“Everything is done by hand from extraction to spinning to dying to weaving to designs. The fibre preparation is labour intensive, as all fibre is spun between the hand and bare leg. There are minimal modernisms beyond the use of a Stanley knife to make incisions into the flax leaf instead of a mussel shell; I use pots and gas to extract the dyes from native fauna instead of wooden bowls, heating and boiling dyes by stones. So that’s why I say minimal intrusions.”
Karl Rangikawhiti Leonard
Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Raukawa
“I shrug off the suggestion that I’m a ‘purist’ when it comes to my work. Nor would I say that the work I produce is 100 per cent traditional. Rather I try to ensure that the integrity of the piece is compromised as little as possible. For example, why use the traditional method to extract and spin muka fibre when you are going to use a synthetic dye to colour it? Why not just create it purely out of synthetically prepared and dyed fibres? I find synthetic dyes an intrusion and not an enhancement to my work. When we stop using our traditional dyes, we lose a whole knowledge system. Besides keeping the art of dying and weaving processes present today, it keeps the art relevant so that it looks like it belongs in the home instead of the museum.”
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