Raetihi artist Ray Woodhouse picked up prize money of $1750 after being named overall winner of the 2107 Waimarino Art Awards.

His 3D entry Light Flight is on display at the Barbed Wire Gallery in Raetihi's Seddon Street.

The exquisite copper and brass sculpture in two pieces, featuring two insects that look whimsical and inviting, has delighted many viewers - but is not for sale.

"No, I'm keeping this piece for home."

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Ray moved to Raetihi from Wellington in the 1980s to pursue and live a "real" rural lifestyle.

City traffic and city life was losing its appeal and, even though he was heavily into photography both commercial and artistically, he felt he need to be with the land.

"Be a real part of it; live and breathe it."

For many years he was the odd job handyman throughout the Waimarino district .

"I could turn my hand to almost everything ... well, I had to because when you move to a small place like this you have take every job that's offered, there's no picking and choosing."

But a year ago he started working on his art fulltime.

"It's taking time to get known but my pieces are starting to cause some interest."

Though the sculptures have been described as functional art in that they are also lamps where the glow of the light can be adjusted from very dim to a bright steady beam, Ray said functional art wasn't the right term.

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"They are sculptures designed to be beautiful and useful ... like the days of art nouveau when pieces were always beautiful, though practical came very much second."

It has been a record year for the 14th annual show with nearly 300 entries coming in from Hamilton to Wellington. Junior art awards, in particular, attracted huge interest with entries from as far as Auckland and Rotorua.

The show usually attracts more than 200 entries but this year has really stepped things
up, said Barbed Wire Gallery owner Leonie Cadman.

Unfortunately, awards organiser Paula Charlton had to leave to be at the bedside of her very ill mother in Scotland two weeks before opening.

A team volunteers jumped in and the entries are on exhibition at two venues - the Royal Theatre, Raetihi, and the Barbed Wire Gallery - until July 15.

As well artworks there is general photography, and Taupo Museum art curator Kerence Stephen judged the art with Mark Hamilton, a professional photographer from Waikato, judging the photography section.