A while ago, a New Zealand textile and fibre artist, Averil Stuart-Head, commented in the Italian section of our blog, having followed and enjoyed the site and magazine right from the beginning. She had discovered that our Italian headquarters (No Serial Number Italia) was close to her studio at Introdacqua, close to Sulmona in the Abruzzo region. We set a time for when she was back in Italy to visit her so that we could see some of her works close up and plan an article for one of the magazine’s upcoming issues.
Averil’s Italian studio, much like that of any artist, is full to the brim with art supplies. In the case of Averil, who goes simply by Eva when in Italy, she has textiles of every kind, antique lace salvaged from markets and works of art hung on the walls in a creative explosion. Right now, Averil is planning to return indefinitely to her homeland; after so many years she has decided it is time to leave this refuge.
And so we have taken the opportunity to see some of her works up close; they are incredible works of patience, a result of the unusual mix of different techniques which Averil combines in an extraordinary way, and which won her a place at the Florence Biennale in 2007.
The machine stitches, used to attach the parts of the different textiles together, is visible, as is the hand embroidery used for detailing and in some cases transfer the images onto the fabric, the natural dyes and the vegetable prints. In short, Averil’s works exhibit a unique mix of textiles and techniques which are used to depict landscapes and figures such as portraits of her neighbours hard at work in their garden, or the image of three male figures chatting on a bench with a glimpse of Sulmona in the background.
On her work table, which is located on the upper floor (in Introdacqua, like many of the towns within the Abruzzi countryside, there are stairs everywhere which make use of the uneven land), lies waiting a new panel. The section of the panel which Averil is working on is stretched on a classic round beech embroidery frame, along with needle, thread and thimble to one side, waiting for her to return and add those skilful stitches which will separate the different parts of the panel, which is predominantly indigo blue.
She happily sets to work for us, as we continue to chat and discover that for many years, up until now, she had divided her two passions – textiles and felt – between Italy and New Zealand, keeping her wool felt work for the times when she was in New Zealand.
And so wool – and strictly merino – for home, and textiles – such as denim, silk, cotton and lace, mostly salvaged from market stalls – in Italy. She laughingly tells us that, actually, if she saw a bundle of wool with creative promise in Italy, then she wouldn’t think twice about buying and sending it to New Zealand.
Once she returns to New Zealand for good and rearranges her studio to fit in all the materials from Italy, she will be able to get to work again and create a new textile project in our honour, which we will publish in the March 2017 edition of the magazine. Make sure you don’t miss it!