Clip art: A visual Christchurch earthquake story

ALDEN WILLIAMS/Stuff.co.nz

Bronwyn Walker has made an artwork out of five years of earthquake related Press clippings.

Responding to the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, Bronwyn Walker grabbed her scissors and chopped stories from editions of The Press into thousands of 1.5cm squares.

Her artwork, 12:51, is the result.

"I felt guilty," she said. "Living in Avonhead, we were untouched. I started 12:51 immediately after the 2011 earthquake. I found it cathartic."

Bronwyn Walker used 1952 newspaper clippings to make her artwork, 12:51.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Bronwyn Walker used 1952 newspaper clippings to make her artwork, 12:51.

Walker read The Press every day with her neighbour. Throughout 2011 she only cut out articles which "really moved" her. These articles were neatly trimmed into 1.5cm squares.

For several years she stored her news squares in ice-cube containers.

"I think my family thought I was mad - my husband kept threatening to throw them out."

Bronwyn Walker has made an artwork out of five years of earthquake-related clippings from The Press.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Bronwyn Walker has made an artwork out of five years of earthquake-related clippings from The Press.

Walker selected 1952 newspaper squares which she feels tell a visual story of Christchurch in 2011.

The story of 12:51, named for the time the earthquake struck Christchurch, starts at the bottom with chippings from The Press edition of February 21, 2011.

"It's the day before everything changed. Then it goes to black, representing fear, darkness and despair, life forever changed."

The names of the 185 people who died that day are all represented.

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"I have used all of the names as squares within and on the sides," Walker said.

"Aftershocks, liquefaction, fluoro vests, road cones, USAR, emergency response, port-a-loos, Gap Filler, Student Volunteer Army, the big snow, the white lights of hope, When A City Falls - they're all here. The blue strip is from The Press coverage of the first memorial."

Pregnant when the earthquake struck, Walker's youngest daughter was born into a city in a state of crisis.

"She is just starting school this week. 2011 was a tough year for us. We weren't as affected by the earthquake as those in the east but it was a bad year for our family for health reasons."

Walker's 12:51 lay unfinished until last year.

As hundreds of tiny cuttings trickle through her hands at her kitchen table – "I still can't throw them away" – Walker explains how the artwork's final pieces fell into place.

"Last year I read the story 'He gave me my life' about earthquake heroes Matty Lovell and Michael Harford, who saved the life of Monique Mclennan and many others. I found their story incredibly moving. It inspired me to finally finish it. Their faces are at the top."

12:51 would have remained, just hanging on her kitchen wall, a personal reminder of her response to tragedy and a visual cue to be grateful for each day, but then something curious happened.

"People are drawn to it. They're touched by its story and meaning. Visitors would ask if they could have a copy."

The busy mum of three approached a printing company for help "to print a few".

Now the interest is such that she's turned it into a cottage business – BWCreative.

"$50 from each print sale will go to the emergency services of Christchurch, St John's, NZ Police, Civil Defence – it would be great if it could give something back," Walker said.

"My hope is that one day 12:51 will hang in the new Emergency Services precinct and, of course, I think there should be one at The Press, too."

 - Stuff

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