The art of traditional Maori weaving

By Zoe Walker

Shona Tawhiao, who is showing at Fashion Week, shares her favourite things with Viva.

Shona Tawhiao. Photo / Babiche Martens
Shona Tawhiao. Photo / Babiche Martens

Shona Tawhiao is an artist and designer whose main medium is traditional Maori weaving - and her woven garments will be showcased in this Friday's Miromoda show at New Zealand Fashion Week. Her collection, Te Whare Pora (the House of Weaving), is inspired by the complexities and geometry of Maori weaving, with an emphasis on the shoulders. "There's a mix of flax and faux leather with a bit of tulle and, of course, lots of headpieces," explains the Auckland-based artist. Flax - or harakeke - will play a big part in this year's Miromoda show, with two other designers using it to construct garments also. Tawhiao, who loves how it has "no limits", has become known for taking the traditional medium and giving it a strong, modern makeover, with theatre costumes and pieces for performers like Ladi6. Her garment Toi Aotearoa, inspired by the patterns in carving, weaving and kowhaiwhai (Maori painted scroll ornamentation), is also a finalist in the South Pacific section at the World of Wearable Art awards. Following NZFW, Tawhiao will fly to London to attend a Pacific artist workshop and show as part of the London Pacific charity fashion show with other Pacific designers.

10 FAVOURITE THINGS

1. The back wall of Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae
I love the whole whare and working on the marae at Unitec was the best job I have ever had. It was designed by master carver Lyonel Grant and I was one of the weavers lucky enough to be a part of the interior.

2. Collection of weaving books
My very good weaving friend, Judy, just doubled my collection of books, which included a copy of Feathers and Fibres by Mick Pendergrast - a book I have been dying to own. It's now out of print, very rare and holds a wealth of knowledge on weaving techniques. A taonga. Thanks, Jude.

3. 80s ghetto blasters
The big, chunky design and solid sound reminds me of breakdancing in my friend's garage when I was 12. I have only one and think if I start collecting them I'll need a warehouse to display them all.

4. Beat Street
Beat Street is a classic. I have the American format VHS and my girls brought me the DVD version for Mother's Day and I also have the album on vinyl. It's so cool how it covers the four realms of hip-hop.

5. Woven flax helmet
This helmet is from my 2010 Te Whiri collection. It is woven and moulded from flax and has a muka [flax fibre] hairpiece. I love how harakeke [flax] has no limits.

6. Fish 'n' chips at Maketu
We drive our girls over to Maketu in the Bay of Plenty every time we go home to the Mount. The fish 'n' chips are always fresh and you can't beat eating them by the ocean. It's been a long-time tradition for me.

7. Jeffrey Campbell boots and old school Adidas
I have a pair of vintage Adidas high-tops that I try not to wear because they are getting old and worn. I love Jeffrey Campbell footwear too, the designs are crazy cool.

8. Whakapuareare
This is quite a new weaving pattern; I use it all the time in my work. It's fine like lace and adds some softness to my armour-like pieces.

9. Art
My art collection is growing with pieces from graffiti artist Merksta (pictured) and aerosol artist D.T. I have perspex and pearl hei-tiki from carver George Nuku, and paintings from Tame Iti's 10/80 series. My cousin, artist and poet Tracey Tawhiao, has gifted me newspaper paintings on my birthday for the last 12 years, and are all dated accordingly so.

10. Whanau
Family is the most important thing. My three girls, Aniwaniwa, Mia and Sevarn, remind us what it's all about. My grandparents brought me up and my koro, Taukiri Tawhiao, just turned 91.

- NZ Herald

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