Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Artist Serene Hodgman adorning modern mats through a new way of weaving

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Hanalei Foliaki | Reporter/Director

Using modern materials to pay homage to the traditional art form of ie toga weaving, Serene Hodgman is putting a modern spin on it by adorning plastic beach mats with silk ribbon. 

Spending most of her childhood at her Grandparents house in West Auckland allowed for many creative opportunities for the artist. Some that would be imprinted on her for a lifetime and now through her work. 

“Growing up at Nana’s house was always fun. We were just able to express ourselves… I think Nana and Grandpa made that a safe space for us to be that way and that’s where my creativity kinda grew” she says.

Serene’s relationship with her grandparents became the driving force behind her gifts, especially Nana Mea’ati who was inspiring as a teacher and a carer. 

“Serene [was] very good when she [was] growing up. When we [would] go out somewhere with my husband and come back I [would] see on my dining room table, she got [me] flowers and I would say “Oh I think Serene’s [been] here” says Mea’ati.

It was during her final project at Elam School of Fine Arts that began her modern creations when she was asked to create a portrait of herself. Not drawn to painting or drawing, she played to her strengths and used her hands.

“I’m not very good at drawing or painting so I went back and had a look at Nana and Grandpa’s ie toga’s and things that people had made with their hands. It took a lot of asking questions with Nana and Grandpa about what [these] mat’s meant and I started to re-imagine what a mat would look like for someone like me, living in New Zealand, away from the natural materials with a limited student budget” she laughed.

The history behind how ie toga’s were used for currency back in Samoa resonated with the 30 year old, who is now aspiring to have her works used in a similar way.

“I hope that the mats that I can create can tell a story about what I’m growing up in and the currency is in the stories that I can share from them.”

Keeping a high standard of work has been key to her craft. A skill she learnt from her Mother who was a seamstress. 

“I always remember a rule of hers growing up and she said if you can’t wear something inside out then you haven’t made it properly so if I make a piece I always try to make the reverse side look like the front.” 

Creating commissions as a mother of 3 has been a difficult juggle, but with the help of All Black husband Alex Hodgman, it’s lightened the load.

“He doesn’t give himself enough credit but it’s because of him and how awesome he is with our kids that I can make awesome work” 

Weaving sentimental pieces in a range of sizes have already created opportunities for the 20 year old who had two pieces acquired by the Auckland Museum this year and more recently, the Aotearoa Art Fair.

To purchase a commission of your own, you can directly message Serene on her Instagram page @serenehodgman. 

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