Harakeke, also known as New Zealand flax or phormium tenax, is an elegant, distinctive plant and a New Zealand icon. It is also a taonga of undeniable strength, utility and tactile appeal when its fibrous leaves are harvested to make kete (baskets and bags), kākahu (cloaks and garments) and other woven creations.
Many artists and makers are inspired by the shapes and silhouettes of harakeke: its strappy leaves, spreading form and sculptural flower spikes. These are just a few of the lovely items we’ve found on Felt which draw on it for inspiration:
There are also a growing number of makers on Felt weaving with harakeke, both in traditional Maori forms and in more contemporary designs.
Some of our crafters and artists working in other media have also been inspired by the textures of woven harakeke, translating the design elements into precious metals, wood and glass.
Harvested correctly, harakeke is an amazing renewable resource, to be nurtured and cared for. It sustains many of our native birds and insects and feeds the muses of craftspeople and artists. We love seeing how many of our New Zealand makers here on Felt draw inspiration from its leaves.
Hutia te rito o te harakeke
Kei whea, te kāmako e kō?
Kī mai ki ahau
He aha te mea nui o tēnei ao
Māku e kī atu
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
When the heart is torn from the flax bush
Where will the bellbird sing?
You ask me
What is the greatest thing on Earth
My reply is
It is people, it is people, it is people.