For the last two years, ANZAC Day commemorations have been sadly limited due to Covid-19 restrictions. This year I hope to get to an ANZAC Day dawn service with my husband, Shawn, who spent 21 years serving in the US Air Force before retiring, and our 9 year old son, Ace to lay a wreath in honour of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers who served in the ANZAC forces.
My great-grandfather Alfred Norman Harris served in NZFA as a driver through WW1. He lost his brother, Private James Harris in that same war.
In WWII, my grandfather James Harris served in aircraft maintenance while stationed in the Solomon Islands.
Alfred Norman Harris
While designing the wreath I wished to make for this year’s ceremony, it struck me that traditional wreath making seems to be a dying art.
Unfortunately, not many towns in New Zealand seem to have florists who can make traditional ANZAC wreaths anymore.
I decided I...
Teri Dyes - a spectrum of colour
Introducing colour into your work is super exciting, but starting to dye can be a little intimidating for the uninitiated.
The first dye I ever used to colour flowers and weaving whenu was Teri Dyes Phormalan range. I was drawn in by its vibrancy mixing ability and huge range of colours. I also loved that it was formulated for use on NZ Flax and so the instructions were clear and suitable for flax fibre.
I have since discovered that they work beautifully on raffia and some foliage too. While I have never met proprietor Ioulia Crowley in person - during ordering or answering questions she has been so lovely and supportive of my weaving journey and has extended the same to my students.
In my flax flower dyeing course I use Teri Dyes to demonstrate transitional colour flower dyeing. The colours blend beautifully and I'm yet to find anything that produces brighter colours.
I have begun to plant out my garden with flowers that dry well to add to my floral creations.
Today I would like to introduce you to Lion's Tail - Leonotis leonurus.
I was recently shown this bright orange flowering plant by my cousin Adrienne. She too is an avid gardener and loves to work with flax flowers and dried flowers. She bought me some seed heads to use in my work and some seedlings to plant for this season. As well as being a delightful colourful shrub in my garden - once dried and trimmed, the seed heads make an amazing addition to flax flower bouquets.
They also dye well and can be coloured with florist sprays for different effects.
Personally I love to use them in their natural colour.
Here's how I used them recently in an arrangement.
They grow easily and prolifically and don't require a lot of water. On top of that, they are self-seeding so you will always have another crop year after year. I enjoy using Lion’s Tail, and am happy to have a...
As I write this I am sitting in a cold office in the middle of a particularly cold, wet and windy week....
This is not my idea of a good time - I am longing for spring!
As a New Zealand Flax farmer, winter is very much an indoor enterprise and its success is really dependent on having prepared during summer and autumn.
We have had plenty of stock still available in my flax flower shop this winter because of summer preparation, which is such a good feeling.
I worked with one of my students Shayna to set up her own little business producing flax flower whenu for me at Flax & Fibre. Shayna has used the skills and knowledge she learned though my ‘Commercial Flax Flower Production’ course to make a nearly instantly profitable micro business without having to leave home or find child care for her three beautiful tamariki. Because of her mahi, I have had plenty of dried whenu to use this winter – this has been life changing for us both.
Even so, I...
Before I began weaving and before I got into flax flowers, Whaea Katie the previous owner of our wee cottage planted harakeke in the backyard.
Having all that potential just sitting there on our property is what prompted me to get into weaving. Such an incredible resource right under my nose!
It was quite the mission to get to for harvesting though – completely overgrown with a broken fence and felled apple tree in the way.
I found I had harakeke good for weaving kete whakairo; some that was ok for waikawa style kete; and some whiri kete.
But no muka harakeke. It was so elusive, I always had my knife and mussel shell on me when went for a drive just in case I spotted some muka flax. I would stop to cut a single rau and try it out for muka. In time I was able to get cuttings from the Rene Orcheson Collection at Lincoln University through Landcare New Zealand. These cuttings joined the harakeke varieties I already had here, and then I was able to organise some help to landscape...
New Zealand Christmas is unique - far far away from Hallmark cards and Christmas movies... no snow, no sleigh rides, no snowmen. Instead of fields of white, we have warm sunshine and colour!
Here at Flax & Fibre, Christmas is full of flax whenu, in various stages of drying... on the picnic table, on my son's old trampoline which is now converted to a drying table, on the hot concrete by the shed, and hanging on the washing line. Flax whenu everywhere.
My Pa Harakeke is lush and cool despite the midday sun, and every shade of green. A quiet oasis among the busyness, full of new growth and readiness.
Christmas preparations begin in spring for me, for as with any business that creates handmade product -preparation is everything.
In October, weather plays nice with long sunny days most of the week, giving me the chance to start harvesting and prepping our flower whenu without fear of rain. As I harvest, I dream up beautiful creations I want to be able to offer you.
Hours are spent over...