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Hikurangi Edwards combines Māori carving and painting through her intricate artworks

08 Sep 2022

In art galleries we’re told not to touch the artwork, but for Hikurangi Edwards, touch is an important part of her art. She creates her intricate designs with multiple layers of Resene paint and a carving knife in a process she calls mahi whakairo peita. She shares her artistic journey with habitat by Resene.

How would you describe your work and style?

In May 2021, at 7 months pregnant with our second child, I attended one of Hannah Jensen’s carving workshops and learnt her technique of layering and carving into paint.

The technique requires me to paint 40+ layers of Resene paint, each layer taking two hours or more to dry. Following that, I meticulously hand carve Māori designs into several layers of paint using a technique I refer to as mahi whakairo peita for paint carving. This allows me to bring forth a tikanga tawhito hou or putting a modern spin on the traditional wood art form.

What’s important about your artistic process?

All of my art is original and handmade. My art is something you have to see and feel, the photos or prints don’t really do it justice. With art we’re always told not to touch, but this is at odds with the world I grew up in, where our art are the tīpuna carvings embellishing our marae. We touch them, we hongi (greet) them and talk to them and this is what I see in my work. The carved etchings resemble my ancestors and their stories and traditions. My hope is that when you see and feel my work you get a sense of their journey, whilst looking forward to the future.

Tūtewehiwehi, in Resene Hot Toddy, has a herringbone effect carved into the background and is available at The Poi Room.

How did you make your start as an artist?

I have always been creative and giving things a go. After having my first child. I started Mokokids, a children’s clothing business.  My uncle recently told me that having children has opened up my creative side even more.

This time is different, mahi whakairo peita artworks allows me to tell the stories of my tīpuna (ancestors) and explore passions that are very important to me. Something I couldn’t always do with a sewing machine.

A month after baby was born I started layering Resene paint and carving in between feeds and naps. Family and friends saw my work and by the end of the year I had my first few commissions. In January 2022, I met with The Poi Room directors, Melanie-Jane and Clayton Smith, who loved my work and things have taken off from there.

Tama-te-Kapua in Resene Hammerhead. Available at Unity Collection, Matakana Village.

Where do you get your inspiration for your creations?

My Māori culture inspires me in everything I do. My tīpuna are always close by guiding me in my work. Each of my works reflects my culture and allows me to tell their stories.

Do you have a favourite piece you've created? Why?

My favourite constantly changes and it is always the latest piece I’m working on. It could be the colour, the story, the designs, the carving technique, even the size. I find each piece carries a little bit more of me which draws me in even more.

What materials do you use and what is your design making process?

I use wooden boards, Resene paint, brushes and Speedball lino cutters. I also ensure all my work is ready to be hung.

Whiro is a mix of Resene Pohutukawa and Resene Merlot and is available at The Poi Room.

Why did you decide to use Resene paint?

Resene is a trusted brand. As a whānau, we have used it for many home decorating projects. I have used Resene X-200, Resene SpaceCote, Resene Lustacryl, Resene Lumbersider, Resene Sureseal, Resene Quick Dry and Resene Ceiling Paint.

A commission piece heading to Melbourne, Australia in Resene Grey Chateau.

What is your favourite Resene colour and why?

Ooh this is actually a hard question… Resene Seachange, Resene Teal Blue and Resene Grey Chateau are current favourites. I love that they sit happily on any wall. Resene Hot Toddy is an all time favourite and I’ve done a few commissions in that colour. I also love Resene Forest Green, Resene Black and Resene Gold for their boldness.

A huia feather in Resene Gold, available at The Poi Room.

See more of Hikurangi Edwards work at: The Poi Room, www.the poi

Follow her on Instagram at @katahi_ka_toi

Published: 08 Sep 2022