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A good hair day

A hair sticks to your cheek in the swimming pool, or on your lips after floating atop your latte — chances are your immediate reaction is one of repulsion, you want that thing off your face.

But human hair is a significant component of two out of three works created by Gisborne artist Conor Jeory for The Kauri Museum's second Maker Series.

There is also reason to believe that sense of repulsion might not be as instinctive as much as a culturally conditioned response.

Artists selected for The Kauri Museum's second “creating with kauri” exhibition were each sent either one piece of gum or six gum nuggets and a piece of kauri timber to be worked into their jewellery-themed submissions.

One piece Jeory created was a necklace with “four ancient tears of the great kauri forests gone by”. He completed the work by plaiting the string from his young nephew/cousin's shorn locks to create the Apirana “netlace”.

“You can wash, comb and fluff it up and style it depending on how you're feeling that day,” he says.

While not made from hair but swamp kauri, Jeory's Arainehu II is a carved face mask.

Designed to be worn around the neck when not in use, Arainehu II comes with a necklace thread in Ngati Porou colours, and a washable damask linen and nylon-layered insert filter — “assembly required”.

Jeory created another face mask, Arainehu I. After spinning thread from five people's hair, including his own “greying locks”, he used the hand-weaving technique of taniko to make the mask.

One of the mask's two buttons is made from swamp kauri, the other from one of the six kauri gum nuggets. Jeory also used taniko in the making of a woven hair pouch to store the face mask in. He wove much of the pouch by his mother's bedside.

“She wasn't able to teach me some of the taniko technique I needed. Instead, I had to do a bit of reading. The mask gets a wide reaction. I played with the idea of the mask as a tapu object.”

Different cultural outlooks came into play over human hair.

“From my Maori mother, when I was a kid I had to dispose of cut hair and nail clippings. When I went to my grandmother's, who was of Norwegian descent, I would play with some of the hair objects.

“They used to take their lengths of cut hair and braid it into doughnuts to hold the hair in place. The Victorians kept hair as mementos for bracelets and lockets.”

The cultural dissonance, from having to dispose of human hair to playing with it as a taonga intrigues Jeory.

“To me it's the most extraordinary material. Hair is sensual.”

Having been given a cousin's ponytail, Jeory is creating butterfly nets from it.

The Makers Series jewellery exhibition is on at The Kauri Museum in Matakohe, Northland, and runs until February 28.

THE HUMAN TOUCH: Artist Conor Jeory's contributions to the The Kauri Museum's jewellery-themed Maker Series include a 'netlace' made with pieces of kauri gum and a string made from human hair.
FACE MASK: Jeory also created a face mask and pouch from human hair.
INTRICATE: A face mask carved from swamp kauri was another of Conor Jeory's contributions to the Kauri Museum's jewellery-themed Makers Series exhibition. Pictures supplied