This is a question we get asked at least once a week here at the Hetet School of Māori Art.
"My (loved one) is (graduating, getting married, retiring, etc) next month. I'd like to give them a korowai. How much please?"
Before I answer that question - write down what your guesstimate is.
You can compare your guess with my answer at the end.
Let's use the simple formula: Basic Price = Cost of Materials + Cost of Time
Cost of materials
None. Pretty much.
A truckload (literally) of flax leaves and a few bird feathers plus some dye.
Natural dyes are free. The cost of power for preparing them is nominal.
Chemical ones will cost around $100.
Cost of Time
Here's where most of the real cost sits.
Step 1: To gather and strip enough flax for one medium sized korowai requires four flax-gathering trips - 5 hours
Step 2: Prepare Muka for weaving including:
Prepare flax for extraction of muka
A total of 250 hours
Step three : Weave (fast and steadily) 550 hours
Total time: 805 hours
Charging out at a minimum of $15.25 an hour (ie the minimum wage rate in NZ at time of writing)
x 805 hours = $12,276.25
These times are based on a reasonably experienced weaver. They do not include time for breaks.
Also, this is a basic price - it does not account for the skill or artistry of the weaver or the fact that korowai are not readily available to purchase. Taking those factors into account, at an hourly rate of at least $20, the price should be a minimum $16,000.
The value of a korowai, the energy, knowledge and skill that goes in to weaving one is worth far more than what it costs on paper, in time and materials, to make one. This value will only increase over time.
For the record, I believe an experienced weaver should be paid at least $30,000 - 40,000 for a medium sized Korowai. $30- $40k for six months of such a weaver's work more closely reflects the value of what they do.
How can I afford a Korowai?
The answer is that if you're like most people, you can't.
That sounds harsh but it's true. Most people don't have a spare $12,000+ lying around.
However all is not lost.
It is still possible for you to afford a korowai.
- Fundraise and save for one over a longer period of time.
- Get your whānau, family, friends or marae to raise the money together and share the korowai
- Learn to weave one yourself
- Sponsor someone to learn to weave one in exchange for the finished cloak
I hope that helps!
How close was your guesstimate to my final basic price? or to my ideal price?
What price do you think korowai should sell for?
Please leave your comments in the discussion box below.
Lillian Hetet Owen