A HEADBAND FIT FOR A QUEEN
One of the Coronation gifts the Maori people sent Her Majesty the Queen was a tipare or taniko headband.
It was not difficult to find out whose skilled fingers made the headband for the Queen, but quite impossible to persuade the maker to enjoy any publicity. ‘Just say that I'am a member of the Wellington Maori Women's Welfare League … there are so many women who taniko as well as I do, and some of them much better …’
I asked her how she had become so expert. ‘Taniko is not so difficult!’ she said. ‘Once you have the patience to master the first steps, the rest is easy. About the time I left school in Rotorua I watched my aunt making a taniko belt. When I asked her to teach me how to make one for myself I certainly didn't realise that I was giving up one whole day of my young life! My aunt wouldn't let me stop until I had managed the first steps, and by the end of the first day I was in tears.’
It is her opinion that anyone should be able to learn the fundamentals of taniko in one day with or without tears, but that the hard thing is to master the weaving of the main fabric—the body work. Taniko is an art that has always been handed on from one expert to another, but now that Mr Mead's book Taniko Weaving is available I asked what she thought of it as a guide.
‘I think it is very good and easy to follow once a person has had one lesson. There is a knack to taniko that you can really learn only from watching someone working.’
Indeed, she told me that the old taniko experts jealously covered their work from the curious eyes of their friends who could take in a new pattern at a glance. Some even went so far as to camouflage the true pattern by combining another design with it, so that only a close examination would reveal the secret.
Like their great-great-grandmothers, modern
taniko experts are always on the look-out for new designs.
‘I'm a conservative, and can't be bothered with the fern-leaf and star patterns,’ she told me, ‘though I'm tempted to try a Fair Isle design because the bases of taniko and Fair Isle are very similar. For the Queen's headband I went to the Museum, and studied the old designs, and then set the patterns off on a very solid black background. Any expert in Maori design would recognise the patterns I used immediately.’
We discussed the many possibilities for using taniko. The modern materials, macramé twine and hanks of silk thread, are as far from the patiently prepared flax fibres used originally as the modern wallet is from the ancient cloaks with their taniko borders. But more and more women are learning to taniko through the efforts of the Maori Women's Welfare League, and experiments are being made with circular weaving, which is a complete departure from the traditional method. Coin purses, serviette rings, watchbands and belts have been made from taniko for many years, but the modern taniko worker is always discovering new ways to apply her art. The fabric is firm, even stiff, and it makes excellent panels for leather bags and good, heat-resistant table mats, and it has been used as cuffs for gloves and jackets. Taniko has decorative possibilities for shoes and sandals if some commercial firm were enterprising enough to use it.
The idea of putting taniko to commercial use led us to discuss the desirability of making it available to the tourist market. ‘I have always regarded taniko as something special. I've often been asked to sell some of my work, but I feel I should lose a lot of pleasure if I began to make money out of it. If I did my work on an assembly line basis the pleasure of working out the design, and of giving something creative and unique would disappear. But nowadays the interest in taniko is very wide, especially among pakehas, and I'm sure the time will come when it is sold commercially.’
In the beginning a certain amount of tapu attached to taniko, and even in her lifetime certain rules were observed. ‘My aunt used to do her taniko only in the day-time—a rule I have broken long since. But one piece of advice I always observe. She used to say that aho tapu, the first line in taniko, is your brain-child, the beginning of your design, and that you must carry that line right to the end without stopping.’
It is a long way from Wellington to Buckingham Palace, but the gift chosen for Her
WHIRIWHIRIA E NGA MAORI KATOA
(THE CHOICE OF THE MAORI)
Sells so fast because it's always FRESH!
Majesty was singularly fitting in character and appropriate to the occasion of the Coronation. When I asked her how she felt when she was asked to make the headband she laughed. ‘I was sure I couldn't possibly do it well enough. The Maori Purposes Fund Board asked me to do it, and it took a lot of talking to persuade me. But once I had decided to make it I was very thrilled. I felt it was a great privilege and a great honour to my particular Welfare League that I should be asked. I realised then the great value of the art, and the very special effort I would have to make. Once you learn taniko you never lose the art, and many times when I was working on the headband I thought how easily I could have missed such an opportunity if I handn't paid attention to my aunt that day in Rotorua.
Filling the Xmas Stocking
Christmas shopping is such fun if you do it early, and such a headache if you leave it until Christmas Eve. Late shopping is very expensive, because all the cheapest and best things have disappeared from the shelves, and you are forced to spend more than you intended rather than disappoint the children.
It is not the money you spend that makes a good Christmas stocking so much as the time you take to plan what you will put into it. There is no need for a Christmas stocking to cost very much because children are not really interested in the price of a present. What they are interested in is waking up on Christmas morning to find the stocking that hung limp and empty the night before, mysteriously filled with all sorts of good things.
Christmas morning should be full of surprises. This is sometimes difficult for busy mothers, who can get to town only if they take the children with them. It is quite difficult to shop for a Christmas stocking if the children are right there at the counter beside you, but it can be done, and wondering what is inside the package makes all the difference to opening the present.
What goes into a really good Christmas stocking? First that great round orange. Then anything else that looks colourful and exciting. Some of the delightful plastic toys that cost two and three shillings make excellent fillers, even though they are flimsy and seem hardly worth the money. But they are colourful and clean, and the dolls' picnic baskets, the cars and trucks for the speedway, the hen that lays eggs, and the eggs that hatch chickens can make the first few hours of Christmas Day very gay. There are bound to be some casualties among them before the sun goes down. But some of them are better and stronger than others, and it is amazing what treatment they survive. It is certainly foolish to spend a lot of money on any plastic toy, however, when so many good toys are on the market, made from stronger materials like rubber and wood.
To fill in the spaces between the small packages there should be some peanuts and walnuts; some paper lollies, perhaps, or chocolate; a couple of balloons, and something to make a loud, cheerful noise with. Something extra special should pop out of the top of the stocking—a full-blown balloon, perhaps, or a windmill on a stick, or a long cardboard trumpet. Sometimes the present, the really important present, the one that has been ordered from Father Christmas, can be stuffed into the top of the stocking, or tied on somehow, so that it is the very first thing the child sees when he wakes up.
This present should be chosen very carefully, to please the particular child for as long as possible. It should be well-made and sturdy. A cuddly doll for a toddler; a tip-truck made with strong wheels, for a four-year-old boy; a ball-bearing skipping rope for a seven-year-old girl, and so on. You know just what your children want, and what they need.
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