Here is the background to a story about personal and collective creativity, a traditional Maori craft, and an idea that just took off! – We hope you will want to share it with your friends.
In February 2014, Kaipatiki Project Environment Centre decided to team up with local harakeke educator Judy Te Hiwi to trial a new weaving course, Flax Academy – the response and the outcome have surprised everyone.
The plan – over five weeks, a small group would be immersed twice a week in the tikanga (Maori principles), practices and techniques of Mahi raranga (Maori harakeke/flax weaving). There would be 30 hours of teaching, a pretty hefty commitment over one evening and one Saturday a week.
Having experimented with bite-sized weaving classes in the past, Kaipatiki Project’s aim was to design a course with Judy which would instill the skills necessary for harakeke weaving intensively over a period of time, so that by the end the participants would become confident, independent weavers.
Once word about the course had spread, all the places were filled rapidly and a waiting list grew. Had the environment centre hit on something? A few sessions in, the momentum had started – the enthusiasm and commitment of the participants blew everyone away, not least Judy, who has been teaching weaving for over 15 years.
Most of the 12-strong group were beginner or novice weavers at the start. Their motivations were mixed; for most it was to move beyond just dabbling with their weaving, for others it was to become accomplished enough to pass on their skills to others particularly children, and for a few it went deeper, to re-connect with their Maori heritage.
Under Judy’s guidance, their passion for weaving drove the sessions way over the scheduled total of 30 hours. And the results speak for themselves. Each weaver progressed to produce some outstanding work, including kete (baskets), back-packs and other items, some involving the dyeing of harakeke – which they learned to do themselves outside at the Kaipatiki Project centre in Birkdale.
Over their weeks together the Flax Academy faithful have not only formed a strong connection with weaving, but with each other. They now want to form a social weaving circle to stay in touch and progress their weaving, which will be facilitated by Kaipatiki Project.
Kaipatiki Project is already taking bookings for a repeat of Flax Academy (starting on Sunday 18 May), and has added a school holiday class (Harakeke Kids, 29 April) and special Matariki weaving events to its course calendar – www.kaipatiki.org.nz/courses
Flax Academy in pictures – this special weaving journey is illustrated in a striking photographic record made by Geoff Budd, who attended the course with his partner Orla. All photos Geoff Budd www.lensflare.co.nz