Topic: Anne Percival - My textile life

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Anne Percival has had a lifetime's involvement with crafts in the Waikato region and Hamilton, especially with weaving, as a business woman, teacher and exhibitor.

Looking back down the years, I can see the seeds of my craft life were sown early, by a grandmother and mother who crocheted, knitted, embroidered and sewed, and an Art and Craft teacher who lived next door when I was about 5. She showed us how to make puppets and dress dolls. Somehow it didn't take with my older sister, but my mother tolerated my continual mess of ‘works in progress'.

I was born in Wellington, in 1932, but we shifted to Palmerston North in 1938, then to Invercargill in 1945.

After High School, I went to Training College in Dunedin, thinking I could be an Art and Craft teacher, but soon figured out they selected people for being outstanding teachers, which I didn't think I was. I wasn't happy teaching kids, so went to a Vocational Guidance Officer, and was channeled into Occupational Therapy, of which I hadn't heard up to that point. I was lucky enough to be selected for the class of 1950, and left Training College in Dunedin and went to Auckland.

The training was bliss - lots of new crafts to learn and new friends as well, and I enjoyed much more the one-on-one teaching we did with patients and coped with the academic study as well.

My stint out in the field before doing finals was at Tokanui - the charge OT left a few weeks after I arrived, and I found myself in charge of a department, with 2 aides, as well as studying for exams, but managed it all and passed well. I got engaged to a local farmer, coped with the death of my mother, and then moved to Rotorua for a time at the Queen Elizabeth arthritis centre before I married in 1954, and quit OT for good. However the things I learned had a great influence on my life path - I decided I loved the idea of weaving and kept my books, even though our weaving instruction was minimal.

 At Tokanui I learned a great deal about looms of many kinds and how they functioned, which stood me in great stead over many years as a weaver. I borrowed an old Ashford spinning wheel from Tokanui, and sharpened my spinning skills, but I was pleased to receive a beautiful Kauri wheel my father found in an auction mart in Hamilton, a much better implement.                                                                                Double weave

In 1959 my husband and I and toddler moved to a run-down property in the King Country, with another baby on the way. In a sparsely populated area you have to make your own fun, and with a shortage of cash I turned to crafts to earn a little.
For a while I made cat baskets for Arthur Yates, the garden people, but after a few dozen in wet cane my hands became a mess, so I flagged that away! However I did run a couple of classes for the local farmers' wives, doing basketry, which was a great success.

 My next venture into the commercial craft world was to organise local women to spin and knit woollen jumpers for the Tourist market, under the auspices of a businessman in Te Kuiti who could see opportunities there. A few of us had started a local spinning group, but alas just as we felt we were getting somewhere he closed us down, and skipped the country with other peoples' money, but not ours, fortunately!
           Early Theo Moorman pieces

 Then in the sixties someone lent me a table loom, and I started weaving, making chunky bags at first, until they were overdone in the shops, then I came up with the idea of weaving men's ties in finer yarn. This started in a very small way, but soon enabled me to invest in a large loom which came in from overseas (illegally, but that's another story!) and made my weaving much faster and easier. Along the way I approached the Wool Board, and was granted a licence to use the Woolmark on my products. I think I was only one of 3 hand-weavers ever to be able to use one: it meant that I had to keep a count of how many I had used the Woolmark on, and send some for quality control regularly. The Wool Board loved the ties, and used to keep my samples and send me back a cheque for them. At one stage I had 2 local women sewing them up for me, though I always did all the weaving myself, and over the 12 years I made them I produced over 11,500. The money I made was used principally for helping put our 3 children through boarding school, and came in very handy.                                                                                                                                     

 In the mid-seventies I was asked to teach weaving, and had a period of running small residential weaving classes (5 students) on our back-blocks farm. Because I had learned weaving myself from books and in rather a haphazard way I was always a bit insecure about what I was teaching, so when Anna Correa-Hunt set up a Weaving School in Nelson I was very interested. In 1977 I did her one-year correspondence course in weaving. This involved trips to Nelson and Christchurch in the school holidays, and a lot of study and assignments, and at the end of the year another trip to Nelson with a week of written exams, and another week of practical work. I was delighted to find that most of my learning was from the ‘right' books, and good practice, and filled in the odd gaps I had, and graduated with a wealth of teaching materials compiled during my studies.

I joined the NZ Spinning, Weaving and Woolcrafts Society (now Creative Fibre) in 1973, and when our small Te Kuiti group was formed, that became a part of the organisation. The NZSWWS was important to me over the years, and I financed my annual trips to conferences with ties in the early years. It was my annual holiday (my husband went hunting for his!) and it was very necessary for me to be with like-minded people. Over the years I exhibited, taught, served as Delegate for the Waikato, was on the National Education Committee and the Quality Mark Committee.

 Beaded bags with Kumihimo cords

When my marriage broke down in 1984 I came to Hamilton (aged 52) and was fortunate enough to snag a part-time position at the Waikato Polytechnic, as they were setting up a Craft Design School there. As I was the only applicant with qualifications in textiles, I got the job as Textile Tutor, and once more dipped into my OT training for techniques I thought I'd long forgotten. I felt that all our students needed to know things like braiding techniques, whether they were doing pots, jewellery or textiles, and we had fun with off-loom techniques. It was a huge learning curve for me, but it was not a very well-thought-out venture, as the students had nowhere to go when they finished. They really needed an apprentice scheme to hone their craft skills when they graduated, so eventually it was closed down, and taken over with Graphic Arts.

 Also during this time I became involved with a Craft cooperative shop venture, starting in Collingwood Court, and eventually being in Centreplace. We closed shop after almost 9 years, after successfully trading our own and others' fibrecrafts. The complex was then requiring us to be there 7 days, as well as late nights, the rent was going up when the lease ended, so we decided to call it a day.

               Anne in Thames, 1998

During that period, with encouragement from a visiting American Tutor, I applied for a QE11 Short-term Study Grant, which I received, and in 1985 I set off for a wonderful crammed study tour of the USA. I not only learned a lot, I made a lot of new friends, and discovered that crafts-people network all round the world.
Since then weaving has taken me all round the world, with instant friends wherever they speak weaving! I have been lucky to have attended 3 major American conferences and met many of the people we read about in magazines. I have a mention in one book, and two pages in another, both published in the USA, as well as an article in the American ‘Weavers' magazine.
I still weave and teach - I have a lot of yarn to use up! - and one of my current passions is Kumihimo Braiding, both on a marudai and a takadai, and I was able to attend the first International Conference on braiding in Kyoto, Japan in November 2007.

I remarried in 1993, to John Percival, a retired Hamilton accountant, who lived in Hamilton all his life, until he passed away early in 2007.

 Silver Thread Award, Gisborne, 2008

 Anne (Gaston) Percival (nee Smith) October, 2006. Anne features in the article 'Cutting edge quilts compete for award' in the Hamilton Press of September 9, 2009, p.11.


Anne Percival - My textile life

First Names:Anne (Gaston)
Last Name:Percival
Place of Birth:Wellington
Subject:Weavers, New Zealand, Biography
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License
Anne Percival - My textile life by Rae is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License