Founder Murray Crane recently spoke with Noa Blanket Co about the brand and their commitment to culture, art and industry. "It’s an important and relevant message secretly woven into a beautifully designed contemporary product”.
What inspired you to start Noa Blanket Co and what is the story behind the brand?
Noa was started from a deep seated desire to see more of our identity reflected in our everyday lives. Our community at the time was heavily impacted by mental health & depression, a result of intergenerational disconnection and lack of understanding and awareness of ‘who we are’ and ‘where we’re from’. Our work across the community identified the immense value of understanding ourselves, our make up and core values, to provide us a place of standing & empowerment, to ground us in times of challenge and act as a launch pad to our aspirations.
The Māori culture is well versed in the preservation & acknowledgement of these core human values, held and shared in the art of storytelling, both orally and in art & design.
We felt privileged to have an awareness and knowledge of self, which we had purposefully nurtured and grown following the birth of our two boys, we endeavored to afford them an upbringing we had not been afforded, and an understanding of identity and connection with people and place.
We wanted to encourage our wider community in this same endeavour, to support the retelling of our stories of identity, to consider the life-giving principles that underpin them and apply them into our lives.
We wanted to create something tangible, that we could bring into our homes, that could be taken up and used everyday to remind us of who we are, where we’re from and what we believe in. The woollen blanket is a real tāonga (treasure) from yesteryear, an iconic part of New Zealand’s textile heritage, a central figure in the weaving together of our nationhood and made from a natural resource which we’ve mastered propagation of over the past century.
Weaving woollen blankets imbued with cultural design would provide a physical item that would carry these values into our places and spaces, wrapping people in our stories, our values and identity ...that was the seed we planted in the beginning.
Starting a business is never easy. Can you share any particular challenges you faced during the early stages of building Noa Blanket Co, and how you overcame them?
Believing in our first instinct.
In both business and design, with so many different design directions to achieving our envisioned goals, determining our approach to development in these foundational years has been a challenge. We’ve challenged ourselves at times, we’ve doubted the value of our gut instinct, then following the circumnavigation of other outcomes, we’ve found ourselves back at our first understanding, better informed, grateful for the sometimes hard lessons learnt and encouraged in our self belief.
We’re still learning to trust in our vision, daily it can be described as trusting our gut in our approach to decision making and determining direction to surmount our desired goals.
The cultural influences in your blankets are a strong theme, what other elements have inspired your blanket designs?
Our history & heritage as a nation has always inspired us, investigating our past, to help inform our future vision. We love storytelling, so in some part being an avid historian allows you to learn about his story and her story and weave together a better understanding of our story.
The woollen blanket was a prized item of huge value throughout our nation's history and our woollen blanket design, weave structure and form continue to be influenced by our heritage.
Function and Form are important in any design. How do you ensure that the design of your blankets strikes a balance between style and comfort?
Our intention is to vest our blankets into our homes & everyday lives, visually striking design elements with stories reflective of our core values, our woollen blankets are a tangible reflection of care, they exhibit and activate a sense of wellbeing, so they need to be useful, practical and functional. Whether it’s to bring a certain aesthetic to a living space or room, or provide warmth and comfort whilst digging into a good book or to wrap around Nana on cooler days. They can adorn the body, provide an interwoven setting to rest or be a sacred platform to present other gifts.
Wool is such an agile fibre to work with, this allows us to consider the multifunctional nature of our offerings and provide a number of weave design options for our customers. Our ‘traditional style’ blankets, light in weight, have a classic soft feel for comfort and warmth, whilst our ‘broad style’ blankets boast a larger yarn and heavier structure providing a more robust durable finish and with vivid design, are useful to cover a large couch or use outdoors on the deck or around the brazier. We’re currently developing our ‘heritage style’ weave, an ode to our settler history and our thickest and comfiest yet. We hope to provide a range of functional design options for customers looking for both style and comfort.