Artistic obsessions

SHOP TALK: WOW finalists Janine Tate, left, Kelly Bassett and Yuki Tanaka discuss the time and emotional energy they put into their entries.
SHOP TALK: WOW finalists Janine Tate, left, Kelly Bassett and Yuki Tanaka discuss the time and emotional energy they put into their entries.

There are four Waikato finalists in this year's World of WearableArt. Aimie Cronin finds out if all the work that goes into entries is worth it.

People who have been to the World of WearableArt show in Wellington (or Nelson in its earlier days) understand the work that must go into the construction of each garment. Others just nod and look unimpressed, as if it's childish or wacky or just plain crafty.

"The people who get it really get it," says artist and WOW finalist Janine Tate. "Others just look at ya."

DENIM WARRIORS: Yuki Tanaka's award-winning entry from last year's WOW.
DENIM WARRIORS: Yuki Tanaka's award-winning entry from last year's WOW.

It's an impressive annual show that is drawing international entrants and Tate says it's well deserving of its acronym.

"Everyone goes to the show and says, wow. You just sit there and go wow, wow, wow. [When I went], my hands were just raw from clapping. It is so amazing."

Last year, Hamilton resident Yuki Tanaka took out the First Time Entrant award for his two garments titled Indigo Warrior. He used the prize money to buy a sewing machine and got straight into making this year's piece. It took him five months.

He's hesitant to give away too much about this year's entry - breaking any of the WOW rules could see him disqualified - but he will say he relied heavily on his signature fabric: denim.

"I tried to make it interesting. If I make something easy, it's wearable and wearable is boring. I had to put art into it, so people would say, wow."

He stuck to a budget for his piece and stayed true to his beliefs around reuse and recycling.

"I want to make something new that people haven't seen, but always using old stuff. I don't want to throw away anything, and I tried to keep it cheap. If I have money, of course I can buy good fabric and jewellery and things - it could be brilliant. But I want to use something normal, put it together and make something different."

Janine Tate is up for the First Time Entrant award this year, as well as an Environment award with her piece in the Bizarre Bra section. She took three months to make her entry after a swift decision that she was going to commit to entering.

"The day it went, I was still touching up and doing stuff. I went to pack it and it had to be on the courier at 5pm - it was the last day. At noon, I glued it to make it stable, then I stuck it out in the sun to dry and I cried."

Tate says her family are used to her "mad artist" tendencies, but this project was all-encompassing and on another level entirely. She can't even estimate how many hours it took her.

"I just ignored everything else I was meant to do for three months."

Her entry, A Chest of Drawers, is made of foam board, stiffened fabric, paper and air-dried clay, lace and lots of Swarovski crystals - "hundreds of dollars" worth of Swarovski crystals. "I don't even know where I got the money from, I'd just go off to Spotlight."

Just before she sent it away, Tate had another little cry. The sheer relief of finishing the project and the pressure to get it done on time was overwhelming, she says.

"I made a full garment last year and I never got it finished. I had a list and 10 days to go, and I was so stressed that my friends did an intervention on me, saying: ‘We think you should stop and forget about it'."

Now that she has one under her belt, she's planning to finish the first and enter it next year.

Graphic designer Kelly Bassett, a finalist in the Bizarre Bra section, says entering the competition meant committing to something that would dominate her life for months.

"It takes over part of the house and you become obsessed. You wake up all the time in the night. I used to sleep with a pen and paper beside me so I could write things down and actually sleep."

Bassett says she felt relief when she finally sent her entry away, "but I worry as well that it got there the way I put it in, especially being [made of] paper".

In 2007, Bassett was a finalist in the same section and has entered twice with pieces she says she knew wouldn't make the cut. This year's entry is inspired by her mum.

"She had breast cancer for the second time last year, and she's fine, but that's what made me finally choose to do the bra. And that's why it's called Two Hoots: one for nature and one for breast care. Give a hoot."

The World of WearableArt Awards awards night takes place on Friday, September 28. Visit