NZFP's gift voucher research results

When a newly married couple who had been given two $200 gift vouchers for their wedding present visited NZ Fine Prints to redeem their vouchers they happened to casually ask Ben what was the most common voucher value that we sold for wedding presents. It wasn't a statistic that we actively measured and it sparked a debate as to whether customers purchased vouchers of different amounts for different occasions - and what was the average value of the gift vouchers we sold anyway?

NZ Prints Gift Voucher
Customers have been able to buy email gift vouchers (pictured at left) through since the mid 1990s and traditional postal gift vouchers have been sold by NZ Fine Prints for longer than anyone working here now can remember (given that prints are the perfect arty gifts from NZ we have been delivering the physical prints as gifts since the 1960s).

It didn't take us long to realise that it was impossible to determine what gift occasion the vouchers were being purchased for - we might have been able to work this out for each separate voucher by analysing the messages sent to the gift recipient but A) We don't retain the gift message on file and B) this wasn't appropriate privacy wise as the information would not be collected for this particular purpose!

However we have worked out our most commonly given gift voucher/certificate is for $100 (although Stats 101 is a long a time ago for this writer we think this number is called the mode). The average amount over the last ten years has been a gift of just over $80, although we can see trend for higher value vouchers over this time - probably simply due to inflation or perhaps the higher value of prints that we now stock (our average sale amount has actually trebled over the past ten years). We sell the most gift vouchers in the two months leading up to Xmas, however January is also the season for weddings in NZ so the month after Xmas is also pretty close to pre-Xmas levels. As an aside paper is the traditional first wedding anniversary gift - something that we are yet to work out a good marketing campaign around (and we have been thinking about this gift buying occasion for years) but many newly weds are already aware of this tradition without our help! We think the neat thing about the couple's choosing a print as their first anniversary gift is that it is a purchase that can be made for both of them and the decision made together, it's an present they can choose together and give it to themselves so they can both enjoy it equally...

There is an almost even split between vouchers being delivered via email and by post. In fact over 2011 we have delivered around 60 postal gift vouchers for every 40 email ones, it seems an email voucher is great when you have left buying the gift to the last minute but a physical voucher through the mail (or at the presentation) is simply a more tangible gift.

And the answer to the question that we asked most often by people buying gift vouchers....the average time from delivery to redemption is just 15 days!

The annual Xmas gift-wrap debate at NZ Prints

The tyranny of choice...
Behind the scenes in late October one of the most important aesthetic decisions of the year takes place at NZ Fine Prints. Yes, we have to choose the colour of the gift-wrap that we are going to use for Christmas!  Our gift-wrap requirements are pretty special, it has to be light (because of the cost of delivering by airmail around the world when we are charged by weight), acid free (so it does not affect the paper the prints are printed on) and suit the festive occasion for which the buyer is giving.

This decision always creates a surprising amount of heat around the office.  In the conservative corner there are strong voices supporting green and red to be used as "traditional Xmas colours", the libertarians want the gift purchaser to choose at checkout time and the warehouse manager wants blue because it is his favourite colour! 

We also were faced with finding a new supplier for our gift wrap this Xmas season because the earthquakes in Christchurch closed down our normal source.   Thanks to the delightfully named "Gold Wing" packaging wholesalers in Auckland (with the rather charming company motto: "They are like trees growing beside a stream, trees that produce fruit in season") we have our 48 boxes of Christmas wrap on the courier to us today. And this Xmas gifts will be wrapped in …. gold!

List of sold out Tony Ogle editions since 2000

With an output of only 3-5 handmade editions annually Tony has not been very prolific despite a career spanning 30 years so far. We get lots of enquiries about whether particular Tony Ogle prints that no longer appear in Tony's collection at are still available.  Usually these are the result of people ogling (hee hee) a print they have seen that they would like to buy for themselves.  Unfortunately the answer is always no, because once an edition has sold out Tony never does another edition of the same print. Below is a summary for collectors by year of Tony's sold out editions from the last decade - it is safe to assume all prints dated before 2000 are sold out. 

Fisherman's Cove

Crimson Ridge
Matapouri Bach

Back Beach Bach
Days End

Cathedral Cove Reserve

Whale Bay Raglan
Red Couch' - Whangapoua Beach

First Sight - Pohutukawa Point
Hahei Hideaway
Days End Te Henga
Kauwahaia Island & Erangi Pt O'Neills

Rawhiti Coastline
Cabbage Trees - Waewaetoria Island
Hahei Pa & Islands

Heaphy Track Nikau
Surf Check - Hot Water Beach
Ihumoana Island - Te Henga
Back to the Bach

Great Barrier Summer
Century Agave
Piha Sunset

"Okiwi Crossing" Printmaker: Tony Ogle 600 x 360mm
All prints currently available from this talented NZ printmaker (including his latest releases in 2011) are listed in the Tony Ogle collection at NZ's specialist art print store.  The next edition to sell out will almost definitely be "Okiwi Crossing" (shown here), we have only two A/Ps (the rare artist proofs) left in stock today.

Robyn Kahukiwa receives Maori Arts Board award

Robyn Kahukiwa
The Māori Arts Board of Creative New Zealand holds the eponymous Te Waka Toi awards ceremony at Wellington Town Hall each year.

Last Saturday 3 September 2011 painter and printmaker Robyn Kahukiwa was awarded the prestigious Te Tohu Toi Ke award (the award for making a difference) for "challenging and broadening perceptions of Maori art". Her official citation lauded her 30 year career "challenging and broadening perceptions of Maori art" through the "creative innovation and international profiling of contemporary Maori art and issues ".  It's a recognition of Robyn's contribution to Maori art and New Zealand art generally and all of us here at New Zealand Fine Prints would like to congratulate her on this honour.

According to the annual Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi Awards are the only national Maori arts awards to celebrate all art forms. Established in 1986, they recognise achievement in areas including writing, composition, oratory, performing, object and visual arts. Two scholarships are also awarded to emerging artists.

Te Waka Toi is the Māori Arts Board of Creative New Zealand. We read with some amusement on the Creative NZ website that the Maori Arts Board claim to be responsible for the "development of Māori art and artists in New Zealand" - apparently through its role in "investing in contestable funding" developing "initiatives" and the delivery of "tailored programmes".  We thought that the people responsible for the ongoing development of Maori art and artists in New Zealand were the collectors who purchased their artworks enabling them to keep being creative...

Landscape to Kiwiana - 50 years of print publishing in NZ

New Zealand Fine Prints have been at the forefront of shaping NZ's visual culture since the 1960s.  Fifty years ago buying prints in NZ meant choosing between imported images of famous paintings like Rembrandt's "Night Watch" or framing one of the occasional colour supplements from the NZ Weekly News.

Prints by early NZ landscape painter Charles Heaphy were popular
decoration in the mid twentieth century
In the 1960s the growing appreciation of New Zealand art led to both the opening of dealer galleries and a desire to look back at how painting had developed in New Zealand. Writers such as Tony Murray-Olliver were beginning to compile biographies of significant early NZ artists and the reproduction of prints of the most important paintings he unearthed were issued by the Alexander Turnbull Library - beginning with the so-called "Queen's Pictures" (a set was given to the Queen), the Heaphy views of Wellington and Nelson Haven.  Avon Fine Prints began re-issuing limited edition prints of the early views of settlement by artists like Barraud, O'Brien and Earle that had been used by the colonising companies to advertise to new settlers the delights of new towns such as Dunedin and Christchurch

New Zealanders began to decorate with landscape art that deepened their affinity with the land in which we lived and enjoyed looking back to our comparatively recent pictorial history with historical prints that showed the early days of settlement.  The 1980s saw art publishing companies such as the Capper Press produce the first series of avowedly contemporary prints in consultation with the new breed of gallery curators, prints by artists such as Gordon Walters, Peter Siddell and Gretchen Albrecht sitting alongside the early NZ landscapes in their catalogues. For the first time commercial galleries such as the Peter Small Gallery (who were printing all those wizard infested Lord of the Rings posters under license) began producing contemporary decorative prints by NZ artists - the Jane Evans series proving particularly popular.

C.F. Goldie published prints
of "A Good Joke" in the 1920s
but it wasn't until the 1970s that
self-publishing by NZ artists
took off.

It was in the late 70s and early 80s that artists for the first time began self-publishing reproduction prints of their work (C.F. Goldie's 1920s hand-signed prints of A Good Joke shown here being a notable exception). Grahame SydneyBrent Wong and Peter Beadle sold thousands of prints and NZ Fine Prints began distributing prints on behalf of these artists as well as our own published prints (under the Avon Fine Prints and Capper Press monikers).  Dunedin Public Art Gallery, the Hocken Library and Christchurch Art Gallery joined the Alexander Turnbull Library in publishing several series of prints of artworks from their collections alongside the exhibition posters that were for many years often the only examples of an artist's work available as a print.  (It was around this time that the Christchurch Art Gallery sold over 3000 copies of a Colin McCahon retrospective exhibition poster showing "Tomorrow will be the Same" despite its shocking pink border).

NZ Fine Prints' stockroom in the mid 1990s
By the late 1990s NZ Fine Prints were receiving artist submissions of new work on a weekly basis, by the early 2000s changes in printing technology and the distribution of framed pictures with NZ scenes by contract artists began changing the market again as picture framers and galleries began losing market share to the new breed of design stores and furniture outlets - and to the internet as meant print buyers could easily buy their art prints directly from New Zealand Fine Prints and have them delivered wherever they were in NZ or around the world.

Kiwiana art from Matt Guild
The last few years has seen an increase in the supply of prints at both the top end (handmade editions by artists such as Tony Ogle and Dick Frizzell and large high quality prints on canvas) and in the swift rise of a new category of "kiwiana" - prints as pictures rather than "art", even comprising simple typography and kiwi images that closely imitated current artistic trends and with a fashion forward seasonal popularity that is a long way from enduring fine art but which fits with a trend to more frequent updates to contemporary interior design.  Artists such as Matt Guild whose work "Hamilton Beach Milkshake" is shown at left proudly call themselves  "kiwiana artists" without the negative associations that this term might once have had (see our previous article here on the changing meaning of kiwiana).

The story of the next decade of art publishing in NZ will be about changes in printing technology increasing the supply of available images, the re-sale of quality works by contemporary printmakers at increasingly higher prices and a more urban feel to contemporary artworks - prints that will still sit alongside the NZ landscapes empty of people that have been in vogue for the last half century.

"Rita and Douglas" at the Christchurch Arts Festival

Jennifer Ward-Lealand stars as painter Rita Angus in "Rita And Douglas"

The story of the relationship between painter Rita Angus and composer Douglas Lilburn presented the audience at the Rudolf Steiner School auditorium last night with the delight of seeing the superbly cast Jennifer Ward-Lealand working flawlessly with the effortlessly sophisticated pianist Michael Houston as they balanced beautifully a two handed piece of contemporary NZ theatre. What a treat to see these two on stage together. 

However the enjoyment of watching two extremely talented performers wring the most out of their material was  tempered by writer Dave Armstrong's sole reliance on Lilburn's meandering music to respond to Angus's paintings and her words written in letters to Lilburn.  This meant the audience were unable to gauge the true nature of the relationship at the core of "Rita and Douglas" - was the depth of feeling that Angus had for Lilburn being reciprocated, tolerated or rejected? Without knowing where the writer placed the artist-composer relationship on the continuum that stretches from Angus being the one night stand of twenty years before that kept coming back to haunt Lilburn or the long distance soul mate of an equally introspective and self-obsessed composer the play was difficult to enjoy.

What was easy to enjoy were the superb costumes designed by Nic Smellie that were made by Sheila Horton and Elizabeth Gibbons with the assistance of textile artist James Flynn from the Bowerman School of Design.  With Angus's unflinchingly honest self-portraits creating a vivid picture how we imagine the painter in our mind's eye (like Picasso in his Breton stripes) to see famous ensembles such as what Rita is wearing in her "Self Portrait Smoking" so faithfully recreated was an unexpected delight.

Thanks to the support of the Estate of Rita Angus we were treated to watching a large number of paintings projected behind the performers, at one point the projector wildly bounced around as a 4.0 earthquake rocked the auditorium but neither performer reacted to the 15 second shake in a display of pure professionalism.  The paintings of Rita Angus are always enjoyable to see but the occasional recycling of some landscape images was disconcerting as unless it was a portrait of Angus or Lilburn crucial to the unfolding tale of their relationship there didn't always seem to be a connection between the repeated paintings with the recitation by Ward-Lealand of a particular passage from one Angus's letters.
No-one who appreciates the contribution of Rita Angus to the visual arts of New Zealand or who admires the work of Douglas Lilburn is going to be disappointed by "Rita and Douglas" but perhaps writer Dave Armstrong's affinity and admiration for what he calls "two of this country's greatest artists" meant he created a piece of theatre that an ardent fan would enjoy rather than working the material into a play that despite the richness of subject and talent was just a little too earnest (and even with the enlivening earthquake) a little too soporific as well. 

Favourite part of the play for this reviewer? When Angus writes that there is no way that Lilburn will ever be allowed to buy "Cass" and other of her favourite paintings from her - and that perhaps there will be prints available one day that he could purchase instead!