Friday, November 25, 2011

Imperfect Kete - Unitec Grad Show (Auckland 2011)

Dimensions: 290mm (deep) x 290mm (wide) x 160 (high)
Materials used: Harakeke (Phormium Tenax), Korari (stalk) fibre from Warariki (Phormium Cookianum), 
Seeds and Volcanic Rock

Based on a Maori Legend
This Maori legend is associated with Rangitoto where I grew up.  

Matakamokamo lived on a mountain called Te Rua Maunga, that stood on the site of Lake Pupuke (Pupuke Moana) with his wife Matakerepo.  One day he asked his wife to weave him some new garments but he was displeased with the finished garments which led to a bitter argument. 

While they argued their house fire went out and could not be rekindled.  Matakamokamo cursed Mahuika, the goddess of fire, and as a result she called on her fellow deity Mataaho, the god of earthquakes and eruptions, to punish the couple.  

Mataaho caused Te Rua Maunga to sink beneath the earth, leaving Pupuke Moana (Lake Pupuke) in its place.  At the same time he caused Rangitoto to rise from the sea offshore, and Matakamokamo and his wife Matakerepo fled to its peaks in panic with their maid.

When mist surrounds Rangitoto, it is the tears of the Tupua couple as they weep over their lost home.

Rangitoto Island - Photo by Grace MacAnulty

Method of construction:
A whiri kete (basket) has been woven around the volcanic stone.  The stone reflects the mound of Te Rua Maunga and the heart shape of Lake Pupuke today.  I often use rocks in my work to "ground" the work, here it also adds an element of permanence and weight that contrasts and compliments the lightness, flexibility and fragility of the harakeke.

Mature, marked blades of harakeke were harvested so the fibre would dry to golden yellow, red and brown-black tones and hues to reflect the volcanic fire.  Tips of the leaves were left projecting upwards to create the impression of burning trees when doing the top lock off.

When finished I overlaid iridescent leaves of red, pale gold and deep red-black from korari stalks of mountain flax (phormium cookianium). This process allowed me to add highlights of light and dark to give the effect of fire, lava and embers.

The intense, reflective blackness of the harakeke seeds creates the illusion of sunlight reflecting on the wind-swept lake.


Fairy tales, myths and stories are tales passed on to provide understanding and bring us back to age old truths  and.....we often find the myth or tale that contains “all the instruction a women needs for her current psychic development”.  For her the “craft of making... art is important for it commemorates the seasons of the soul, or a special or tragic event in the soul’s journey.  Art is not just for oneself, not just a marker of one’s own understanding. It is also a map for those who follow after us”. (Estes 1992)

The legend speaks to me of a warning on the consequences of criticism, unjust anger and blame within a relationship.  These elements “put out the fire” of love and respect and the eruption and punishment, the destruction of that which is most important to us, our “place of home” or for me my spirit and sense of self worth, speaks to me of the natural consequences.  It tells us of the grief and loss that results for all. 

“An Imperfect Kete” is made to be imperfect with flaws and slightly rough weaving like the imperfect “garment” made by the wife.  By valuing only value what is “perfect”, we lose the ability to enjoy the beauty of what we have and risk losing much more – our home/spirit/heart which leads to the loss and grief told of in the legend.  

My imperfections are something to be embraced bringing individuality, character and depth to myself as a women, this is woven within my kete.  

The Heart of the Stone – the heart/spirit which is woven within the kete. 
The volcanic stone comes from the land, it is of the land.  Created in a violent eruption, it records its own story.  For me this stone represents life’s experiences and lessons that cannot be changed.  It represents the past and the now. This element provides a sense of permanence to the work to carry the lesson of this myth forward to others – a warning to take care and beware.


Auckland Regional Council. Volcanoes of Auckland. 2010. (accessed May 25, 2011).
Egginton, Zane. ZedSpace - 3D Renders. (accessed May 24, 2011).
Estes, Clarissa Pinkola. Women Who Run With the Wolves. London: Rider, 1992.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kete Whakairo - Mawhitiwhiti 
NorthArt - Interlocked Exhibition, Auck NZ (Nov 2011)

This piece is woven in a traditional style with muka (harakeke fiber) handles that can be used to draw the sides together.

"A pattern can be created from a combination of elements when plaiting.  One element that determines the pattern is the whakapapa, this is the arrangement and sequence in which the strips are laid out at the commencement.  Another element is the use of colour, frequently seen as all the strips lying in one direction being one colour, while those lying in the opposite direction are of another colour.  Once the work has been commenced with this arrangement, patterns can be achieved by changing from check to twill strokes.  Other types of whakapapa allow for the creation of other patterns. (Pendergrast 1984)"

The mahitihiti group of patterns is known over a very wide area by variations of the name such as mawhiti, mawhitiwhiti, kowhiti, kohitihiti. Sometimes a descriptive term differentiates if the pattern is horizontal (whakatakoto) and vertical (whakatutu) arrangements. 

This pattern is formed by changing the stroke from a vertical twill to a horizontal twill, sometimes referred to as “one-two, two-one”.  (Pendergrast 1984). Pae is used in western districts to describe horizontal patterns. Kahu TeKanawa references the kowhiti whakapae pattern as relating to harvesting of food crops (TeKanawa 2009)

See the following website for an excellent example of a 18th traditional style 
British Museum Kete Whakairo

Pendergrast, Mick. Raranga Whakairo - Maori Plaiting Patterns. Auckland: Reed, 1984.

TeKanawa, Kahu Toi. “Toi Maramatanga, A Visual Maori Art Expression of Meaning.” AUT. 2009. (accessed December 7, 2010).

Monday, May 30, 2011

Contemporary Weavers

Ed Rossbach (US) -  Raranga (plaiting) techniques in contemporary work

Tribe of Artists (1970)
7 x 61/2 x 6 3/4 
Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Gift of the artists

Plaited Handgun, 1975; 
construction paper; diagonal plaiting in two layers; 
36.5 by 50 inches. 
Courtesy of the Textile Museum.

Ruth Asawa - crocheted wire sculpture
Photo by Laurence Cuneo

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tauira - Kowhiti Whakapae, NZ (2011)

The rolled sides of this tauira/sampler or wall hanging, introduces a three dimensional element somewhat reminiscent of a partly unfurled document.  

Influenced by the Maunganui Bluff north of Dargaville where I have visited a number of times, the image described below continually came to me for a number of months and determined the direction this weaving took.

Michelle Mayn
Materials: Harakeke/NZ Flax (Phormium Tenax)
Commercial Dye and Plain Boiled

On the south side of Maunganui Bluff there is a place where there are three single trees, close to the cliff edge which seem to stand as guardians to the forest just beyond.  The bluff juts out into the Tasman Sea and the sea, sky, wind, land and forest all meet, the power and energy is physically tangible.  

The image was standing at this place, the forest behind, the sea stretching out on all sides, facing into the wind, a clear sky above.  The feeling; I have clarity, I know what is required, I have the strength needed to act.

The Kowhiti Whakapae pattern of the tauira reflects this place of meeting points. A feminine energy comes through with the choice of colour, the weaving and the choice of harakeke (NZ Flax) as a natural materials sourced from the whenua/land.  The rolled edge provides strength to the finished piece and it has a suggestion of two legs standing strong, like the guardian trees.  

The meaning for me as the artist is: 
                                 As a women                                              
                                        I can stand in strength, 
                                                    for what is right, 
                                                         regardless of the outcome

Maunganui Bluff

The Bluff rises 460 metres from the sea below and comprises a 495 hectare scenic reserve, one of the few examples of dense coastal forest remaining in Northland.  Located on the Aranga Coast Road, 40 kms north of Dargaville. 

For more details of this area visit: