Lewis Whaitiri of Ngāti Ruapani, Ngāti Konohi, Rongowhakaata and Ngāti Porou is the man behind the coveted harakeke hats of Haututu Creations.
“When I want to weave, when the flax speaks to me and says come, I go to the flax bush and do what I do. Sometimes I'm completely surprised at what comes out, I just work away I don't create to cater to the demands of others", says Whaitiri.
He began learning from his elders while he was a student at Manutuke School on the East Coast.
“My elders would say, 'sit, watch, listen, don't ask questions', if you can grasp the skill of weaving beyond that, you're the right person to pursue that path", says Whaitiri.
Encouraged by relatives, Lewis set up the Facebook page Haututu Creations where his hats and kete (weaved baskets) are sold in seconds. But to keep his passion alive, he only makes products when he feels the urge to create.
“Over the years I've seen the demand of the masses for this and that, for carvings, for backpacks, and then I saw that some lost their love for flax and weaving, so that's why I don't do this as a full-time job", says Whaitiri.
When he's in the zone and weaving, he says it's a spiritual experience.
“I don't stay in this physical word of ours I go to another place where it's just me and the flax and I do the work. It's a time for me to find peace, a time to ground myself, a time to be with myself”, says Whaitiri.
He hopes that more descendants of Rongowhakaata will return home to look after the flax bushes and continue the practice.