Hospice gears up for annual art exhibition

Featured artist Alysn Midgelow-Marsden of Tāwharanui.

Organisers of the annual Martakana Exhibition have put out a special call to artists who may not have exhibited their work before.

The Martakana fine art exhibition 2024 will be held at the Matakana Primary School Hall from January 18 to 21.

There will be up to 350 pieces of art from dozens of talented artists on display and every sale will earn a commission for Harbour Hospice, which will go towards caring for patients and their families in the Warkworth/Wellsford community.

Hospice community and events fundraiser Emily Thomas says she encourages up and coming artists to showcase their work. She says the event provides a supportive environment for new artists to gain confidence and experience seeing their work in a public forum.

As usual, the artwork will represent many different styles and forms, from painting and photography to sculpture and jewellery. Thomas says they hope to utilise an outdoor area for large sculptures, which would be new to next year’s show.

Meanwhile, the artist behind the stunning artwork that features in the promotional material for next year’s Martakana is the multi-talented Alysn Midgelow-Marsden of Tāwharanui.

Alysn is a self-described sculptural textiles artist who has supported the Harbour Hospice fundraiser since she moved to the area eight years ago. She says she sees hospice as “a special service that needs to be there for the community”.

With a background in embroidery and textiles that was inspired by her grandmother, who taught her to embroider, Alysn stitches materials together that aren’t traditionally associated with sewing and embroidery, such as metal, copper and brass.

Defying the belief that ‘creative types’ are less likely to be ‘good at’ science, she also has a degree in marine biology and enjoys integrating marine finds from her beach walks into her works.

Alysn grew up in the UK and moved to New Zealand 10 years ago.

She loved art at school and had thought about doing an art degree.

“But I had the typical parental ‘go and get a real job’ talk, so I chose to study marine biology,” she says.

She finished her degree and started in a career researching marine genetics and interbreeding between fish species, and this morphed into a role lecturing about marine biology and bio-chemistry at university.

But when she and husband Brian decided to start a family, she says she took the opportunity to look at what she actually wanted to do and see where it led.

“While the children were little, I started contracting myself out as an embroiderer for dressmakers and picked up lots of work doing bridal wear,” she says.

“I did all the beading and fine detail hand stitching that the dressmakers found laborious, but that I loved.

“I also began doing much more of my own artwork, and was invited to run workshops, and that just gradually built. Then we bought a house that we converted into an art gallery, which we ran for 13 years.

“I met lots of other artists and got involved in that world and gradually gave up teaching and science lecturing, and that side of my life.”

She’s active in the local arts community as a member of the Mahurangi Artist’s Network (MAN), with the network currently lobbying the Rodney Local Board for support to establish a permanent arts centre in Warkworth.

Anyone interested in exhibiting can contact Emily Thomas at Emily.Thomas@harbourhospice.org.nz