A Favourite Thing: Karamia Muller

Puka ware: handmade baskets from the Solomon Islands hold many lessons.

A Favourite Thing: Karamia Muller

Puka ware: handmade baskets from the Solomon Islands hold many lessons.

My mother has a beautiful eye for beautiful things. When I was younger, she was always creative, and it would spill out into every facet of her life, and consequently mine. She sewed my school uniform dresses and stitched a white lace trim around the collar so that they stood out from the standard issue. 

As a shy little girl, I tugged at her blue dress with the crochet detailed hem, thumb in mouth as I watched her look at books, food, jewellery and other objects from the hand made to the mass produced. Those were my first lessons in what it is to form an opinion on a thing. 

My mother had no training in the visual arts, or arts more broadly. For all of my childhood she was a stay-at-home mum and when I was a teenager she trained as a nurse to help her family financially. Her concepts of beauty or design were informed by her own intuition, and her own feeling for a thing; she also had feminist tendencies so while she would indulge self-styling of a school uniform, she limited the number of barbie dolls I was allowed, citing that I didn’t look like them: she didn’t want me to think I had to look like them to be a woman. 

That’s why my favourite things are from her collection of baskets from the Solomon Islands. Mum collected this style of weave basket we call puka ware in different forms. The baskets are highly durable despite being made of plant fibres, and they have lasted longer than many plastic vessels in the care of my family over the years – more than 20 years in fact. 

They are testimony to the artisans who wove them, and although I don’t know the names of the women who made them, their craftswomanship has kept me company as I have discovered my own practice. These baskets have held the many things I have bought, or been given, as I have found my own intuitions with creativity. A metaphor for Mum’s way of teaching me a love for design – as a space for me to experiment and find my own feeling for a thing. As in, be me.  

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