Home is where the art is

03:43, Aug 06 2014
Archie Matheson
SNAPSHOT: It has to be mismatched, but the key is symmetry, says Blenheim-based interior designer Alex Fulton, who has turned a ‘‘Blue Room’’ wall into a gallery of the family’s life.

When a wealth of creativity hits an expanse of bare wall, the result can be stunning. Sophie Preece meets some women transforming their vision into art. In part one, she is welcomed into the homes of Alex Fulton, Sarah Matheson and Kate Vavasour.

Sarah Matheson remembers a childhood where her mother was always sewing something, pulling treasured fabrics from deep drawers to turn wonderful ideas into beautiful things.

And it's a passion that's been passed on, if Sarah's stitched works and bundles of collected fabrics are anything to go by.

Archie Matheson
PLATED: Alex leaps out of traditional boundaries when hanging art, grouping beloved objects to stunning effect.

She's created two artworks out of old grey woollen blankets, which she loves for their texture, history and homely feel.

On one, her mum stencilled the words "You can't be perfect but you can be awesome", providing a gentle salve in a home rocked by four children, all aged 5 and under.

"I look at it every day. It is really balancing. It puts you in check . . . In the midst of the madness that is our house and the noise that is our house, it is a really good reminder of what life is about."


Archie Matheson
FROM THE ART: The room of Archie Matheson, left, here with big brother Gus, has some wise words of art from Dr Seuss, thanks to an inexpensive wall sticker.

The Matheson children have their art around the home as well, and 2-year-old Rose has clearly inherited the penchant of her mother and grandmother.

"She's constantly walking around with bits of fabric. She rubs them against her face and goes to bed with them."

The artworks crowding walls throughout Alex Fulton's Springlands home are an expression of character, with memories, passion and humour placed with careful disorder.

Archie Matheson
EVER-CHANGING: Kate Vavasour’s blackboard art can change overnight, and is sometimes crafted to include a message for her children.

An army of Smurfs and Lego men stand sentry along the tops of frames lining the villa's hallway, a collection of bright plates cluster on a kitchen wall and the only expensive piece of art in the home is draped with a $3 crepe paper decoration.

"They are things that really shouldn't be on walls," the interior designer says of many of her artworks. "I display things because I like them and they make me smile . . . I encourage things other than traditional art and I use frames to display stuff as well, like my Lego."

Ever creative, art led Alex to interior design in 2003, when she set up a business designing graphics onto canvas. "It was when I got to see first-hand what interior design is all about - it got me hooked."

One of those pieces hangs in her "jungle room" alongside a tea towel she blinged with beads then framed as art.

Her latest work is a wonderful gallery wall in the Blue Room, now hung from floor to high stud with works that mean much to the family.

A bright green and blue Bay of Islands painting by Alex sits below framed discs of music her husband Jeff has produced, alongside pieces that hold memories from travels or places they have lived.

There's also kids' art, including a portrait of Alex, which one of her daughters painted of her for Mothers' Day.

"They've all got a bit of meaning. They're not tied together by any other reason than memory."

There's an art to hanging art, and this arrangement has enough symmetry to provide aesthetic order, but not enough to suggest a grid.

It has to be mismatched, but the key is symmetry, says Alex, who describes herself as a real Virgo perfectionist. "So this is organised chaos."

She makes sure that the outside border of wall is constant the whole way around, apart from the pin ball machine at one end.

"Put it out on the floor first and make sure you photograph it, just in case you move things. I roughly knew what I wanted on the four corners."

She then filled in the outside, then the middle, working to align some frames, but not too many.

"I line up two edges, but not three."

And she has objects on hand to fill in gaps, like funky arrows, and yellow "wall dots", which are in fact coat hangers, but proved too gorgeous to be obscured.

The result is beautiful to a stranger, let alone to the family it's been crafted for.

"We are quite happy to be in this room without the TV on, just watching the wall," says Alex.

A blackboard door is adorned with art at Kate Vavasour's home, where the art teacher gets to indulge her love of creativity whenever the urge strikes.

The art can be fleeting, mood-based and seasonal, evidenced by the message at the bottom of the door right now, singing out Sinatra - "Baby It's Cold Outside".

She claims to have plagiarised the other work of chalk-drawn bottles, full to the brim with sweet messages, but took the concept for one from a magazine and poured her own imagination into extending it.

There's homage at work in her children's bedroom as well, where she has copied two artworks onto canvases, because she loved them so much. Kate used to do a lot more painting, but with young children she dabbles in less time-consuming crafts these days, like her chalk board and a jar of bright lollies, which is a delicious expression of her creativity.

Two of the most striking artworks in her home are a pair of framed sepia-toned newspapers collected by her grandfather, announcing Germany's surrender in World War II.

"I framed the whole newspaper, so you can take it apart and read it through again." She's followed his lead and is collecting the front pages from papers on significant days, like the attack on the twin towers in New York and the Christchurch earthquakes.

Along with framed photos of childhood haunts, which she's sourced at archives and had framed, the V-Day papers from the Southland Times and Otago Daily Times are full of significance and emotion for Kate, making them art with heart.

The Marlborough Express