The idea began earlier this year with the Pink Ribbon Breakfast held at The Dunes, Matarangi. The organiser, Sharon Clay, had proposed a future project to raise further funds for cancer - making a calendar. The imagery content was not yet decided. Anne Walmsley, who had attended the Pink Breakfast, added to the proposed idea. “What if we found twelve female artists who could each decorate a pair of breasts belonging to twelve volunteer models? The models would be volunteers with a link to or affinity with breast cancer. The twelve photos of the breast art would be the pictures on the calendar.
Project name - ‘Treasured Chests’
The response to Anne’s idea was very positive; the decision to go ahead was made. The models, artists and photographer would be local. The calendar had begun. It was to be called the ‘Treasured Chests’ calendar project. Felicity Jean Photography of Kuaotunu was invited to do all the photography. Flea or Felicity Witters reflects on the project, “Both Carolyn, my neighbour, and I have had family and loved ones go through battles with cancer, so the 'Treasured Chest' calendar project was something we embraced. We are neighbours in Kuaotunu in the 'Blue Fridge Valley' which is a perfect environment amongst nature for getting creative. We are not 'artists' as such but both work in creative industries and loved the idea of designing a masterpiece using only vegetables. Winter vegetables offer amazing colours, shapes and textures. Who would have thought yams could look so bold and beautiful! We also felt it was a great fit as research suggests eating a diet high in vegetables may contribute to positive outcomes for those going through cancer treatments.”
Anne Walmsley speaks so enthusiastically of the project. “It’s been an awesome journey. First, the models came; they volunteered to bare their breasts. There were no criteria and they didn’t know the ‘why’ until the photoshoot, when stories were swapped. We did get some advice for the models as we needed every generation to be included. Then, the artists just came on board. They were local professional artists, most of Mercury Bay Art Escape fame. Everyone had the same brief, but each piece of art has turned out very differently and some breasts are more exposed than others. Some artists required a fitting of their model before the photo session; others preferred to work with someone they knew. People made friends over this experience, as it’s not just about sharing a cup of coffee. We have laughed a lot and cried sometimes. People share their stories. One model shared that, when she turned 69, that was the year of her last free mammogram. She was debating with herself about whether to bother, but she went ahead with the mammogram and they found a lump. She felt she could contribute to the project because of that experience.”
Deb Greenfield, who has designed the calendar, reflects on her experience. “There’s something magical that happens when women come together for a common cause. So much fun, care, inspiration and love! I have so much respect for the women involved in making these images happen and my heart goes out to those who are going through such a hard time with breast cancer. For that reason, I am thrilled to be a part of this project.”
Treasured Chests has not been done for profit by anyone. All the money will go towards cancer treatment and research. The committee at the time of this interview were just getting results together. The proofs were back to look at and then it was off to the printer. The Treasured Chests launch is to be Saturday, 15 October at Kuaotunu Hall. From 11am to 5pm, people can view the framed prints of each month and purchase the 2023 calendar. At 6pm, artists, models, photographer, and sponsors will be celebrated and thanked, and this will be followed by the final auction of the prints.
“We have had some sponsors,” says Anne, “which has encouraged us. One of our sponsors has lost 27 members of their extended family through cancer. Four shops have been there to support the project - Fagans and Gathered in Albert Street, Whitianga and Kuaotunu General Store and Matarangi General Store. There have been a lot of upfront costs and we haven’t had enough to pay for all those expenses yet. We believe the calendar sales will raise a lot of funds for Breast Cancer Foundation and pay the remaining costs.
It has been a truly great project. One model has stage four breast cancer and will begin her radiation treatment tomorrow.”
This alone makes the project worthwhile
“Treasured Chests” breast cancer Awareness Calendar Project
15 October, Kuaotunu hall, Jackman Road, Kuaotunu.
11am-5pm - view the framed prints and purchase 2023 Calendar.
6pm - Celebrate and thank models, artists, photographer and sponsors.
Final auction of the prints. Cash for bar and internet banking only.