In 1973 my mother, Beatrice Cross, subdivided the family property, thereby creating space to build a new house: her brief to architect Geoff Richards; a pavilion for old age. The flooring was white ceramic tiles. The walls painted black, the doors oases of glowing colour. She needed rugs for her bare floors. Looking at a plan of a Frank Lloyd Wright house she decided to base a first rug on the floor plan of her own new house. And having produced this first one she then enthusiastically embarked on 25 years of rag rug making, incidentally redefining the art of the rag rug, taking it out of it's homely, crafty origins and repositioning it firmly in the field of contemporary art.
Her mother had also made rag rugs but her motivation was less creative satisfaction, more a lifetime of waste-not, want-not. The family owned a fashion boutique in Queen Street so there were lots of off-cuts for Grandma to make into rugs and she did; Beatrice providing designs which her mother faultlessly executed. The shop closed in 1960, my father died in 1963 but Beatrice continued to work in the fashion industry until her retirement in 1980. Now she haunted the op-shops, searching for woollen fabrics in an orchestra of colours...and always her beloved black.
She mapped out the designs for her rugs but these were not immovable and would flow and wander as she worked her way intuitively through. She saw them more as paintings, although she was limited by restrictions of colour and quantity which painters are not subject to but she reveled in these restrictions, they forced her into new solutions and innovative ways of working.
Because she rarely had access to large amounts of single colours or fabrics she developed a method of colour rotation whereby she would blend a repeating series of colours across a surface. She was endlessly patient, reworking areas time after time until she was content.
She held several exhibitions at Compendium Gallery, had a major exhibition at the Dowse Gallery in the early nineties and one at the Auckland Museum in 1999. Both The Dowse and The Museum retain examples of her work in their permanent collections. Beatrice died in October 2007 aged 91.
- Jane Cross