TUTORIAL WITH CUSTODIAN OF ST HELENA CRAFTS | Sharon Henry
(Article taken from issue 3 of the Breeze e-magazine by What The Saints Did Next.)
Long gone are the days when New Zealand flax, draped over the hillsides of St Helena represented a staple industry of fibre exports for the British Post Office.
Decades since the industry’s collapse, anecdotally brought on by the invention of synthetic fibre, flax has instead become an invasive pest.
But behold! In recent years a new use, albeit on a much smaller scale has turned the flax into a commodity once again – for weaving crafts. Or flax craftwork.
In 2012 a Maori lady visited from New Zealand to teach the art of flax weaving.
“No one did this before then,” says St Helenian artisan, Wanda Isaac who absorbed this shared knowledge like a sponge. “That is the amazing thing; we had no idea about using flax for crafts, of how to put it into anything that would be of any great purpose.”
Wanda now teaches flax craftwork herself and makes an array of authentic island souvenirs; flowers, baskets, mats and whatever-she-putsher-mind-to. She also has excellent lace making, upholstery and tailoring skills.
“Making a flax flower is simple and easy, anybody can do it,” she smiles. “Something that I’ve been hoping to have with tourists and visitors is bookings for say an hour flax weaving lesson. So they could make a St Helena souvenir themselves to take away.”
What a superb idea! (If interested find Wanda’s contact details at the end of this article).
Here is Wanda’s step-by-step guide on how to make an arum lily flax flower.
You’ll need a flax leaf, scissors, knife and a pin.
1 flax leaf = 1 arum lily
The stem can either be tidied with florist tape or by wrapping a long strip of flax around it. Wanda then freezes her work for 2-3 days, a tip given from the Maori lady.
It’s done for two reasons, one it kills of bugs and two, the flax dries and turns golden faster when placed in the sun. Once dried, flax can be dyed or sprayed different colours.
Wanda Isaac, Abiwans, Forester’s Hall, Jamestown, St Helena Island, STHL 1ZZ.