FABRIC OF LIFE
A community of artisans in Hawke’s Bay is weaving its own path, writes Thomas Heaton
ONCE REVERED, the loom has been long forgotten by most, with weavers replaced by machines and industrialscale textiles taking over.
But a group in Hawke’s Bay continues to quietly shuttle yarn for around 30 years, producing one-ofa-kind pieces with vested interest.
Rose Weavery, just north of Clive in Hawke’s Bay, is using wool, alpaca, mohair, possum, linen and cotton to create warming blankets, shawls, scarves and throws. They’re all donated fabrics from industrial weavers, rejuvenated in glorious fashion.
The Rose Weavers are part of a proud artisanal community creating products for Hohepa Hawke’s Bay on their 40-acre block. These artisans at Hohepa are part of a wider group of intellectually disabled residents living under the holistic care of the organisation. Hohepa also plays host to about 40 high-needs and vulnerable children, who receive schooling.
Proffering a path of spiritual development through the soul, body and mind, the organisation specifically follows Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophic theories.
Yasmin Dubrau leads the weavery, which was donated by the family of late weaver and namesake Rose Boddy.
Some of the weavers have been at the loom in Hohepa for their entire working lives, Dubrau says. They all develop their own styles and find out what they like to weave, eventually leaving a bit of their personality in each product. Some like texture-rich patterns with thick fabrics, while others might create visually striking pieces.
“I can see some people are really careful, in particular about the colours they choose,” explains Dubrau.
Others might opt for something with more textural variety. “There’s the ultimate freedom to express yourself.”
It’s one of many activities residents can participate in at Hohepa as part of their development.
“If somebody can take ownership of their work, they can be proud of it,” Dubrau says. “It’s actually just about feeling valued in your community.
“It’s giving people a chance to succeed and excel in something that they can achieve. It’s spiritual in some ways, but it’s something we all get.”
While some take to the loom like a fish to water, others might not, and that’s OK.
“People work anything from two days to a full week; some people will work other days of the week in other areas,” Dubrau says.
That could be in wood working, making candles, on the farm or in the multi-award-winning cheesery.
Hohepa has been around for 60 years, and was created under the auspices of a donation from Napier benefactor and farming entrepreneur Sir Lewis Harris, who founded the organisation with Dame Marjorie Allan.
Now Hohepa provides services in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, as well as being one of Hawke’s Bay’s biggest employers.
When the land was first donated it was windswept and sandy, but thanks to biodynamic practices, it’s now fertile and has become a leader in biodynamic and organic farming in New Zealand, milking 40-50 cows each season. Hohepa is a producer of a range of cheese sold throughout the country and served by some of the Bay’s best restaurants.
Business partnerships and marketing manager Neil Kirton says Hohepa now can’t produce enough cheese to cope with the consumer demand.
Whether it’s creating products or engaging with and looking after their community, Kirton says, the end goal is always to abide by Hohepa’s mantra: “Every life fully lived.” hohepahawkesbay.com