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Celebrating the perfectionism of a Napier celebrity spinner

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Within spinning circles, there is an unsung celebrity known for her spinning, weaving, and textile design. She is Beverley Gwynnyth Horne who was born to Mr. William and Gwenefrid Horne in 1936. 

Beverley lived most of her life here in Napier and became a school teacher who taught at Te Awa and Westshore Primaries as well as Napier Intermediate, before retiring in the 1980s.

She decided to give spinning a go after the mother of one of her students brought in a wheel and showed the class how to spin in 1967.  While her first attempt wasn’t very good, Beverley knew spinning was for her and within four years she was winning awards and representing New Zealand around the world.

Wall-hangings and tapestries made by Beverley were chosen to represent New Zealand at Expo ’70 in Osaka as well as the World Craft Fair in New York and the World Craft Council in Florence, Italy. 

These opportunities allowed her to travel around the world learning about methods and materials from countries such as Thailand, Japan, Hawaii, and Singapore.

 Eventually Beverley began to hand make entire outfits for competitions around New Zealand and Australia, hand-dyeing pieces using her own natural dyes made from vegetables.

 Beverley won many top prizes at A&P Shows around New Zealand and in 1971 she took the Gold Medal in the New Zealand Open Skein Competition at the Land and Industry Show in Whanganui.  She won two other awards at the same event that year: “Spin-on-the-Spot” and the “Best Spun Romney Wool” Awards.

 In February 1974, she received her International Woolmark License from the New Zealand Wool Board which meant she could officially use their logo on her garments to state that she used authentic wool.

 Prompted by the Spinners and Weavers Woolcraft Society, Beverley began writing a book named “Fleece in your Hands”. She received a Queen Elizabeth II Art Council Grant to achieve this and travelled the country to teach spinning and weaving workshops as a way to promote the book. The book contains over 20 different types of fleece and teaches you the different techniques in handling them.

 Beverley took home the top prize in the Home Journal Spinning and Weaving Section at the Auckland Easter Show three times between 1971 and 1974.

1978 marked the first year she won the New Zealand National Wool Festival Award; she would win it a further four times. The plaque she received for First Placing in Competition Garment Made from Coopworth Wool in 1989 is held in the Trust collection.

In her career, Beverley met many people; notably the wife of Kenneth Franzheim II, the then US Ambassador to New Zealand; Jorgina Franzheim and Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan. Jorgina was a guest judge in one of the competitions Beverley participated in and Whetu facilitated the display of Beverley’s work in the Parliament Building and later the display within Whetu’s own craft shop in Wellington. 

The New Zealand Wool Board as well as the Department of Internal Affairs frequently commissioned works from Beverley, using them to promote New Zealand and its wool industry. This included making a rug for the Wool Board made from the 1971-1972 Golden Fleece.

 In 1985, Beverley won the Woolrest Wool Design Awards for the first of many times. She participated in the Benson and Hedges Design Awards and the New Zealand Woolcraft Festival as well as winning the Royal Agricultural Society Wool Award at the National Wool Festival in Dunedin in 1989.

 Beverley herself attributed all her wins to her “perfectionism”. She made sure that every detail, inside and out, was perfect before entering it in any competition. Her hand-stitched linings are a testament to that.

 Within the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection are several pieces that were made by Beverley, including my personal favourite, a cream and grey cropped jacket and skirt with a matching swing coat and plum-coloured details. The lining is sewn in by hand and matches the details in colour. The silhouette is insanely 80s/early 90s with the double breasted, big shoulders look — but with that style coming back into contemporary trends, it could be worn today.

 The amount of work that Beverley put into her pieces is awe-inspiring, many of them woven from scratch and sewn by Beverley herself. Because of their workmanship and care, these works in the collection are in great shape, so much so that the pink Houndstooth cape has still kept its colour, and the purple skirt and coat combination with black pillbox hat is still as 80s as ever.

 Beverley Horne passed away in 1994 but her celebrity and perfectionism still inspire those of us who love to work with textiles today. Her story is in her work, and I hope that it will inspire many more to come.

 Published in the Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper on 12 November 2022 and written by Jackie Chapman, Customer Services at MTG Hawke’s Bay.

14 November 2022

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