• Amy Couling

Changing Threads 2021


Changing Threads 2021 opening night with Dad and Mum

The opening night of Changing Threads 2021 was on Friday 26 February and it was held at The Refinery Artspace in Nelson, New Zealand. We drove up to Nelson from Christchurch the day before, which took about seven hours via the inland route of the South Island.


SAN SEDAI (Three Generations) series

Changing Threads is a contemporary textile fibre art exhibition and awards held annually by Arts Council Nelson. They did a nationwide call out to artists, which I applied for this year with my SAN SEDAI (Three Generations) kimono series. They had over 150 entries this year, and I was one of 41 artists chosen for the finalist showcase.

Family photo in front of my work

All finalists were invited to the exhibition opening, and I was delighted to be able to go with my partner and family. My aunt lives in Nelson, so it was a wonderful chance to stay with her and attend the opening together. This was my first group exhibition outside of Christchurch and I was really excited about going and being a part of it.

My lovely Aunt and I

Every artist could enter up to three pieces for the show, which was the perfect number to enter all three of my SAN SEDAI kimono. I had to send digital and physical photos of my work to them and try to explain the concept of my work within 150 words (which was very hard to say the least!). Once all three pieces were chosen for the final showcase, I had to physically send my kimono pieces, kimono hangers and installation instructions to them.

I hadn’t yet been a part of an exhibition where I wasn’t installing my own work myself, so it was quite nice to have the installation part out of my hands. My Mum and I were a little worried beforehand that they might not display the kimono well despite my installation instructions, but we were pleasantly surprised when we turned up for the opening.

One of the organisers of the show had even gone to the trouble of inviting her Japanese friend in to check the kimono display before the opening to make sure it was correct, which I really appreciated. We even met her Japanese friend by pure coincidence earlier that day at a completely different venue!


The opening night at Refinery Artspace was jam packed with people and the atmosphere was buzzing. Our family friends who also lived in the area came out to see the show, which was really nice of them. Nelson has a long history in the arts and I loved seeing how appreciated and well funded the arts were there (much more so than Christchurch!).


I took the opportunity to wear kimono of course, aided by my Mum. We got a lot of compliments from different people for our kimono, at the opening itself and even on the street or waiting for our takeaway dinner afterwards! My Mum said it was the first time for her to wear kimono in a strictly non Japanese context, and it made her proud of her national garment to see such a warm reaction from people towards it. It made me proud too!


It was a lot of fun to wear kimono out with my Mum, despite it being a 25 degree summer’s day and even more swelteringly hot at the opening itself! The lovely yellow kimono I wore was a hōmongi kimono, which can be worn for semi formal occasions. The beautiful tsubaki (camellia) patterns were on the shoulder, sleeves and down the front. Mum and I chose the orange Nagoya obi and zōri (kimono sandals) to match the colours in the kimono.


Although I didn’t win any of the awards on the opening night, it was still a great experience and I congratulate the artists who did win!


The reality of being chosen to exhibit in a group exhibition though is that the artist still has to pay for everything. This included postage and return postage of works, paying for photos of my work to be printed, the exhibition fees for every piece of work shown and even paying for a copy of the exhibition catalogue that I was in. It did all add up and I probably spent up to $200 NZD in the end for all of those payments.



Lucky that we could still have exhibitions and openings that we could attend in person though, not like many parts of the world still in lockdown. Even two days after the opening night, Auckland had to go into Lockdown Level 3 again, while the rest of the country was put into Level 2. This was another close call of lockdown levels regarding my exhibitions but thankfully it could all go ahead without a hitch!

The Changing Threads 2021 exhibition is on from 26 February - 20 March.

For more information on Changing Threads 2021, visit their website here!


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