Flax, Weaving Tutor and Flax Craft

Flax swamp

Flax swamp.

Ngatitoa and other Maori needing harakeke (NZ flax) for arts and crafts, have the right to harvest the flax in the Cannons Creek Lakes Reserve, and we often see evidence that they have been to gather fibres or tend the plants.

Each year more flax plants are planted.  For successful future caring of the plants, those sites chosen have to have easy access and no crowding.

When "The REAL Cannons Creek" walk is scheduled during summer, as part of this walk you visit the Cannons Creek Lake Reserve.

Often a tutor from Te Waananga O Aotearoa (Porirua Campus) will agree to speak to the walking group, telling how they thin out old growth and keep the plants healthy, and what types of harakeke are used for making various articles and how to collect the leaves without damage, and so on.

Excerpt from press article

... the Cannons Creek Lake Reserve, where boardwalks bear you over the swampy bits through groves of flax and raupo.

Weavers from Te Waananga O Aotearoa in Porirua have been lovingly tending selected sections of these flax groves since 2002.  They cut away any dead or diseased fronds from the base of the plants, and pull away the rank grasses crowding around them.

There's a world of difference between the plants the weavers have cared for, and the "wild" ones further up the stream, which are frayed and pockmarked with little black-rimmed holes and scaly growths.  By contrast, the tended plants are clean as a whistle, and grow much more vigorously for having their dead fronds removed.

That makes them ideal for weaving.  Even though they're all the same species, there's enough variation among them to make some more suitable for certain uses than others.  If the fronds droop, it means that particular plant has a soft fibre - good for fine, decorative work.

Other plants stand more erect; often they'll bear a black ridge down the mid-vein.  They're tougher.  Called muka flax, they're used to make ropes and mats. 

[Source: Thanks to Dave Hansford and his article - 
29 December 2005, Dominion Post :: A little bit of everything.]

Guided Walk - The REAL Cannons Creek - 11 January 2009

Tangi Robinson, local Maori Flax Weaving Tutor speaking to a group of Cannons Creek Valley walkers

Local Maori Flax Weaving Tutor, Tangi Robinson, speaking about how Maori select and prepare flax from the Cannons Creek Lake Reserve for cultural uses.

(L to R) Tangi Robinson, Dorothy Mitchell (Friends of Maara Roa Guide), and two of the visiting public. [Photo: Cecilia De Souza]

Fine example of a flax kete.

Fine example of a flax kete. [Photo: Cecilia De Souza]

Guided Walk - The REAL Cannons Creek - 27 March 2010

Flax tutor Sarni Scott

Flax tutor Sarni Scott

Example of flax work

Example of flax work