Influences on artistic career

Avis Higgs started painting when she was 12. Her earliest inspiration was her father, Sydney Higgs. Watching how he painted at every opportunity and, bored on family camping holidays in the Wairarapa and the Hutt Valley, she decided to join him.

Avis also studied painting under:

  • Her father’s friend and prominent artist T.A. McCormack, while growing up in Wellington
  • Teachers at the Wellington Technical College, especially artist Jenny Campbell, who introduced Avis as a teenager to linocutting and inspired her to create her first cityscapes of Wellington streets
  • Internationally-renowned Hungarian artist Desiderius Orban, while living in Sydney.

At art school, Avis’ training in the following disciplines proved helpful in her later career as a fabric designer:

  • The understanding of modernist art theory and practice
  • The acquisition of handicraft skills and
  • The attainment of technical expertise in design and manufacturing, including silk screen and block printing

Barriers to career

As a textile designer in the 1940s, Avis Higgs had two barriers to overcome:

  • Her sex - Women artists of her time were conditioned to select marriage and a family over an independent career. Their work was considered less important, more trivial than that of men.
  • Her choice to design primarily women’s dress materials - The prevailing art culture privileged painting and sculpture over the decorative arts, Avis’ participation in Australasian textile design was disregarded until 1999, when publication about her work began to appear.