RIP: Avis Higgs (1918-2016)

One of our former members died last Friday just after her 98th birthday.  Her funeral will be at Old St Pauls on Tuesday 1st November at 2pm.

Avis Higgs was a renowned textile designer, and an active member of the Centre with her husband Jock Beere, and, of course, many of you will know her daughter Marguerite, one of our members.  I first heard of Avis when I worked with Douglas lloyd Jenkins who curated an exhibition of her work.  I remember reading in the exhibition catalogue that as a student at Wellington Technical College Avis would draw Te Hau ki Turanga at the Dominion Museum and the wharenui’s carvings influenced motif in some of her textile design work.  Marguerite has emailed some words about her mother and father and the Architectural Centre which are below. Thanks for these Marguerite and be assured that our love and thoughts are with you.

“On coming back to NZ from Britain by ship, Avis met my father, Jock Beere. Avis was recovering from a car accident with a leg in plaster, her textile career in limbo. Jock had accepted a job in NZ to please his mother.  Both Avis and Jock were reluctantly returning to New Zealand from interesting work and prospects in England.

They met again when Avis exhibited at the Architectural Centre Gallery and their romance took off. Neither of them had expected much of Wellington, but it had changed since they had been away with the Architectural Centre and its gallery a focal point. Jock also found it very stimulating in the 1950s and 60s at the Ministry of Works under Gordon Wilson and working alongside emigres from Europe.

Architectural Centre slide evenings and parties were held at Avis and Jock’s home at 40 Grant Road regularly during the next couple of decades.  We now live in this house which as an arts and crafts house was seen as old fashioned by many Arch Centre members, but had enough space for larger parties than the modern houses being designed by architects at the time, which were limited in size by building regulations.

Avis was an active member of Wellington’s artist community up to the early 2000s.  Her earlier body of modernist textile design work is a key component of the MTG Hawkes Bay collection in Napier and she has been described by the Australian Ministry of Culture as one of the most important Australian designers of the 20th Century together with others including Walter Burley Griffin, Florence Broadhurst, Fred Ward, Marion Hall Best and Grant Featherston.”

Avis Higgs:

Raising a glass with Avis Higgs:

A 92-year-old fashion rock star:

Dress made from Avis Higgs fabric, 1945:


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