Mixed media installation.
Local Makers pays homage to the stories of a small clothing factory in Riverton, in the South Island of New Zealand from the 1940s – 1980s. After learning of their heartening stories, including that workers would take scrap pieces of fabric to construct hats and clothes for their families, Daegan Wells has made a series of textile works which remember, recognise and comment on the changing face of New Zealand’s primary industry and the communities which serviced it. In mirroring their efforts of the handmade and local sourced materials, the artist has used muka, natural dyed linens and wool that he has cultivated from animal to yarn in his home in Southland, which forms a key part of his textile practice.
“I met a local woman who told me about a clothing factory that operated in Riverton. She had undertaken an apprenticeship at the factory in the 1970s, making school uniforms and utility clothing. The factory mostly hired women; however, a few local men had been employed as pattern cutters and fabric designers. This meeting was notable to me because of a recent conversation with my partner where it was suggested that I get a ‘real/full-time job’, moving away from the arts towards something more financially stable. This was frustrating at the time, primarily because of the lack of employment options within small-town Aotearoa. Historically, most small towns had many different types of industries that manufactured and produced various products. However, this decreased in the 1980s with a shift towards overseas manufacturing.”
Daegan Wells has been commissioned to create a new artwork for the 2022 Aotearoa Art Fair with generous support from Creative New Zealand.
Image: Daegan Wells, Local Makers 2022. Muka, natural dyed linen, hand-spun wool from pets. Courtesy of the artist.