Category Archives: Birdwoods Products Interest

Oh so Suzani….

We have another wonderful product gracing the gallery – vintage Suzani cushions from Uzbekhistan. They have a ‘come lie down with me’ look – particularly if you are a dog! The big ones make for a great dog bed – truly stylish! Well Archie thinks so…

Suzani Archie 006

Suzani comes from the Persian word for “needle,” and refers to embroidered hangings or fabric coverings of the nomadic tribes of Central Asia.
The birthplace of Suzanis was in what is now Uzbekistan, the area along the Silk Roads that interconnected the cultures of Europe, Turkey and China with the Muslim world. With the establishment of the Silk Road, the Suzani art flourished. In the 19th century, Uzbek women produced excellent embroidered hangings, table covers, bed covers, wrapping cloths, and prayer mats for their households and their daughters’ dowries.
Traditionally, the family and friends of a bride join together to help make the textile furnishings of her home. Traditionally, women did not create the design of the Suzani fabrics themselves. They would take the material to an elder in the village or tribe who would then draw the design on the fabric. Common motifs found in Suzanis are the tulip, teardrop (paisley) and sunburst.

These cushions have been made from vintage Suzani works on cotton fabric and featuring wool and cotton embroidery. The large square floor cushions are filled with 100% New Zealand wool batts and all covers have been dry-cleaned. Prices range from $95 – $180. Do enquire further if you are interested.

Suzani Archie 018
So heavenly that Archie has now gone to sleep….. Louise x


The World’s Best Rocking Horses….

Rocking Horse

We are delighted to welcome three very beautiful hand-crafted Relko Rocking Horses made by Angus Parker of Huntly, New Zealand.

Rocking Horses 005

These have been individually hand carved from the best laminated woods and have been made in England since 1975. They have been exported worldwide collecting awards for design and export achievement. They have also been universally accepted as the best rocking horses wordwide since 1977. The designers are now living in New Zealand and making them here.

Prices range from $3450 to $4232 Further details can be obtained by contacting our staff at Birdwoods Gallery.

Thinking about Rebuilding…..

 A heart warming story……










“Thinking About Rebuilding”

By Tendai Gwaravaza of Chitungwize Arts Community, Zimbabwe – For the People of Christchurch(Opalstone) $650

This is a very special piece of sculpture carved by one of our favourite artists, Tendai Gwaravaza.  We have known Tendai now for more than 5 years – not only is he a very talented sculptor, but also a kind, intelligent and honourable man. 

When we arrived in Zimbabwe in May this year and visited with Tendai, he explained he had carved this particular sculpture with “the people of Christchurch in my heart” and that he wanted to donate it to help raise funds for the rebuilding program. 

 You will see on one side of ‘Thinking About Rebuilding’ the echoes of the city’s strong buildings and on the other the collapsed shapes caused by the earthquakes. 

 Tendai said “I hope that Christchurch will rise again strongly from the damage and that their people know they are not alone – even in Zimbabwe we are thinking of them.”  The $650 from the sale of this sculpture will be donated to Christchurch’s Court Theatre rebuilding fund.

Tendai Gwaravaza is a highly respected sculptor at the Chitungwiza Arts Centre. Here is his biography, in his own words:

Tendai pictured with one of his sculptures at Chitungwiza Arts Centre in Zimbabwe – May 2011

“My birth in the summer of the year 1981 brought solace to my family. I am the oldest of 6 siblings and grew gracefully under the guidance of my grandmother. She was an amazing storyteller and potter. Many artists would gravitate to my village from time to time. A wood carver lived nearby, so did an influential blacksmith by the banks of the river. There was the love for art everywhere around me.  My father and great inspirational mentor, John Gwaravaza, introduced me to stone sculpting in 1995. We did portraits, busts, penguins and a wider variety of small animal sculptures. Throughout my protégé/mentorship period, I brought to life the art form I call “spiritual shadows” which marked the beginning of a new era for me. My sculpture portrays balance, proportion, colour and imagination and I am pleased to donate 10% of all my sales to charity.”

The Court Theatre in Christchurch reopened in its new premises last Saturday 10th December, 2011, in Addington within an old factory shed.  It took just 16 weeks to build a 400 seat theatre after a huge fund raising effort providing a much anticipated injection of entertainment, diversion and pleasure for the people of the City.

We at Birdwoods feel humbled by this gesture from a country and people that know suffering more than any should and are proud to be able to represent them with this effort and hope it won’t be long before we are able to send them a cheque from the stone sculptors of Chitungwize in Zimbabwe.

Until next time, from all of us at Birdwoods x

Binga Baskets…..

One of the most exciting things to unpack from our container this year was the collection of Binga Baskets which we bought from Binga Craft Community  who were showing their wares at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) which was on whilst we were back in Harare in April this year.  This is an inspiring and uplifting week celebrating African and international music, dance and theatre and is the largest music festival of its kind in southern Africa.

It was here in the crafts village that we met up with Matabbeki Mudenda who works with the Binga Craft Centre and was show casing the Binga basketry along with some of the women weavers.  This is where we purchased our beautiful baskets, having come eight hours from Binga on top of a bus.

The Tonga Tribe of people have not had it easy.  They were reluctantly relocated from the Zambezi Basin back in the 1960’s to the Binga area which is one of Zimbabwe’s most harsh and arid areas in the north of the country, to make way for the damming of the mighty Zambezi River which flooded the land where they had lived and fished for centuries. 

Lake Kariba was built to generate hydro-electric power for Zambia and Zimbabwe, and yet half a century later the Tonga people still do not have power or running water. However, the people here have a remarkable talent for basket weaving which has been handed down through the generations.  

The baskets require great skill in making and are mainly woven by the women using natural fibres from the Ilala palm leaves which are grown in the region and are also being planted by the women to sustain their demand.  The tree only generates from seed that has passed through an elephant’s digestive system so collecting them would be interesting.   Originally the baskets were used for winnowing grains and sorghum, but now much of the demand is from tourist centres such as Victoria Falls and South Africa with groups supporting and marketing the Binga Craft Centre to other parts of the world.

This wonderful image by international interior designer  Stephen Falcke shows how the baskets are used effectively in a contemporary interior setting, (although I could not find any credit given to the Binga Basket women on his website and this image opens his web page!)

In our own Birdwoods Gallery this weekend Julia Whyte and I  styled the centre table with the new arrivals and these are some of her images…

Do note the very beautiful collectable antique Kuba cloth  on the table which we recently purchased from Phillip Cook of Trout & Heather in the small rural town of Waipawa, which happens to be where the gallery building also comes from.  This shop is well worth a visit, a very extraordinary little shop on the main street that has trout fishing memorabilia, rare textiles, artifacts, antiques and books amongst other treasures.  Heather makes wonderful pole lathed spoons from wood, these too are in the shop.

All these baskets are for sale ranging in price from $49 to $449 – if you live near, do come in and see them, they are very special indeed.

The striking wooden bull and orxy heads come from the very stylish shop Kiki’s which is in a wonderful old colonial homestead in the Umwinsidale Hills just outside of Harare.  If you are in Harare – this is a must visit shopping experience.  It is owned by my gorgeous and talented friend Esther Ilsink who used to be neighbours of ours in our previous farming lives.

As always, at any hint of a camera Archie is keen to pose.  Our Archie is a complete natural!  Although he was unsure of sharing it with Invictus, the Zimbabwean springstone carving by Jaisi Muhomba.

Black Dog just relished the opportunity to jump on the chair, something she knows she is not allowed to do!

Talking of festivals, we have a busy week ahead, with four days at the Pukeora Festival in Central Hawke’s Bay selling sweets from the Birdwoods Sweet Shop.  This is a wonderful four days of art, craft and music and is well worth a day out as there is something for everyone and the view is spectacular.

Until next week, thank you for your reading time.

Louise and all at Birdwoods x

Peter vs. Louis Vuitton…

We have had fun this week.   Peter has given Louis Vuitton a run for their money in all his glory. Men have pretended to be hard at work digging and making plans and the weather has finally given us a taste of spring.

This is how the Gallery looked yesterday sporting a new black and white centre table on the back of last weeks blog.   Ostrich eggs taking centre stage at only $20 each and we have plenty of them.  They look just gorgeous stacked in a big bowl.

And here is our Man of the Moment – meet Peter the Nigerian, who is most definitely NOT for sale.  He was once, but we love him too much and we have such fun dressing him up!  This week he is sporting an Afrique Ostrich Feather lampshade for sale at $410.  A traditional North African camel hair rug  at $495 and Gucci sunglasses at $860 (not really, someone left them in the gallery).  However, of importance is the Maxwell Gochera ostrich sculpture, a one of a kind piece for $1100 which Peter is walking out with.

This is Max, he really is worthy of a blog of his own which I will do one day, but just thought I would give you a sneak preview.

So here is the Louis Vuitton (LVM for those in the know) New Bond Street Window in London sporting an ostrich look.  How up are we!  I have to think Peter was well ahead of LVM and who is that bald headed women ??

Now we can show off.  Take a look at our contribution to LVM window decorating.  Sorry the photo is not very good, but the girl who took this was accosted by LVM bodyguards as you are not allowed to take photos of their window displays.  This was in the spring of 2005 when Birdwoods showcased in all 80 of LVM shop windows around the world to help celebrate their 150th anniversary.  So we have been there, ostrich and all!

Back to Peter….  Is he not just the most handsome creature, apart from Archie of course?

From dudes to diggers…. the men started to come out and play with their toys as the first steps of the Conservatory started to happen this week.  Upgrading of the electricity equals trenches and mud but happy kitchen and gallery staff – no more tripped fuses!

Bryce from Contact Electrical (highly recommended), Gary Baines (our wonderful handyman) and Stu Bulled (Digger Man and Hannah’s Man) talking gum tree roots and trench depth.

Black Dog inspecting the layout of the new Terrace and wildflower arbor in the paddock.

The Workers!

Not that Archie considers himself a worker, but he was handy in the scoop!

Thank you to Julia Whyte of Diana Black Design for her photographs and gallery styling and for Louis Vuitton for their wonderful windows.

Until next week, thank you for your reading time.

From all of us at Birdwoods, Louise x

Kina, Happy Sheep and Conversational Table Mats….

This week we are delighted to feature Jenn Kight of Insight Design whose work we love selling in the Gallery.  Jenn hand crafts and designs functional art pieces using kina shells and sheeps wool from their farm in the Wairarapa.  She also has a clever and quirky hand-made (believe me I have seen her painstakingly make them) range of conversational table mats – do hop online and see her wide selection.     Her Kiwiana collection are top sellers and make a great gift perfect to get a dinner conversation going.

Akitio is a special part of New Zealand, situated right on the coast  in the Wairarapa  region, and is also home to Ed and Jenn Kight whose family have farmed Akitio Station for generations. 

The entrance to Akitio Station is impressive – constructed from railway tracking and made by Ricks Terstappen who lives just down the road from the Gallery.  Ricks is a well known sculptor whose work we love having in the sculpture garden.

 Ed and Jenn in farm mode.

Jenn scours the beach and reefs for kina shells (sea anenome) along the 19 km pristine coastal boundary, then after a lengthy and smelly process of cleaning and strengthening the kina, she sets about  creating candlesticks, paper-weights, photo-holders and fridge magnets.  They have to be one of natures perfect designs and are the most delicate sage green colour and really tactile too.

Kina shell lamp base and shade – $489 – One of my best buys – we have them as bedside lamps and I love them!

Kina name place/photograph holders – $12  to $25 each depending on size.  Excellent Christmas presents.

Kina Diamante Magnets – $10 each.

Candlesticks – $170 each – perfect with a big fat  National Candle atop – they don’t drip.

Akitio Sheep on the Beach!  How good does it get for them.

Sheep on the Sofa.  Two skin – $299 – Sorry sheep!

One can book accommodation down at Akitio – a wonderful getaway, no cell phone coverage, fabulously wild beaches and great walking.  We have done it and highly recommend it – just contact Ed and Jenn who are very hospitable and have a very comfortable and stylish house to rent.

Archie had a bath this morning, especially for this photo shoot – no smelly dogs on Jenn’s rugs!  Black Dog and Archie choose Akitio Sheep Skin rugs as their bed linen of choice. 

This is now my eighth blog posting and as promised I put you in the draw for a baby kiwi on my birthday which was last week …. and the winner was…… Mike and Melanie Lewis of Hawthorne House  It is worth having a good look at their website – really professional and full of useful information if you are a visitor.  A baby kiwi will be on the way to lend support to their lodge for all the visitors hopefully booked in for the Rugby World Cup!

Thank you for your reading time, until next week.

Louise and all at Birdwoods x

Design Threads from the Congo….

One of the interesting things we find when selecting treasures from Africa for our Gallery is the threads we find that link and influence communities and design trends. 

A point in question is that of the traditional raffia and cut pile Kuba cloths made by Congolese groups living in the Congo in Central Africa.  The symbols and designs are of an ancient African tradition of weaving that was once widespread across the whole of Central Africa and used to recognise clan ancestors in the land of the dead.  They were also woven by young woman to mark their marriage and departure from their family village, with the symbols on these cloths representing landmarks and features of their childhood village.

Kuba cloth has of late been making an appearance in some of the world’s top design stores and glossy magazines.  The following two images are of well known interior photographer Simon Upton’s own house where he uses Kuba cloth very effectively and liberally with the rooms having a strong African feel.  (Image courtesy of The World of Interiors by Simon Upton).

This next image shows contemporary and traditional decor in an interesting mix, with a Kuba cloth cushion sitting quite comfortably amongst both styles.  (Courtesy of Elle Magazine).

I buy Kuba cloth from a trader in the Congo, whom I meet annually in a decidedly dubious old colonial hotel of current disrepute in central Harare, from Eugene Nkonju, a French speaking national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Eugene is a trader in fabrics and masks, buying directly from the communities in his homeland and travelling through Africa selling to collectors like ourselves.

These images are of some of our own Kuba cloth purchased from Eugene that we have in the Gallery. It prices at $135 per metre and comes in various lengths.

Recently Julia Whyte our talented stylist came back from Wellington very excited to have found a couple of sample swatches of Kuba design prints from an international fabric house range.  You can see the similarities, however, this design copy (I wonder if the Kuba people were credited?) is selling for only $300 per metre!  This is why we love our authentic original pieces and value them for what they are but also recognise their stature in the wonderful world of design.

Finally as always, a priceless Archie dog acknowledging the design detail of our Kuba cushions! 

Until next week, thank you for your reading time.  Louise and all at Birdwoods Gallery x