If you ask Tracey Vickers to choose her favourite Janet Frame artwork, it’s like asking a mother to choose her favourite child.
“Every single one I finished, I think that’s my favourite,” she said.
The North Otago artist was commissioned to complete four artworks by the Janet Frame Eden Street Trust and she presented them earlier this month.
The artworks will be used for notecards and bookmarks, which will be sold as merchandise to raise funds for maintenance of 56 Eden St, where the celebrated author spent her childhood.
Trust chairwoman Chloe Searle said she was “blown away” by the artwork.
“She’s really captured, I think, the spirit of the property at 56 Eden Street,” Ms Searle said.
“We were really fortunate. We’ve wanted to do some merchandise for the house for a while, because it’s a good way of fundraising for the property,” she said.
Mrs Vickers began the project about three months ago, with a tour of the home with Ms Searle, who described “all the little things of significance”.
“[One] of the things she mentioned was the Singer sewing machine. It sits underneath one of the windows in the dining room, and so Janet’s mother would actually stand by the Singer sewing machine.
“From what I’ve gathered from my research, she would talk about the waxeye birds. And then the coal range was the other one, where Janet would sit curled up.”
Mrs Vickers then read some of Frame’s autobiographies.
“The autobiography I read, which really did connect me with the house and Janet Frame’s childhood, was her To The Is-Land. That one was really quite helpful, describing the accounts from her childhood.
“I just became totally immersed in Janet Frame, and just trying to make the connections between the house and what she’s written in her book. My imagination grew by reading her books.”
The artworks are created using black-ink pen, Mrs Vickers’ favourite medium, on a fine cotton rag paper.
“My work, I’ve kind of developed it over the past few years, but it’s about mark making and using a combination of lines and hatching and dots.
“I like to render close to the lithography, like you see in 19th-century books. They’re black-and-white illustrative works.”
The four artworks are of the coal range where Frame would curl up and read beside, the Singer sewing machine, the street front of the house, and a cabbage tree with waxeyes.
The coal range picture holds special significance for Mrs Vickers, as it has a hidden reference to her grandmother, who was a big Janet Frame fan.
“I never would have thought, you know back when my nana was talking about Janet Frame, that I would actually be doing something for Janet Frame. So it’s quite special.
“I had a little 1950s-style teacup that belonged to my nana, so I snuck it in there.”
Waxeye birds also feature prominently in Mrs Vickers’ works, and she has integrated quotes from Frame’s writing in the works.
“Just to give that extra link to the image,” she said.
Ms Searle said they were grateful for permission from the Janet Frame Literary Estate and her niece, Pamela Gordon, to use the text.
Mrs Vickers said she thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating the works, and it was quite emotional for her.
“I feel so happy that I’ve done it. It’s a bit of an accomplishment for me, and my sister said, that with nana, that she would be so proud.”