8 Nov 2018

Necessary Traditions: a new festival for the craft-lovers of Christchurch

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:30 pm on 8 November 2018
An image from the poster for Christchurch's Necessary Traditions craft festival

Photo: Necessary Traditions

Christchurch has a new craft and conservation festival kicking off tonight – Necessary Traditions.

The festival line-up includes Lyttelton restauranteur Giulio Sturla, Golden Bay botanist Philip Simpson, and overseas craftspeople such as New York woodcarver Alex Yerks.

Alex Yerks carves greenwood – soft, living, wet wood – into 'kitchenalia' such as bowls and spoons.

He uses "nice sharp Viking-era tools" like axes and knives – but says anyone coming along to his workshops next week can bring whatever woodworking tools they have.

"Just cause you don't have what I have doesn't mean you can't make something functional and beautiful.

"[in post-earthquake Christchurch] everybody is rebuilding and learning to utilise common things lying around."

In a former life, Alex was a Manhattan fashion photographer before leaving that "plastic world" for the countryside of upstate New York where he discovered a world of fellow carvers.

Alex doesn't call his work art, he just likes crafting utilitarian objects.

Handmade things have facets and feel warm, he says.

"Sanded factory objects just feel a bit cold. But maybe I'm biased 'cause I'm a maker."

Also, metal cutlery can be too noisy.

"Whenever I go to restaurants that's something that drives me nuts, the clankety-clank of dishes. I'm kind of a nerd about it."

Alex is well known for his kuksa – Scandinavian-style wooden coffee cups which age along with their owners.

"If you're a coffee person they get dark, if you drink red wine they get red. I find that kind of special. Most modern objects don't change."

Alex Yerks will speak tonight (8 November) at the Necessary Traditions Pecha Kucha night, demonstrate his work at the Arts Centre on Saturday 10 November and Sunday 11 November and host workshops next week.

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