Teacher’s wearable art wows judges

Design dream . . . World of WearableArt designer Ruth Arkless, of Waldronville, is proud her garment has been selected for exhibition in the National Wow Museum. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A Dunedin teacher is at a career crossroads as a garment she designed has been selected for exhibition in a national museum.

Kaikorai Valley College science teacher Ruth Arkless, of Waldronville, said she loved science and being a teacher “but art has always been there going ‘come on’ and wanting me to be more creative”.

“It’s taken me a long time but I finally did it.”

She had wanted to enter international design competition World of WearableArt (Wow) since the early 1990s.

She believed the dream was out of her reach until she went on a girls’ trip to Wellington for her 40th birthday about three years ago.

“I saw the Wow show for the first time and I just loved it. Ever since that show, I’ve entered a piece.”

She got her first garment accepted into the competition this year.

The piece called was one of 141 pieces – created by 147 designers – to feature in 14 shows in Wellington from September 27 to October 14.

About 60,000 people attended the shows.

A feature of her garment was a folding hexaflexagon panels that fold and flip to reveal different needle-felted images of diatoms – single-celled algae – as viewed under a microscope.

She made her garment from fabric, foam, plastic, glass, wool and LED lights.

The first time she saw her work on stage was the dress rehearsal show. “I almost threw up the first time I saw the show – I was so nervous.”

Enduring the “build-up of anxiety and adrenaline” was worth it.

“To see it on stage was amazing.”

The finalists attended a range of seminars including a workshop on how to work with leather by Weta Workshop.

“It was the best workshop I’ve been to because everybody took it to the next level.”

She also attended the “phenomenal” awards show and sat near the front of the stage, surrounded by fellow designers.

“Everyone around you has a piece in the show so it’s really exciting.”

The winner of her section “under the microscope” was the piece Ernst Haeckel’s Bride by designer Nika Danielska, of Poland. Despite missing out on a win, she called the experience her “change of life project”.

“I have to decide what to do next year – go into design or stay a teacher.”

She was in her eighth year as a science teacher at Kaikorai Valley College, but would not return next year as her family was moving to Cromwell where her husband was to start a new job.

She was investigating studying design extramurally.

Last week, she received the “exciting” news of her garment being selected for exhibition in The National Wow Museum in Nelson.

When she read the email from Wow she fist-pumped the air and screamed with joy.

She had four designs “in my brain” for future Wow pieces and was looking forward to the challenge of creating one of them to enter next year.