A Celtic-style Hei Matau symbol (Maori Fishhook)

Recently I was sorting out a design for a workshop on Goldwork. I came up with a teardrop shape with several techniques involved, and it went down well with the customers. They all finished it, which was great!

During the design process, the teardrop kept mutating in my mind into the Maori fishhook symbol, which I saw lots of last year when we were in NZ. I managed to restrain myself from making the workshop design more complicated, but afterwards I spent some time scribbling and came up with a version of the fishhook, which is called Hei matau in Maori. It developed a bit of a celtic feel as well, so I came up with the idea of a sort of Maori-Celtic crossover, thinking of the migrations of the Maoris to NZ, and the later European migrations, lots of which were Scottish/Irish. I fell in love with NZ when we were there, and with what I saw of the Maori culture and symbolism.

Having got some materials during a visit to the Knitting and Stitching show at Ally Pally a couple of weeks ago, I made a start last week. I got hold of some fabric which is an exact match to the colour of Pounamu, New Zealand Greenstone (or at least to the greenstone Hei Matau Chris bought me when we were in NZ!) I am also using the bronze-coloured kid leather we bought in Hong Kong on our way back from the Antipodes, which is an added bonus.

I started by padding the kid areas with felt, or with cotton string for the long thin one. Then I stitched the kid in place using silk thread. I outlined two of the pieces with couched gold twist: the other will be outlined as part of the celtic interlace.

Next stop was stitching edges in Reverse Chain Stitch using passing thread. It is important to use Passing Thread if you are planning on stitching gold thread through the fabric; it's far less likely to strip the gold cover off the thread.

The rest of the outlines are Jap gold, couched with silk thread. It's turned into a circle at the top, with a bead at the centre. The beads are pale green colour, Eau de Nil, which is a colour I've not heard of for a long time! Outlining or filling shapes with red spots was a common feature in celtic-style illuminated manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels. Here I decided to add them in a toning colour as beads.

I'm pleased with the way it has turned out. It actually matches my mental picture fairly well for once. While I've been working on it I was thinking about other Maori symbols, such as the twist, Pikorua: it also lends itself beautifully to a celtic slant. I can feel a series coming on........

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