World of Wearable Arts Show

Term: 3 Year: 2016

Over the last five years, art teacher Philippa Stichbury-Cooper, from Caulfield Grammar Malvern has spent her spare time creating garments for the internationally acclaimed World of Wearable Arts Show (WOW), in Wellington, New Zealand.

This annual event attracts hundreds of entries from around the world and is viewed by an audience of 50,000. Now in its third decade, this amazing show is held over 12 nights and is a fusion of art, music, dance and drama, involving a cast and crew of over 400.

In 2015, Philippa won the Air New Zealand Aotearoa Section with her garment, ‘On Reflection’. The design brief was to use any or all of the colours black, red and white to create a wearable work of art that explored and celebrated the history and diverse cultures within New Zealand. This brief caused Philippa to reflect on what constituted ‘New Zealand culture’.

She started with the story of her great-great grandmother who at the age of 20, disguised as a boy, set sail from England in 1839 to arrive in New Zealand in March 1840. She escaped the vigilance of her parents to follow her future husband, already in Wellington. On her arrival, they were reunited and became the first European settlers married by a minister in Wellington.

This long journey, with few possessions save her personal history, to a new culture and way of life, led Philippa to think of the many other immigrants’ journeys to New Zealand over the last 175 years. Each immigrant bringing with them their own culture and history which became intertwined with the cultures, old, developing and new, they found upon their arrival.

On the garment, Philippa portrayed the meeting of these cultures. The back shoulder to waist area has a variety of symbols and patterns representing migrants who came to New Zealand. These ‘meet’ the existing Maori culture of New Zealand, depicted on the front of the garment by the Kowhaiwhai and Tukutuku patterns, and stories of the Taniwha; ‘Maui and the Sun’ and ‘How the Kiwi Lost His Wings’. This culture was influential on Philippa’s upbringing - the patterns, art and stories of the Maori and Polynesian cultures are strong in New Zealand society.

‘On Reflection’ also shows the strong influence of nature in Philippa’s upbringing. The spectacular landscapes; the trees, plants and the birds that filled the bush behind her house were the same as those that inform and inspire many New Zealand artists, giving it a distinctly New Zealand ‘flavour’.

The bustle area pays tribute to the art of Polynesia, Kiwiana and to many New Zealand artists that create art work about New Zealand, artists Philippa has been brought up with, influenced by, used as teaching inspirations or just simply loves.

The garment is constructed with cardboard pieces, hinged with fabric. Each piece is collaged with cut, drawn, or stitched images. The images are arranged symmetrically and interspersed with mirrored pieces to give a reflective quality. ‘On Reflection’ pays tribute to the amalgamation of cultural, historical, artistic and natural facets that make up and influence New Zealand’s rich and diverse culture.

Philippa Stichbury-Cooper
Art Teacher
Caulfield Grammar School, Malvern Campus

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