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title Nelson has art for every palate
publication The Marlborough Express
description Article by Tiana Miocevich
date 21:08:2007

"I think an artwork is more special to someone who knows what the artist was trying to achieve, and understand the journey an artist took in creating the work."

With musical and dance performances, a street parade, and sculpture exhibition, there should be plenty to keep the crowds entertained at the Nelson Arts Festival in October. TIANA MIOCEVICH visited the region to create a weekend itinerary for Marlburians to experience the arts and culture next door.


Anna Leary makes excellent coffee. The Nelson artist may be well known by locals for her cafe-quality flat whites, but it is her art which draws people to her home.

Anna creates paintings and artworks from her studio high on the Nelson Hills, overlooking the Tasman Sea. Her house is a work of art in itself, with plush leather couches, fashionable floral arrangements and artworks (her own and others) dotted on all the walls. Even her cats have an artistic, graceful quality as they slink around the balustrades leading down to Anna's airy studio, where her latest creation is hanging on a large wall space. The studio, with floor to ceiling windows opening to a deck area, is the perfect setting for Anna to create her artwork.

Recently she has developed work which she says is a painterly response to the light across the Tasman Sea during specified time periods. This involved painting a series of acrylic-formed pods at set intervals, capturing the atmospheric colour and light during that time. "It can get quite overwhelming," she says. "It's a real mission sometimes, I set up camp and have a team of people helping me."

Her work Twenty-eight Days was created at the rate of one pod a day, and Twenty-four Hours saw her complete one pod an hour. The hues of acrylic paint on the pods vary from the orange tints of dusk to deep midnight blue and overcast greys. After the pods are completed, they are hung in a geometric formation which contributes to the spiritual qualities of the pods themselves. "I'm trying to achieve harmony, and a reflection on the natural rhythms of the earth," she says. The pods, a seed-like shape, represent natural transition in contrast to our artificial notions of time.

Anna has also completed a series of acrylic mixed media paintings on boards and other found supports she has scavenged from demolition sites, and she says her current "babies" are her experiments on orb-shaped acrylic surfaces, again a gesture to the harmony of nature.

Anna opens up her house and studio to visitors by appointment, and also does commissioned work. "I don't mind doing commissions, because people who come to me know my work," she says. "They know that, at the end of the day, they are getting an Anna Leary." She says working with people to create a work for a space in their home means she has become open to new ideas, and she admits the delight on the faces of recipients of her work is always satisfying.

"People who come here to meet me get a better understanding of what my work is about," she says. "I think an artwork is more special to someone who knows what the artist was trying to achieve, and understand the journey an artist took in creating the work."

Add to that her superb coffee, delightful home baking, million- dollar panoramic views and a warm welcome, and it would be hard to bypass a visit to Anna Leary during the Nelson Arts Festival.

Studio visits by appointment. Contact Anna Leary on 03 546 6882, or visit


Breakfast served on delicate china, teamed with the crooning vocals of Dean Martin playing in the dining room greets guests at Cambria House after a restful sleep at this delightful bed and breakfast.

Host Karel Hall-Gribble acquired the B&B in 2004, and she says playing host to national and inter-national visitors is an honour. "I learn so much about people," she says. A fifth-generation Nelsonian, Karel says she fell in love with the house many years before she became its owner. "I used to pass it all the time, and I always knew that I wanted to buy it."

An immaculately restored homestead built in the 1800s, the B&B features six tastefully decorated and spacious bedrooms, all with ensuite bathrooms, and includes two exec-utive suites. It is only a few minutes walk from the city centre, but secluded enough to provide a peaceful retreat for holidaymakers.

In the warmer months, Karel opens up the dining area to the spacious deck, serving a delicious cooked or continental breakfast to guests al fresco, overlooking the extensive gardens. Karel says she enjoys the lifestyle hosting a B&B offers, and most people are genuinely happy when they turn up on her doorstep. "Because they are on holiday, they are looking forward to relaxing, and I do what I can to make it as stress-free as possible." She says this is especially evident with Americans, who have often emerged from a harrowing drive to Cambria House, on the "wrong" side of the road.

Her extensive local knowledge of the city helps even the most foreign visitors navigate Nelson, and she enthuses about the local art scene as well. "I want people to love Nelson as much as I do."

For more information on Cambria House, visit


Kerstiens chocolate maker Marcel van Arendonk says he isn't a chocolatier. But the former prison officer has a genuine passion for his product. The official "chocolatier" title is only used for trained and qualified people, Marcel says. For a big, tough looking man, Marcel is surprisingly humble. He says his family-owned and run business grew from a pastime.

The former Blenheim man used to make chocolate from his home and give it as gifts to friends. Several journalists, myself included, were recently given the opportunity to indulge in an inter-active chocolate workshop with Marcel as he clearly delighted in sharing his passion for chocolate. "I've always loved chocolate," he says. From the bitter richness of dark chocolate, to liqueur-infused creations, Marcel loves it all.

He recently moved operations and outlet from the city centre in Nelson to the outskirts on Gloucester St, and says the move has given him the opportunity to think big. With the acquisition of a new chocolate-coating machine complete with conveyor belt, Marcel and his team, including his daughter and wife, create hundreds of chocolate delicacies a day. The creations include liqueur and non-liqueur truffles in over 20 flavours, chocolate coated fudge, and Divinity bars.

Marcel says Divinity is a hit with the locals, and he came across the recipe for the American product through his daughter, who recommended he give it a try. Essentially a sugar and egg white mixture, Marcel says the recipe is like creating a reverse pavlova - the product is cooled instead of heated. He says it is tricky, but he has perfected a recipe which compliments his chocolate perfectly. Divinity is susceptible to air, so we have to work quickly in rolling the marzipan-like substance out. It is tacky, and requires several sheets of baking paper and a lot of elbow grease to roll it out to a thin sheet. It is then coated with a pure boysenberry filling, and Marcel says he uses the berry flavours frequently in homage to Nelson's reputation as one of the foremost growers of the boysenberry.

"When people come to Nelson they want to experience a truly Nelson product," he explains. Therefore, as well as incorporating Belgian chocolate in the process, he also uses "good old Cadbury". After the berry layer is added, the Divinity is Swiss-rolled, cut, and left to set. The log is then coated in chocolate, as it passes under a molten fountain of chocolate and then put on a tray, ready for trimming.

As we hold the Divinity log under the chocolate waterfall, Marcel explains that Willy Wonka was right. Chocolate must be constantly moving so it doesn't set, and a large wheel spins the chocolate around a trough and into a waterfall action.

With as much self control as I could muster, I plunged my chocolate-covered hands in a sink of water before I could be tempted to lick them, and settled for taking home my chocolate creations and indulging with Friday night television. After all, although is chocolate is frequently bought for special occasions, eating Kerstiens chocolate IS the special occasion.

For more information, visit


If you need a savoury relief to the chocolate sweet-tooth you just acquired, Morrison St Cafe is just the ticket. It is the most awarded cafe in Cafe Magazine's New Zealand Cafe Awards, and has won the title of Nelson's best cafe for nine out of the 10 years the awards have been running.

It comes as no surprise the coffee (Atomic Coffee) is executed perfectly, the food is tasty, a little bit creative and immensely satisfying, and the service compliments these things very well. A local favourite with Nelsonians, Morrison St cafe is always humming, and features works by local artists on the walls.

The menu features breakfast, lunch, light bites and even a children-friendly selection. I had the Roasted Pumpkin, Ricotta and Lemon Bruschetta, which at $8 is a filling and delicious variation on an afternoon sandwich, and light on the pocket too. On the web -

For dinner, visit Nelson's renowned seafood restaurant, Saltwater Cafe on the Quay.

Famous for its selection of seasonal seafood and locally roasted coffee, the cafe and restaurant overlooks the waterfront, so you can spot your dinner's former home.

We were treated to a delicious array of oysters, scallops and fresh fish, all teamed with Nelson wines. For those more comfortable with a "turf" option, there is also a wide range of non-seafood menu items.

Dessert capped off an impeccable meal, with three sweet treats on a plate, for every palate. On the web -

The Nelson Arts Festival runs from October 11 to 22. For more information visit