Flax Gift Gallery celebrates Foxton’s connection to the coast in the light and airy art space on State Highway 1. It was always going to be called Flax, given the integral place of flax in the town’s history.
Owner Karen Graves has artists Justine Hawksworth, Aimee Gruar, Holly Roach in her stable, as well as supporting artists of exceptional calibre such as Radha Sahar (her work is found in the New Zealand Parliamentary Collection) and Lisa Walsh (a past recipient of the prestigious Australasian Ranamok Glass Prize).
“Why shouldn’t Foxton have this?” says Karen on the gallery which rivals white wall galleries round the country.
Karen’s love of the extinct bird, the Huia, is a cornerstone of the gallery and often helps in her decisions round buying for the gifts aspect of Flax. The conversations and stories with artists are another: weaver Margaret Hill uses her own handspun wool from an old-fashioned loom to weave exquisite garments, which Karen sells in Flax.
Karen clearly believes in products made with integrity. Jewellery-maker Kaz Tindall creates her pieces with tools which she has made herself. Chris and Kaye Blaker craft sculptures from collected flax.
It’s these back stories that make for a wonderful experience at Flax.
Well-loved designers such as Jill Main, Jo Luping and Studio Ceramics (who have ties with beloved NZ company Crown Lynn) sit alongside emerging artists. There really is something for everyone at Flax Gift Gallery.
All of these elements create a store and gallery space that refutes any argument that the New Zealand art cottage industry is amateur. The calibre of products and art on display and for sale are anything but.
And on being part of the Foxton community? Karen Graves, who spent 26 years teaching in Auckland before moving down to the area says working with people in a ‘co-operative’ environment who display energy and a commitment to the community is a privilege.
“This is a long game” she says of developing the community to ensure it flourishes.
You can visit Flax Gift Gallery at 30 Russell Street (State Highway 1), open Tuesday-Sunday, 9.30AM-4.30PM
Interview by Laura Morris – Morris & Smith