The Beauty Knack
Nelson sculptor Christine Boswijk first learned about beauty in a series of draughty Methodist parsonages, where her mother would counter the effects of hand-me-down furniture and well-worn carpets by topping a chipped table with a bowl full of flowers.
Those childhood abodes belonged to the church - her father was a Methodist minister - and were home only until a new parish beckoned. Christine and her four siblings were accustomed to climbing into the ancient family car and setting off to another town. Within months of their arrival, the new house would sport a flourishing vegetable garden nurtured by their father and a garden full of flowers planted by their mother.
"She had a great knack of making things elegant when she did not have much," says Christine of her mother. "There were lots of rituals around how things were done and done with beauty. There was always a starched tablecloth, there was always fine china. She transcended the mundane."
The peripatetic parson's daughter now lives on land that has been in husband Patrick Maisey's family for four generations. "We have created this together," she says of the home she and Patrick have shared for 22 years. "He constructs things and I put the fine feathers in the nest."
Patrick hammered every nail in the house and adjacent work-shop, which is split in two to accommodate his cars, motorbikes and tools alongside Christine's ceramic studio. Some of the timber came from trees felled and milled on their 6.5ha property, which slopes down to Waimea Estuary half an hour out of Nelson city.
And, slowly, Christine has filled the house with beautiful things. "It's not about fashion or trend, or getting it right. It's about not having money all at once and doing things incrementally, on a shoestring. If you don't have money, you draw on creative resources. I've never been able to pick up the phone and just order things."
Instead, she has collected treasures abandoned on roadsides or from junk shops. Most of the tableware has been handmade by Christine or her daughter Kirsten. Almost all the art is by friends, usually swapped for her own pieces.
The dining table was made by a man who attended polytechnic night classes to build it, in exchange for one of her sculptures. Another table was once a pedestal base unearthed in a junk store. Patrick fashioned a new top from a $50 sheet of plywood.
Christine spent hours considering which fabric should adorn a favourite chair. "I thought, how can I make this chair into an object like a painting. When I took it to the upholsterer, his eyebrows went up into his head. I love just looking at it."
The house itself has grown and changed with the years. Rooms have been added, walls pushed out, an en suite tucked upstairs. Christine's three children from her first marriage were adults when she moved in with Patrick and began caring for his three young offspring. Now, there are four grandchildren who like to visit, as well as a fairly steady stream of unrelated guests.
This month she's hosting a charity lunch for 12 to raise money for a Christchurch children's home. She began preparing for her visitors in winter, nurturing seed potatoes in the warmth of her studio so they can dine on freshly dug new potatoes.
Sweet peas were planted early to please the diners' noses as they wander through the garden.
Christine has inherited her parents' green thumbs and produce from her fruit trees and vegetable plot feature at every meal. Kitchen shelves are lined with jars of relish and jam and bottles of home-made liqueur.
"And I grow a lot of things in my garden that my mother grew - that keeps her close to me. She loved flowers and loved using them. It's not replicating what she did but rather it's thinking of her hands doing things."
Raspberry, blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes offer outdoor reminders of Christine's father.
The garden has taken on added significance since a bout of meningococcal flu seriously damaged her hearing 15 years ago.
"When you lose one faculty you develop another and the garden is a great healer. It is very forgiving and responds to your touch. The more you put into it, the more you get back. I spend a lot of time away from noise, as much as I can. In the garden, it's just the birds and the growth. I feel very much part of this land."
In winter, snow caps the Mt Arthur mountain range to the west and Richmond Ranges to the east. This piece of land is Patrick's spiritual home, she says - hers too - and naturally the environment they adore creeps into the work Christine produces in her quiet waterside workshop.
She describes pulling her most recent works from the kiln and realising they looked as though she had "gone out to the estuary and scooped out a handful of that landscape and that view and shaped it into a form. Sculpture is a language I've developed for myself. It's a huge part of my sanity."For more images including web-exclusive images click on the "photo gallery" link above.