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Stenogramma interruptum​ in linocut

Stenogramma interruptum​ in linocut

By Jane Groufsky and Dr Mike Wilcox
Wed, 22 Jun 2016

Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tāmaki Paenga Hira. AK221591.

A pressed seaweed specimen from Auckland Museum's Botany collection inspired two staff members in very different ways.

The seaweed specimen, Stenogramma interruptum, was collected from Tauranga Harbour by Mary Winton in 1994. 

Twenty years later it was photographed by Auckland Museum Honorary Research Associate Mike Wilcox who has been researching and collecting the seaweeds of the Auckland region for the past eight years. His photo of the specimen inspired Associate Curator Applied Arts and Design Jane Groufsky to create a textile design.

Seaweed photograph 

By Mike Wilcox

Stenogramma interruptum is one our most attractive larger red seaweeds. In Auckland it is commonly found washed ashore in the bays inside the Manukau Heads (Kaitarakihi, Huia, Orua Bay) and also on reefs at Cake Island, Wattle Bay, and Mako Point (Orua Bay/Big Bay). It is sometimes found growing on the turret shells (Maoricolpus) which inhabit the harbour's channels. It is dimorphic, the cystocarpic phase having the characteristic interrupted cystocarpic "veins", while the asexual tetrasporangial (diploid) phase is dotted with dark coloured sporangia.

The picture of the specimen (AK 221591) collected by Mary Winton was taken by me with the intention of including it in an article in Auckland Botanical Society Journal 70(1), 2015 about the algae recorded in the Tauranga Harbour during the Katikati Bioblitz (6-7 March 2015). However, the picture had to be omitted due to shortage of space.

Mary de Winton is a Freshwater Ecologist with NIWA, Hamilton, and would no doubt be delighted to know that her beautifully pressed specimen has ended up on a dress.

Seaweed dress

By Jane Groufsky

Jane Groufsky wearing the dress with a print based on Stenogramma interruptum.

I spotted a photo of the specimen when I was scrolling through the Auckland Museum Instagram feed one evening. I dabble in textile design, and I thought that its shape, colour and clear contrast would lend itself very well to a pattern. I simplified the form and scaled it down a little, then cut out some paper templates to get an idea of the spacing for the pattern repeat.

Our Applied Arts and Design collection contains some beautiful examples of handprinted textiles by New Zealand designers, including fabric printed in the 1950s by Blanche Wormald, as well as her original carved printing blocks.

Linocut used for printing.

These inspired me to try this design as a linocut – a fairly simple process which involves drawing out the design onto a piece of linoleum, then using a sharp tool to cut away around the shape. Sticky textile ink is applied to the lino using a roller, then placed face down on the fabric and pressed. There is variation in each print, which gives it a "handcrafted" look. I printed the cotton voile dress pieces after I had cut them out, then left the ink to "cure" for a week and sewed up the dress once fully dry. I was so pleased with the final result that I’ve been trawling through the images in our online collections database – there are plenty of wonderful specimens in our collection ripe for artistic interpretation.

  • Post by: Jane Groufsky and Dr Mike Wilcox

    Jane Groufsky is the Associate Curator Applied Arts & Design. She has an interest in printing and patternmaking techniques in textiles. Mike Wilcox is an Honorary Research Associate in the Botany Department. He specialises in seaweeds, and also has a wide interest in New Zealand plants, including Auckland’s urban trees.