Art imitates nature as well as it can — but there is also a lot of overlap between the two.
Just ask Five Forks artist Mary Monckton, who creates art using nature.
With a lush garden at her disposal, Mrs Monckton uses fallen leaves to dye fabrics and the sun to create cyanotype prints.
‘‘Use what you have and make what you can,’’ she said.
Mrs Monckton’s work was inspired by India Flint, who coined the term and wrote the first book on eucalyptographia — the process of dyeing with eucalyptus leaves.
Mrs Monckton used cyanotype printing — an early photography technique that uses the sun to dye fabric and paper — to create cards and little books among other items.
She met her English husband Brian in Zambia, where they were both working as teachers.
When they moved to Canada, Mrs Monckton’s home country, the couple looked for teaching work only to find many of the roles had been filled by Australians and New Zealanders after a teacher shortage.
Mr Monckton went to the New Zealand embassy to see if teachers were needed in New Zealand.
As it turned out, they were and by ‘‘serendipity’’, the couple moved to New Zealand almost 50 years ago with their son, before having four more in New Zealand.
Starting off in Blenheim, they moved to Northland, then South Taranaki — where Mrs Monckton did part-time teaching — before settling in Oamaru in 2002.
‘‘We lived in the four quarters of New Zealand.’’
Mr Monckton taught at Waitaki Boys’ High School for five years until retiring.
Moving to New Zealand was like a ‘‘breath of fresh air’’.
And there was no fresher air than that which moved within their tree-covered Five Forks property — some of which had been developed for Mrs Monckton’s eco dyeing, while the rest was already there.
Between flax, kowhai, oaks, sumac, gum trees, and other deciduous trees, her ingredients were right on her doorstep.
‘‘I like to keep it as natural as possible.
‘‘It’s not harmful to me, the people who use it, or the environment.’’
Summer and autumn was the best time to eco dye, and the more tannin her materials had the stronger the dye.
It was a thoughtful process of meeting fabric and plant materials.
Lain in a pattern on natural fabric, the two elements were tightly rolled around a copper pipe or fallen branch, and boiled to draw out the dyes.
It was recommended to let the concoction stand, but Mrs Monckton was usually too eager to see how her creation turned out.
With a preference for protein fabrics, such as silk and wool, she often used second-hand materials found in opshops — keeping the labels of the companies that mass-produced clothing.
‘‘They could end up in the rubbish and that’s dreadful.’’
By using second-hand clothing, she was ‘‘honouring’’ the hard work that had gone into creating it, not by the companies but the people who might not be paid as they should.
Mrs Monckton sold some of her work at The Oamaru Textile Emporium in Tyne St, and she participated in this year’s Meet the Maker for the first time, which was perfect because she loved showing her work and meeting new people.