Little Shop of Taonga is a whānau-driven business that sells handmade products to support mahinga kai, hunter gatherers and weavers with their mahi toi.
Created by husband-and-wife team Dion and Jade Hancy, the opening of the online store is another step towards their vision: to pursue their passion for mahi toi and create the freedom to work from home and spend more time with their whānau.
“Jade and I run Little Shop of Taonga together. We’re both artists in our own way so we work together quite well,” says Dion. “We each stick to what we know best – that’s how our partnership works.”
With a background in Art and Design, Dion designs and carves the taonga, while Jade supports him by plaiting cords and kupenga, running the website and taking care of the administrative side of the business.
The journey to Little Shop of Taonga began when Dion made the decision to transition from full-time work to full-time study at Ara Institute. “In my third year we had to choose a subject which would be the foundation of all our art produced that year,” says Dion. “I chose to study tools that Māori used pre and post colonisation and through that, I became immersed in the history of our tīpuna, and the tools and resources they used.”
Dion and Jade wanted to create taonga that were not only beautiful but served a purpose as well. “We do foundational taonga like toki and hei matau, but our main focus is on taonga that are functional,” says Dion. “For example, I’ve got one that I wear all the time, and when I’m out on the river with the kids I might spot some watercress. Even if I haven’t brought a knife, I can use my taonga to gather it. I know others can find a use for it in their own mahi whether that’s gathering rongoā, weaving or mahinga kai”