Anna Potton-Grapes is one of two designers from Hawke's Bay to be chosen among 102 finalists from 19 countries and regions for this year's World of Wearable Art (WOW) Awards Show.
Anna, from Greenmeadows, joins previous WOW award winner Kate MacKenzie of Havelock North, to have their garments confirmed for this year's show.
From September 30 to October 17 this year, an audience of more than 60,000 is expected to attend the spectacular theatrical stage production, showcasing the finalist entries from around the world.
I caught up with Anna to find out more about her life, her passion for WOW and her latest achievement.
Where and what do you teach?
I teach textiles at Sacred Heart College, Napier. I used to teach English but decided to mix up my career a few years ago. I went back to study a Diploma of Visual Art and Design in 2018 and a Diploma of Fashion the following year at EIT.
Tell me a bit about your previous success in the bra competition?
I first plucked up the courage to enter WOW in 2018 outside of study. I entered a Bizarre called 'Decoys for the Buoys'. I made the 'flamboyant' hot-pink buoys out of all sorts of bizarre objects including metal hanging pot plants, drawer handles and light fittings. Even though it was on a smaller scale, achieving symmetry and finding materials that bonded together was a massive challenge.
What made you enter?
When I was a teenager, I had a wonderful, eccentric Art and Design teacher at Feilding High School, Dennis Pierce, who stirred up our creativity and we entered WOWQuest as a class on multiple occasions. He helped me to open up my imagination and encouraged me to explore avant-garde ideas. He has made a lasting impact on my life.
When did the process for this year's WOW entry begin for you?
The ideas have been brewing for a long time but for me, it's a matter of finding the right materials to work with to achieve my vision.
How did you come up with your idea?
I came across some potential materials in January and started to experiment with them in different ways. While I had a rough concept, it changed all throughout the process. I always pin materials to a mannequin to see how they look, then tweak it until I feel it's 'right'. Once I have a segment how I want it, I experiment adding different pieces to it. It's sort of like a WASGIJ puzzle that just starts to unfold before me. I never quite know how it's going to turn out.
How many hours did it take?
It took about five months to make from start to finish. Making the material was the most time-consuming part and took over 200 hours to create whilst both my husband and I were working full-time.
Where did you make your garment?
Let's just say my garment and its many pieces took over almost every part of our lounge. While we were weaving, we binge-watched a lot of Netflix series in the background to help keep us sane.
Can you tell me the theme of your entry?
My garment is inspired by an eclectic mixture of architectural forms found within mandalas, fractals, ferns and birds. I wanted to create a garment about celebrating the victory of overcoming hardship and grief. It is also about discovering one's true inner power in the midst of pain. The difficult and painful times in my life have made me who I am today and this garment is a celebration of this journey. It is my technicolour dreamcoat.
Tell me a bit about the materials you used?
I created my own 'fabric' from scratch using 70 metres of plastic mesh and over a kilometre and a half of nylon mesh tubing. It was incredibly time-consuming and I wouldn't have made the deadline without my husband, Sam, who spent weeks helping me weave materials together. He is my knight in woven armour.
After that I used plastic boning to create the structures I needed. It was a nightmare to sew together and I must have broken about 30 needles in the process. Somehow my little faithful Singer sewing machine got me right through to the end though.
What category will it be entered into?
How did you know when you were finished?
As part of my process, I tend to photograph different possibilities as I work so that I can compare and contrast my ideas. I knew I was finished when all the components seemed balanced and nothing needed adding or subtracting. Having a deadline helped as it meant I had to go with my gut and not overthink decisions.
How did you feel when you were finished?
A lot of different feelings. Relief, exhaustion. But mostly pride. I also thought that I would be completely over it but instead my mind started thinking about what I could do for the next entry!
What was your initial reaction when you found out you were a finalist?
My husband saw the email pop up first and rushed over to tell me. We both did a 'happy dance' for a good minute.
Who did you tell first?
Victoria Thompson, a Year 11 textiles student who kindly modelled my garment for me in a photoshoot required as part of the entry process. She was over the moon.
How are you feeling about the competition and watching your garment on stage?
I feel like I've already won a prize just by getting in because it's been a dream to enter a full garment into WOW since I was a teenager.
Will you watch every show?
I will be going to the pre-show with 10 of my textiles students on Wednesday, September 29, and then on Friday, October 1, for the awards night which just so happens to be mine and my husband's fifth wedding anniversary, so that will be a really special way to celebrate together.
How many shows have you been to before?
I've been to the show every year since 2016.
Why do you think is it important we have WOW?
WOW has given New Zealand an opportunity to exhibit fashion on an international level. Kiwis have a different kind of innovation that they bring to the table and it's somewhere we can proudly exhibit our ideas.
Have any of your students been in touch?
Yes, my textiles students were so supportive and were dying to find out the news. I emailed them to let them know in the holidays and they were incredibly proud. They knew how much effort I had put in and are so excited to see it later in the year on stage. I am organising a trip for us to go see it together.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering next year?
Have a rough idea of the direction you want to go in but be open to seeing where the journey might lead you. Once you get going with your idea, limit researching online as it can muddle your focus, stifle your creativity and lead you to doubt your own original vision.
What does it mean to you to be chosen as a finalist?
It means everything to be chosen as a finalist. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and you enter knowing full well that they can only take so many garments every year and yours might not be one of them. It's the most incredible feeling to watch your garment take on its own persona on stage. I would compare it to seeing your child walk for the first time without you.