An environmentally sustainable practice such as weaving in the traditional way and working with the seasons can be spiritually satisfying, Karori craftworker Enger Pelosifear has found.
Enger works on traditional pieces such as kete and backpacks and experiments with clothing and such contemporary items as drink-bottle holders.
Enger was exhibiting her creations at the first Newtown Community Market last month and modelling a bodice she had fashioned from harakeke or flax.
‘I created it myself as an experiment using traditional korowai technique used to make the kakaho—the big cloaks—and I’ve used wire instead of harakeke for the horizontal wefts.’
‘It started as a kete … and when I had finished half of it, I found it worked really well as a top.’
Enger says she finds much inspiration from books and she attends workshops with friends. She started at an afternoon workshop in Motueka with a group of friends.
‘Since then we’ve kept teaching each other. If I meet another weaver we share what we know. All the weavers in New Zealand are into sharing knowledge and collaborating and promoting the art in general.’
Enger says the work is cyclic. In the winter people don’t buy much art. The pre-Christmas and summer time will be the big selling period for me. So I’ll spend wintertime producing and then selling.
The weaving is influenced by tikanga—traditional Māori protocol. The harakeke is harvested at the end of summer and the rest of the year is spent weaving it.
‘It’s an environmentally sustainable practice because the way you harvest the flax is good for the bush—it makes the flax grow back stronger. It’s a natural resource, natural materials.’
Enger follows the Māori belief that all the elements in nature have a wairua or spirit of their own ‘so when I’m doing it I go into a state called te wharepura and that’s like a meditative state where you are supposed to be clear in your own head so that you can create freely without being blocked by any of the day-to-day stresses.
‘When harvesting the harakeke, a karakia—a short prayer—is offered, asking for blessings on the work and for the spirit of the harakeke to help you weave.’
Enger harvests the harakeke from near her home and exhibits her work in the Ora Gallery off Courtenay Place and in the Cheeky Pipi café in Island Bay.