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L. Dovgan Nurse, D. Eastop and M. Nesbitt. Modified leaves for garment manufacture: a 19th century Maori cloak made from the leaves of the mountain daisy Celmisia (tikumu). Book of Abstracts, Combined (Australia and New Zealand) Conference of The Textile Institute 2009, University of Otago, New Zealand.

Abstract: This poster presents a rare, and perhaps unique, Māori rain cloak made from the leaves of the mountain daisy, Celmisia (tikumu) and fibres of Phormium tenax. It was donated to the Economic Botany Collection (EBC), Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK in 1858 by Walter Mantell (1820- 1895), who worked as a land surveyor and land purchaser on the South Island of New Zealand on behalf of the British government (1848-1855).

Conservation of the cloak formed the subject of recent MA research at the Textile Conservation Centre, UK (Dovgan Nurse 2008). The cloak was displayed until 1993 in the former Museum at Kew (Desmond 2007), with the primary aim of demonstrating the uses of the daisy family (Compositae); its significance as taonga Māori was explored in this research. The conservation of this cloak may provide a way for communities in the UK and New Zealand to share the cloak in new ways, perhaps serving as an example of the decolonisation of collections and conservation (Sully, 2007).

The cloak exhibits unusual ageing properties: although more than 150 years old, the Celmisia leaves feel soft, pliable and suede-like to the touch. Characterisation of the cloak’s technology and condition formed one aspect of the MA research and the poster illustrates the way the leaves have been modified. Unlike some of the fibres that are extracted from plants and are part of either phloem, sclerenchyma or xylem cells of the plant tissues, the leaves of Celmisia in this cloak were used in a near intact state, which probably contributed to the cloak’s functionality as waterproof garment. Processing of the leaves was restricted to cutting out of the midrib, and removal of the upper layers of the epidermis on the uppermost side. It is likely that this modification of the leaves prior to weaving contributed to the pliable fibre-like qualities suitable for twining, and to the cloak’s preservation. It is hoped that the poster will facilitate further research and discussion of Celmisia artefacts in museum collections and inspire textile practitioners to experiment with the techniques illustrated.

Desmond, R. 2007. The history of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. London : Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Dovgan Nurse, L. 2008. Conservation of a rare Maori cloak made from the leaves of Celmisia and fibres of  Phormium tenax: Maori taonga in the context of the Economic Botany Collection, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Unpublished MA dissertation, Textile Conservation Centre, University of Southampton, 214pp.
Sully, D. ed. 2007. Decolonising Conservation Caring for Maori Meeting Houses outside of New Zealand. Walnut Greek, USA: Left Coast Press.

© Luba Dovgan Nurse and luba’s conservation, 2000-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Luba Dovgan Nurse and luba’s conservation with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.