“I always start with the fabric. I feel it and look at it and drape it about to see how it behaves.” Susan Holmes

Working as a fabric artist since 1971, Susan Holmes is now most recognised for her contribution to the wearable arts, but her work has also spanned the fields of craft, fashion and fabric art, tracing the ever-changing key developments of these sectors in New Zealand. Constantly improvising and devising new techniques, over time she developed her own methods for treatments such as block printing, stencilling and spraying fabrics, along with dyeing and fabric manipulation, such as crinkle silk. An intuitive engagement with fabrics is the cornerstone to her creativity, with the material always influencing the design in many ways.  

Holmes has contributed to the arts and crafts sector as a tutor at a number of institutions and has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Her career encompasses various shows and competitions: notably she was the 1978 winner of the Fashion and Fantasy section of the Benson & Hedges Fashion Design Awards and the 1996 Supreme Award at the New Zealand Wearable Art Awards (now World of Wearable Art™) a show she has entered every year since 1988.

Objectspace’s Masters of Craft exhibition series celebrates the achievements of outstanding New Zealand practitioners working at the highest level in the fields of craft, design and the applied arts whose practice is distinctive, enduring, influential and redefining of tradition. Susan Holmes is arguably New Zealand’s most accomplished and acclaimed fabric artist.

Accompanying the exhibition is the book “Susan Holmes Fabric Artist” published by Bateman, and written by exhibition co-curator Cerys Dallaway-Davidson. The book brings her story to life, told through numerous fascinating images and an engaging, insightful narrative. It explores the creative impetus which propelled Holmes into fabric design and features contemporary and historic photographs of her work.  

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Cerys Dallaway-Davidson is a Collection Manager at Auckland War Memorial Museum. She was a trustee of the New Zealand Fashion Museum (NZFM) and has worked in various roles across the museum and arts sector. She has contributed to a number of projects and publications throughout her career, ranging from the curation of magazine spreads, the development of the 2012 Directory of New Zealand Museums and Galleries, and research assistance and writing for the NZFM exhibitions Home Sewn and Age of Aquarius: a 1970s revolution in fashion. Dallaway-Davidson has co-curated Susan Holmes: Fabric Artist for Objectspace with Doris de Pont, curator and founder of the New Zealand Fashion Museum. 

Susan Holmes, Kimono jacket and trousers with bird print, 1970s. Image courtesy of New Zealand Fashion Museum. Garment courtesy of Liz Powell.

Susan Holmes, Printed silk shirt, 1970s. Image courtesy of New Zealand Fashion Museum. Garment courtesy Aorewa McLeod.