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Student and teacher . . . Artist Helen Shrachan (left) stands with Whaea Rae of He Taonga Tuku Iho, who taught her to weave korowai (cloak). PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Like superheroes, many artists take off their daytime Clark Kent glasses and put on their artistic capes at night. The Oamaru Mail is taking a closer look at artists who work a nine to five job but are creators in their spare time. This week, reporter Ruby Heyward meets Waitaki artist Helen Strachan, whose first exhibition is on display at Crafted in Oamaru until January 31.

Q Where are you from?

Ko Ngōngōtahā tōku maunga

Ko Te Rotoruanui-a-Kahumatamomoe tōku moana

Ko Waitetī tōku marae

Ko Te Arawa tōku waka

Ko Ngāti Whakaue tōku iwi

Ko Ngararanui tōku hapu

Nō Awamoko ahau

Q What sort of art do you create?

Kete, korowai, and kakahu, traditionally woven with flax and modern materials.

Q When did you begin traditional Māori weaving? What prompted you to do so?

I started my ngā toi Māori journey at Waihao Marae in 2018, as a way to continue to reconnect and explore my Māori culture.

Q Do you have formal training or are you self-taught?

I have taken flax weaving classes with Whaea Sally at Waihao Marae, and korowai weaving classes with Whaea Rae of He Taonga Tuku Iho. I have collected a small library of weaving books and often do research online.

Weaving identities. . . Kete (bag), korowai (cloak), and hieke (rain cape) hang in Crafted Gallery. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Q What do you do outside of art? And how do you balance time for art and work?

I’m a farmer’s wife and an administration support officer at the Waimate District Council, but I always make time to weave, no matter how busy the rest of my life is.

Q What does your artwork mean to you? What do you love about it?

I love working with my hands, and making something from start to finish, with materials that are often garden waste or road kill. Everyone needs a way to express themselves. Weaving relaxes me and I enjoy the finished products. I think every home needs art of some kind. We need to find what speaks to us and go for it.

Q Do you experiment with new approaches and techniques?

I enjoy the process of learning new things and seeing how I can use the technique, patterns and materials on other projects. Some work and some don’t. I don’t think I will ever stop learning – there is always something else, a unique item or an application I have yet come across.

  • Helen Strachan’s work is on display at Crafted Gallery until January 31.

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