Avis Higgs

Avis Higgs

Textile designer

Avis Higgs was born in 1918 into a Wellington family that shared a great passion for art. Her creativity began aged 10 and her skills were honed at the Wellington School of Art in the late 1930s.

After graduating Avis soon became the head designer for Silk and Textile Printers in Sydney, a firm famed for its avant garde approach to textiles. With her inspired and refreshing ideas Avis quickly earned a reputation as one of Australasia's most innovative textile designers.

Returning to New Zealand in 1948 Avis created a portfolio of designs featuring Australian and New Zealand motifs. It was these designs that later caught the attention of design historian Douglas Lloyd Jenkins, who curated the touring exhibition Avis Higgs: Joie de Vivre in 2000. Her extraordinary talent as a textile designer is now preserved at the Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s Avis was an active member of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Art, the Architectural Centre Gallery and the Helen Hitchings Gallery. She was a foundation member of the Wellington Society of Watercolour Artists where she became president.

Exhibiting widely throughout New Zealand, Avis won numerous awards including the National Bank award for watercolour in 1964 and the IBM New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts Award for Townscape in 1985. In 2006 Avis was awarded the Governor-General’s Art Award for her contribution to New Zealand art, and held a retrospective of her work at the Academy of Fine Arts.

With the renewed interest in Avis’ textile work, Dilana Rugs reproduced six of her designs for an exclusive collection and Laurie Foon of Starfish reproduced a limited edition of Avis’ duckpond design for her 2006/7 season.

Avis lives in her colourful home surrounded by the art work of her family and many other renowned artists. Inspired by these and the beautiful views of Wellington from her windows, Avis still loves to paint in her studio but at 92, says she ‘sometimes forgets to send them to exhibitions’.