10 Favourite Things: Fine feathered friends

By Zoe Walker

Artist Margaret Petchell turns her attention to birds for a new exhibition of her paintings

Stylist and makeup artist Margaret Petchell in her home in front of one of her paintings. Photo / Babiche Martens
Stylist and makeup artist Margaret Petchell in her home in front of one of her paintings. Photo / Babiche Martens

Margaret Petchell looks to those everyday native birds that fade into the ordinary with her exhibition titled The Commoners, opening next week. Petchell's portraits portray the birds as if sitting for studio portraits - staring at the viewer, puffed up and dignified and each seemingly with their own personality - an idea that reflects her background working on fashion shoots and television commercials as a makeup artist and wardrobe stylist for over 20 years.

The stylish Aucklander has worked with brands including Servilles, Hallensteins and Farmers, and continues to work on personal projects.

Her fashion background inspires these creative projects, as well as the beautiful things with which she surrounds herself - from antique Edwardian screens to Egyptian tiles.


1. The Dream at the End of the World by Michelle Green

I don't normally read a book more than once but I am up to my third read of this book about Paul Bowles and the literary renegades of Tangiers. I enjoy it for the pure decadence of the times and the exotic people the place attracted - where eccentricity was regarded as a social asset and you could simply invent a new personality and a past.

2. Painted Moroccan doors

The intricately patterned interior doors of Moroccan riads inspired me to embark on a project to recreate several throughout my home. My favourite is my office door, which features brass panelling and a doorknocker in the shape of Fatima's hand - a souvenir from a metalwork souk.

3. Edwardian screen

My indulgently decorative Edwardian silk screen, from an antique shop in Cambridge, was gifted to me after it featured as part of a set on The Women's Vote, a period docu-drama I worked on. I love the skilled craftsmanship and aesthetic harmony in the peacock motif.

4. Bohemian glasses

My ruby-red, cut-glass decanter and goblet set is an antique gem which is precious to me, found in a Ponsonby Rd antique shop years ago. Each glass is slightly different, giving the unique appeal of an artisan-handcrafted object.

5. Egyptian tiles

The tiles in my en suite came from an old Egyptian building. Their coloured patterns are the most beautiful pastel shades. They are from Yvonne Saunders Antiques and I fell in love with them when we used them on a TV commercial.

6. Sparrow painting

This painting of a sparrow has a special personality; he has a soft downy texture to his chest feathers and beautiful autumnal tones of brown on his wings. It is my particular favourite from the series I have been working on for my upcoming exhibition.

7. French bowl

A beautiful remnant of the French culture, which used to exist in Essaouira, with its pearl lustre and a lovely, delicate, rust brown pattern, is unassumingly lovely. A lot of mint tea drinking and bargaining like a Moroccan was involved in its acquisition.

8. Hermes perfume

I always feel happier when I smell the creamy golden scent of Vetiver Tonka, by Hermes. It also reminds me of one of my favourite people.

9. Trelise Cooper dress

Completely altering the size and unpicking then reattaching the sequins and beads on the heavily embellished peacocks, is a testament to my love for this 1920s' style, soft apricot silk dress.

10. Cire Trudon candle

The smell of Solis Rex, presented in a gold-labelled bottle-green glass, transports me to Versailles; the scent of dark wooden floors, beeswax furniture polish and dusty, chandelier filled rooms.

The Commoners Exhibition, 62 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby, April 23-29.


- NZ Herald

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