A na­tive plant that grows like a weed is wo­ven into this ar­ti­san's ev­ery­day life, writes TRACY WHIT­MEY.

Cuisine - - CONTENTS -

Tracy Whit­mey in­tro­duces a weaver bring­ing flax into ev­ery­day life

JUDE HOANI-TE URUTI had no for­mal train­ing in weav­ing, nor did she learn from her mother or grand­mother. One day she just cut some kōrari (flax) and start­ing weav­ing.

Jude traces a neat scar just be­low her left el­bow, the le­gacy of a bro­ken arm when she was in her twen­ties. “This is what got me started. I was mak­ing my liv­ing fish­ing in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds and do­ing my her­mit thing. I was sick of the world.”

Play­ing tag one wet Au­gust day with her sis­ter’s chil­dren, she was chased down the hall­way, slipped on the car­pet run­ner and splin­tered her arm. A few days later, when the weather fi­nally let up enough to get to the doc­tor, she needed sev­eral screws to hold to­gether the shat­tered bone. Wor­ried that she was go­ing to end up with a with­ered lit­tle arm, she wanted to do some­thing to keep it mov­ing. Go­ing down to check on her boat one morn­ing she passed by a kōrari. “I’d be­ing go­ing past it for six years and never no­ticed it be­fore.” She gath­ered some flax and started weav­ing – just like that. She had no ex­pe­ri­ence of weav­ing, but also no ex­pec­ta­tions.

“I didn’t have some­one to tell me what to do. Be­cause of my bro­ken arm I de­vel­oped my own ways. At the age I am now I want to teach, at that stage I just wanted to do.”

She’s car­ry­ing an im­pres­sive kete of her own de­sign that show­cases her skills and demon­strates the many tech­niques that go into a piece: weav­ing, sewing, plait­ing, splic­ing. She shows me how the plaited han­dles are deftly spliced. Com­ing from an iso­lated farm­ing fam­ily, she learned skills that would serve her well in fu­ture.

“If we needed a rope then we made a plait; I don’t like knots and from learn­ing to sail I learned to splice. Kōrari is slip­pery, so knots are no good.”

Th­ese days Jude runs work­shops to in­tro­duce weav­ing to a wide au­di­ence. “I get im­mense sat­is­fac­tion from putting kōrari back into ev­ery­day life like it used to be, giv­ing peo­ple an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of na­ture that they might not have had.”

Start­ing with the ba­sics, “the first thing we learn to weave is a paaro (food bowl). It’s quick and easy to make a paaro - I can do one in three min­utes.” For the first workshop Jude pro­vides the kōrari: while the col­lec­tion of the kōrari is an in­te­gral part of the weav­ing process Jude recog­nises that most be­gin­ners just want to get on with mak­ing.

In a three-hour class par­tic­i­pants make three paaro to take home. In a later class she will take stu­dents to a pā kōrari (a plan­ta­tion of kōrari ) and talk about care and pro­tec­tion of the plants and how to cut it.

“Kōrari is still very rel­e­vant to today’s life. Now the world’s come to re­alise that plas­tic is not good, kōrari is a won­der­ful re­source that grows like a weed and can be used ev­ery day. Peo­ple are rush­ing off to mind­ful­ness things. To weave kōrari you have to be in the mo­ment. It’s the best mind­ful­ness train­ing any­one could have.”

She cur­rently runs her work­shops in a va­ri­ety of spaces, in­clud­ing Coco’s Cantina on Auckland’s Karanga­hape Road. Co-owner Da­maris Coul­ter in­vited Jude to run a workshop for staff, then asked her to make menu hold­ers and kete to use in the restau­rant. Jude has also worked with Monique Fiso of Hi­akai and is now do­ing some work with Kiwi chef Toby Archibald for a restau­rant in Dal­las, Texas.

Es­chew­ing a fixed workshop or stu­dio re­flects Jude’s back-to-ba­sics ap­proach.

“Go­ing back, the workshop was the pā, you didn’t need a spe­cial place. I don’t want peo­ple to have bar­ri­ers,

I just want them to walk up to kōrari and start weav­ing.” @jh.weaver

I get im­mense sat­is­fac­tion from putting kōrari back into ev­ery­day life like it used to be.


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