Building Block – Paintings by Courtney Harper

Panel Dress

Meet Courtney Harper. A familiar face to our Auckland community, you may have met her when visiting our Newmarket Store. When Courtney's not in the store, she is in her light-filled home studio painting. During the temporary closure of our stores, Courtney used her time as an opportunity to create a series of still life paintings centred around our new Building Block collection. Using natural pigments and recycled materials, Courtney’s paintings speak to the organic cotton that is at the heart of our Building Blocks, and their ability to circulate back into nature without a trace. Explore the series, and learn more about Courtney and the project below.

Could you tell us a little bit about how and when you started painting?

I loved to paint when I was younger, but it became tainted as a school subject and the expectations that went with that. So, I taught myself to make clothes, which became something I enjoyed exploring and developing myself. Down the track, studying fashion design ultimately led me to incorporate my love for painting. I realised, due to its functional nature, the ideas and narratives I wanted to explore were difficult to do so in the form of clothing. I explored other interests suchs as textiles, and the materials used to make things: stitching, dyes, pigments. I began to move between making garments and pictures – both made of pigments and textiles in different forms – it made sense that they were connected.

Have you always used natural paints & recycled materials to create your works? Why do you choose to use these materials over others?

The more I made things the more questions I had about the materials I was using and their own lifecycle. This eventually led me to completing my Masters in Fashion & Sustainability where I focused on the potential impacts of materials on environmental and human health. My approach to materiality is a balance between the natural materials I'm inspired by and my motivation for repurposing discarded materials and reducing the impacts of waste. These materials are simple and uncomplicated, and they leave me feeling more connected with what I make. They make me aware of the interconnectedness of everything, and that all ‘things’ have value, vitality and potential to be transformed into something new, as opposed to being discarded.

Square Neck Top, Breton Sweater

Volume Dress

Could you tell us a bit about your process & the space that you are working from?

My process involves collecting, repurposing, stitching, and painting, with my own interpretation of traditional crafts. I share a space with my partner Joe who makes music. We are very different and work really differently, so it's nice bouncing off each other. The space is very light with high ceilings and white walls. We generally base ourselves in the studio but use the rest of our home too.

Courtney Harper

Your paintings seem to largely focus on people & spaces, but with this series your subject matter was garments. Did you enjoy this shift in subject matter?

I enjoyed the challenge of imagining the garments in different scenarios as I didn't have them physically in front of me. I couldn't see how they felt, folded, or bounced light so that stretched my imagination. I think my close relationship with fabric and construction was helpful.

Balloon Tee – Meadow Print (Coming Soon)

Funnel Neck Dress

You really captured the quality of our garments so well. They seem to fit seamlessly into your painting style, is this how you felt when you were painting?

Yes, I think because I often consider the tones, drape, and construction of garments closely it felt very natural to me. There are parallels between the natural pigments and earthy tones found in my paintings and the collection, as well as the appreciation of simplicity and details in how garments move and interact with surroundings, for example draped over a chair or bed, flying in the wind, or laying on the grass.

What are some of the ways that you have kept inspired during this time?

I've found the experience itself inspiring as I've been able to stop and hear myself and see dots connect. Just paying attention to little things is enough. When you pay attention to the little things, your day becomes very full. Walking, drawing, cooking, painting, they're all forms of reflecting and processing. I’ve enjoyed being shut off from everything and free of distractions, having uninterrupted thoughts and ideas. It's a rare opportunity to have space carved out for you, as opposed to having to carve it out yourself.

Funnel Neck Top