Last year my partner and I spent five weeks travelling in Europe. Our last port of call was the home of good friends in Amsterdam. Throughout our trip, I had carried a large book about New Zealand’s landscape, art and culture to leave with them. It took up a lot of room in my suitcase and it was very heavy, so it was something of a relief to finally offload it. Lesson learned! Next time I want to show off our beautiful country I’ll choose as lighter and smaller gift. There are plenty to choose from:
Your own photographs
Light as a feather and a really personal gift. Carry your camera, iPhone or iPad with you when you travel around New Zealand and take snapshots of favourite places and events. Select some and have them printed off. It doesn’t matter if they are not perfect shots; your friends will appreciate the trouble you went to and enjoy the stories you can tell about them. If you are computer savvy, you could also create a small photo book.
My sister-in-law had a brilliant idea for a photo series. She was visiting an expatriate kiwi who had fond memories of growing up in Northcote, Auckland. My sister-in-law took some photographs of her friend’s childhood home and surroundings so that her friend could see what is still standing and what has changed.
Postcards and calendars
Choose postcards or calendars that have a special significance for you such as places you’ve loved and visited. Those are the ones that will make a good talking point.
My elderly aunt in Holland loved receiving tea towels with New Zealand birds and flowers. Yes there are plenty of tacky ones around but there are also some lovely screen printed linen ones available in art galleries, museum shops, and craft markets.
Books created by New Zealand photographers
If you would rather present some photographs taken by a professional photographer, find a photobook that resonates with you,
Recently out is The Real New Zealand by Fay Looney, a well-known New Zealand photographer. You may have seen her iconic pohutakawa image at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Aged 74, Fay still has the passion to get up early and to greet New Zealand as the sun rises, a perfect time to capture some glorious moments.
Follow her on her journey from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island and view her iconic landscapes as well as pictures of local events and landmarks. I loved her photos of Otorohanga’s shiny kiwi sculpture, rowers sharing the dawn light on Wellington harbour, and the Te Kuiti District Pipe Band leading the Running of the Sheep parade.
Measuring just 18cm by 18 cm and weighing in at 185 gm, it’s small and light enough to easily carry one or more copies with you.
Title: The Real New Zealand. Author: Fay Looney. Publisher: New Holland. RRP $19.95
Paperback versions of New Zealand art books
There are many New Zealand art books that are not too big and heavy to put in your suitcase.
New Zealand in Watercolour has recently come out in paperback format. This book contains paintings of New Zealand landscapes, people, and scenes from daily life and would make a charming gift.
Thirty of the country’s leading water colour artists have each contributed 4 or 5 paintings, along with a brief story about their artworks, what inspired them, and the techniques they used. The book provides a biography and photograph of each artist.
Some of the paintings I particularly liked were:
Ben Ho’s Fishing, painted from memory, which will always remind him of days spent onboard fishing with his friends.
Warwick Russell’s The Brookby Blue Gum, Auckland, which he painted in great haste as many sand flies helped themselves to his bare legs as he sat on his farm bike.
Bernadette Parson’s Glenorchy, Central Otago, which she painted very quickly one evening while their dinner cooked in the campervan.
Brian Millard’s Mt Earnslaw and Turret Peak, Otago, a winter’s scene in which he captures the grandeur of the mountains.
Wendy Master’s Waihi Picnic, Coromandel showing a family picnicking in the reserve under the shade of a pohutakawa tree.
Nancy Tichborne’s Nikau in Flower, West Coast. When her West Coast friends informed her of its imminent flowering, Nancy and her partner dropped everything and drove across the South Island so Nancy could capture their coral like beauty.
Title: New Zealand in Watercolour. Author: Denis Robinson. Publisher: New Holland, RRP $49.99