of diagrams on the blackboard, Cath Brown explained how to cut the flax from the bush, the aim being that each member should cut enough to last her the whole week; and it was hoped that while at Paekakariki, we would have time to each make our own working mat.
End of lecture meant time for early lunch, where we pooled our provisions for a communal meal and thus set the pattern for the week. Haere mai, tatou katoa—kia ako tahi, kia mahi tahi (Come, let us learn together, work together)—so ran the caption on the enrolment form; and with little bidding, we added … meal together.
Our bus came and we were all aboard and ready to go at the time appointed—12.15 p.m. We arrived to find Queen Elizabeth Park bathed in sunshine and consequently went into the harvest with great vigour. More than ample flax was cut; all mats were started and most completed before we returned to St. Mark's to store our supply. Then home we went, weary but fired with enthusiasm.
The enrolment form stated also: aim: to acquire the basic skills. goal: Proficiency in weaving (a) tipare (b) kono (c) kete. We slowly fumbled our way from (a) to (b), much surprised to discover that these seemingly simple articles were not easy to make. Furthermore, we were to prove only too true the tutor's reiteration that in the easy manipulation of the flax strips in kono-making lies the knack of flax weaving.
Then followed the more complicated preparation for kit making, the stripping from the broad blade of half-inch wide strips with tufts of fibre at their base. A whale of a lot of practice is required for the success of this tricky operation, my word! Saturday, the last day, found us tussling with grim determination to put our kits into reasonable shape and complete them. A few had only to join in the second handle and finish off the plaited edge at home; and so ended the last lesson.
And a hard week's weaving we had had indeed!
It says much for the worth of it all that 19 were there to the end. We sorted out the articles completed and smiled like Cheshire cats at our efforts. We left the school with a sense of personal satisfaction and achievement and sustained enthusiasm. For both tutor and organiser, there was encouragement and confidence to plan another school for 1969.
He aha te hua …? What fruit …?
The immediate and very heartening results was that two members announced they would be ‘AT HOME to FLAX WEAVING CLASS'—every Wednesday at Mrs Hutchinson's, Khandallah, and every Thursday at Mrs Agar's, Stokes Valley. ‘Bring your bundle of flax and we shall spend the afternoon revising our lessons, helping each other and getting in some much-needed practice.’
Six people turned up at Khandallah on 11 September and I have been shown one of the baskets that was completed at that session.
It seems appropriate to end by telling you that the ‘first fruit’ was a basket—kete tatahi, 36 inches in length (to fit the proportions of the Wellington Town Hall!)—that suited the requirements of the author and the producer so well that, four days after the school closed, there was our basket, filled with vegetables, on the verandah of Mr Paku's house in the opening scene of Bruce Mason's play, ‘Awatea’.