George uses traditionally-taught methods, but adds his own individual twist to his designs.
“Mum and Dad taught me when I was young. That was in Atiu. But those (baskets) didn’t stand. Now I’ve worked out how to get them standing,” says George.
He has been weaving on a small scale since he’s been in Rarotonga, “but about five or six years ago I saw the trees getting cut down and all the leaves were going to waste, so I thought I could put them to use.”
At home, he also takes individual and group weaving lessons and holds traditional Cook Islands umu (earth oven) workshops.
His partner, Gail Lewis, says the umu workshops come in two sections.
“In the morning you learn how to prepare it and put it down.
It takes about two hours, and then you come back and eat it.
It’s like the Sunday roast,” she says. Guests are also provided with entertainment and basket-making lessons.
George’s parents sent him to Rarotonga from their home on Atiu for a holiday when he was 19.
“I was supposed to be here for two weeks, but I got stuck here, in a good way.”
These days, he returns to Atiu about twice a year.
The baskets can be to carry just about anything and can even be taken to New Zealand without any problems, he says.
“One lady took 20 back for a playschool in Auckland. A lot of locals buy them as well,” says Lewis.
George’s craft includes shopping bags, hanging baskets, fans, hats, brooms, roofs and venue decorating.
And he also holds workshops on all sorts of other topics including reef and beach fishing with nets and bamboo rods. Participants also learn about water and reef safety, and the different types of bait that are best for different fish.
Fishing rods, line and bait are provided.