Artist's house a colourful picture

Artist Janet de Wagt beneath the upside-down dinner setting in her lounge. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Artist Janet de Wagt beneath the upside-down dinner setting in her lounge. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Plastic is fantastic in the world of Dunedin artist Janet de Wagt.

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Her St Kilda home is a salute to plastic and other maligned and misunderstood products from the past.

"I'm a working artist and the house is a continuation of my artwork. It's about celebrating diversity," Ms de Wagt said this week.

"I like the social history and commentary of plastic. It's seen as so awful, but plastic actually started way back in the 1890s. The word 'plastic' comes from the Greek 'to mould'."

Even her dog hasn't escaped her plastic obsession, given the moniker "Formica".

The Bathgate School artist-in-residence bought the 1902 Cashel St house when she returned to Dunedin from England 15 years ago.

"I came back with 54 tea chests full of toys, which I had to find a place for somewhere."

A motif of colourful tikis covers the front of the house and plastic pigeons feed on the roof.

An oven serves as the letterbox, set in a fence teeming with pixies, elves and fairies.

"They're the height of kids, so they can see them when they're going past in their pushchairs," Ms de Wagt said.

A red telephone box serves as a garden shed and a pink freezer is her coal bin.

Indoors, fish jostle for wall space with flying ducks, teaspoons, car numberplates and badges. One wall is covered in old copper art.

Glass sheets are fitted into the floor, showcasing collections of toys and curios from yesteryear.

"I have a lot of things under glass, so you don't have to dust them."

The piece de resistance is possibly an inverted dinner table, complete with plastic food, which is suspended from the lounge ceiling. An antique cash register serves as the cutlery drawer.

"I like trying to find new ways to use things. It's about stories and everything tells a story. Any piece of anything tells a story," Ms de Wagt said.

"Someone will give me something that's been at their house for years and I'll usually find something to do with it."




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