you will find yourself saying “Wow!” over and over throughout the evening. I loved it!

There are tickets at a variety of price points from NZ$50-165. Also VIP tables for dinner at stage-side seats are available. A discount is available if you order with your American Express.

World of Wearable Art is WOW!

English speakers have a couple of dozen superlatives at our disposal to express complete amazement: stupendous, boffo, awesome to name a few. As I watched the World of Wearable Art show unfold, I just kept saying “Wow!”

Inspiring fashion in the lobby to set the mood.

Inspiring fashion in the lobby to set the mood.

The level of creativity and inventiveness made such a deep impression on me in the few examples I had seen in museums that I timed my visit to New Zealand around the 2 weeks of the show. You have to plan as the tickets go on sale in January and many of the evenings sell out quickly. My friend UK Sarah was willing to go with me and make a girls weekend in Wellington on the strength of my enthusiasm, and then she saw a few of the previous entries on display in Rotorua and she became a convert.

Fortunately we had friends with a flat near downtown so we did not have to find lodging. We could walk to the TSB Bank Arena in Queens Wharf, even with our heels and fancy dress. You do not have to dress up, but it can be part of the fun. It is an audience who will admire your effort. I received several compliments on my wrap while standing in the inevitable line to the ladies restroom. (The restroom is a must stop before the show–no intermission!)

The stage is set so each creation can come out from a centerpiece and progress out on to one of five runways. The fashion entries rotate around in a choreography to music so there is always so much to look at and enjoy. Dancers and, in one set, circus performers, add to the visual stimulation. There is so much to delight the eyes, the biggest challenge is figuring out a strategy for focusing attention to avoid missing any of it.

Since photos are not permitted during the performance... another creation from a prior show

Since photos are not permitted during the performance… another creation from a prior show

UK Sarah and American Julie at World of Wearable Art 2013

UK Sarah and American Julie at World of Wearable Art 2013

We bought the “premium plus” ticket for the 25th anniversary show. This ensures the quality of the seats and includes the program. It is $25NZ if you buy it separately and greatly enhances the after-show experience as each design is featured in photos. It also helps to explain the sections or themes for the show. At the end of the performance they announce the winners of each section and overall winners.

Anticipation can sweeten the experience of an event and it can lead to disappointment. The World of Wearable Art was satisfying in every way and worth the effort.

The stage appears smaller in my photo than it did during the performance.

The stage appears smaller in my photo than it did during the performance. We sat in the first row of seats behind the dinner seating.

Postcard: Wellington

The cliche, windy Wellington, played out. Hurricane force gusts of wind buffeted us as we walked home from dining out. However, Wellington is not so easily dismissed. As the capital city, it has many paradoxes–just like New Zealand. They celebrate Katherine Mansfield for largely inventing the modern short story–something she did while living in Europe. 

Tribute to NZ native Katherine Mansfield in Wellington cbd

Wellington hosts some wildly creative people, including WETA studios and the World of Wearable Art–and the national government. They have a beautiful botanical garden with a lush history of plants–and a freeway that rips right through the heart of the city. It makes for a stimulating place to visit. There is no shortage of great coffee and restaurants.  Just be sure to carry a waterproof jacket. And best not to watch your plane land in the airport (eyes shut tight!).The capitol building in Wellington is nicknamed the "Beehive".