Harakeke artworks in Left Bank Gallery exhibition – Brainsailing

I entered three harakeke artworks in the Left Bank Gallery members’ winter exhibition (23 May – 17 June 2023).

The theme was ‘brain-sailing”

Edward de Bono suggests that brainstorming is outdated, and brain-sailing is the way to go for new ideas.

Brain-sailing is about cutting across normal patterns to produce new ideas.

“Instead of brainstorming, I might propose the concept of “brain-sailing” to suggest a deliberate controlled process in which we change tack as we wish instead of being tossed in “storm”.

“Serious Creativity” by Edward de Bono.

Go bravely forward friends, sail that brain into some new territory. We challenge you to break out of your normal patterns…and bring us some new ideas.

I thought this was an ideal time to create some more works using narrow cylinders of harakeke (NZ flax – phormium tenax) that form when you leave whole leaves or strips of unprocessed harakeke to dry naturally. I had discovered this by accident – I left some harakeke blades, surplus to requirements, lying on my studio floor. As they dried, they curled up into cylindrical stick-like forms in a range of interesting colours. So, I deliberately made some more in varying lengths.    I was also inspired by some of Birgitte Moffatt’s work.

I had a collection of these cylinders, mainly leftover from other work and have explored using them in three different ways.


Scrambled is inspired by the Pick-Up-Sticks game from my childhood. In preparation for storage, I bunched up some of the cylinders in my hand ready for tying up, just like the first stage in a game of Pick-Up-Sticks. Then I had to let them go, leading to this work.

For “scrambled” (this work) the ‘sticks’ are laid randomly on top of one another and tied in two places with narrow strips of harakeke where they touch.


Deformation is a network of equilateral triangles made from equal lengths of rolled harakeke threaded with muka, the fibre extracted from harakeke. It began as a regular two-dimensional network with six triangles meeting at the apex creating a hexagon., paying homage to my previous life as a maths teacher. The structure evolved as I worked. Occasionally a mutation occurred with only five triangles meeting which distorted the network, creating a three-dimensional work.


In Metamorphosis varying lengths of rolled harakeke were joined together with one row of whatu aho rua (two-pair weft-twining) using muka (harakeke fibre). Again I had no idea what was going to come out of the process.

As created before any manipulation

This work is flexible cand its form can be changed depending on where it is supported.  It can be hung on the wall or placed on a horizontal surface.

Here are some forms it can take.

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