The art and science of Souly Fibre

An advert in a shop window was the first step in a new creative direction for Colleen Jamieson. In her hilltop cottage in the rural Northland district of Kaipara, she now weaves flax into beautiful kete, household items and traditional Māori clothing, while her daughter Dusk assists with the running of her Felt shop, Souly Fibre.

Colleen weaving,

Flax art work,

What do you make?
Anything in flax: kete, whāriki (mats), table mats, traditional clothing (e.g. rāpaki and maro). I also do tāniko (Māori finger weaving) traditionally seen on the top of korowai (feather cloaks).

How did you get into your craft?
I’ve always been interested in fibre crafts and making things when I saw an ad on a shop window advertising a course in flax weaving at a local Kaipara marae. I needed a new direction in my life and the support and encouragement among flax weavers has been fantastic.

I needed a new direction in my life and the support and encouragement among flax weavers has been fantastic.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
The flax weaving course was a NZQA diploma in fine arts. We stayed on the marae over weekends for instruction and wove all weekend.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
As part of the course we collected together our own tools. I grow my own flax and also harvest from roadsides. I use flax dyes and found objects from beaches and elsewhere.

Placemats in progress,

Flax ready to be used in weaving,

Weaving close up,

Flax placemats – coming soon,

Describe your workspace:
Small studio, great views!

What inspires you?
My inspiration comes from the flax itself and the amazing design history in flax weaving. I am also inspired by pure fashion and design and I enjoy using the traditional patterns in protest art.

Five words that describe your mind:
Fast, flexible, philosophical, functional, friendly.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Weaving flax has given me a deeper understanding of Māori spiritual values and their eco-friendly perspective. As a scientist I love the ability of flax to suck up nitrates from water ways, stabilise land and form a possum proof fence line.

Colleen collecting flax,

Yellow koru kete,

As a scientist I love the ability of flax to suck up nitrates from water ways, stabilise land and as a possum proof fence line.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
Several customers have commented that the kete are beautifully crafted and all have been happy with the service and prompt postage.

What are you currently listening to?
Gone back to old Paul Simon Graceland.

Recommend an album:
Ziggy Stardust is an old favourite and with David Bowie passing I imagine everyone is listening to it at the moment.

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
The Cat in the Hat. The crazy rhyming.

What are you reading now?
Crime and Punishment.

Who is your hero/heroine?
Brendan McCullum, I enjoy his pure recklessness, anger and aggression on the cricket pitch and his deeper understanding of the game.


Brown koru kete,

Flax floor mat,

A favourite quote:
Good ecology is always good economically.

Do you have any pets?
Miss Poppy – a terrier with a perfect spot, and Mr Licky – a ginger cat that likes to lick feet.

If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
Voxwoman – a super voice to convince people that we need zero population growth and coexistence… the trees and us. It is time to clean up the planet and forget about this out of date economic paradigm called fiscal growth.

What advice do you have for those starting out in a crafty business?
Be prepared to work hard. You don’t get paid by the hour. Each kete I make takes about 20 hours.

What was the last handmade item you bought?
Beautiful Yahtzee dice made from rimu and kahikatea in a little totara box.

What’s in store for 2016?
I plan to have a big year on flax placemats – coming soon!

Wine kete,

Colleen has very kindly offered a prize for one lucky Felt reader of this gorgeous (and very practical!) Souly Fibre wine bottle kete. This kete fits a standard wine bottle and is a very stylish way to take a bottle of wine out to dinner. To be in to win, simply leave a comment telling us what you like about Colleen’s story and her work. The draw will be made on Friday 12 February and is open to New Zealand residents only.


See more Souly Fibre on Felt »


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5 Responses to “The art and science of Souly Fibre”

  1. Jo says:

    Love your weaving style Colleen and appreciate your respect and love for our harakeke. Very cool wine bottle kete! Looking forward to seeing your future pieces.

  2. Sam says:

    I will keep a look out for your placemats. I would love to have something so beautiful and practical at my dinner table.

  3. Cathleen kemp says:

    Love flax. Love how useful it is and how we can create interesting and practical things. Didn’t know it was a natural possum barrier. Would like to learn more about it. Would like to take a course in near future.

  4. Jodie Denton says:

    Wow what beautifully created stunning pieces of art work. I love your work. I would dearly love to be able to make creations like this. A friend of mines mother in law brought a beautiful kete as a gift for her. ….she lives in the far north. …i wonder if it’s one of yours? ! Lovely detail like your work. Keep up the great work – as a ngai tahu descendant, i appreciate your cultural and environmental ethos behind your creations. :-)

  5. Josie says:

    What beautiful work, and it’s always so nice to hear about the person behind the creations. I love your philosophy Colleen and I’m definitely going to be saving my pennies up for your large carry-all kete – what an awesome market basket!

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