Taniwha!!

 

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Many years ago when I was bone carving I made this wee fella. The inspiration for it arose from my interest in one of New Zealand’s foremost carvers at the time, Theo Schoon who was very interested in traditional Maori art in Aotearoa and in particular (in part) the rock ‘paintings’ found in limestone shelters near Timaru (have a look here ) There are many wonderful rock ‘paintings’ but the two that took my fancy were the albatross and the taniwha.

The lizard had been used on a NZ stamp (1960) as had other cave paintings and I had been a stamp collector from childhood so there was that added interest.taniwha stampmatariki_2012_stamp_

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so I made the bone taniwha. Obviously it wasn’t an exact replica (and wasn’t intended to be) but the inspiration was pretty evident.

I later gave this carving to my son. I’m not too sure how often he wore it but as you can see from the photo it had a few quite fragile sections. You’ll have to understand that bone has a very definite grain in it (which runs from head to tail in this piece) and as with wood this can be a source of real strength but also a cause of real weakness. In this carving the curl at the tail and the thighs of the hind legs were the weakest points and it so happened that one of the legs broke. Of course such things can be glued and the piece worn again, but….

When I started the jade and hard stone carving in the back of my mind was to replace my boy’s bone taonga with one of stone. Some interesting stone from South Westland came into my possession (via Trademe- what a shop!) and it struck me that the look of it lent itself to being turned into a taniwha.

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So I did!!

It isn’t small so isn’t suitable for everyday neck-wear and can have the suspension cord removed to become a table-top fondle piece, or if so inclined he can put the cord back on and wear the wee taniwha as a dress pendant should he think that suits the occasion. (I hope he gets to go out sometimes!

Progress!

I recently added a post on going back to ‘school’ and I am now an old hand of 2 weeks and 1 day’s experience! The group I share the ‘Jade and Hard Stone Carving Course’ with are a somewhat disparate group who include second year ‘Diploma’ students who completed the ‘Certificate’ course last year and are working at the next level up, and we ‘cert’ students, maybe with some prior knowledge of jewellery or lapidary, or bone carving, or who have no previous experience at all.

Our first week sessions were comprised mainly of safety and safe workshop practices, precautions to maintain good health and being introduced to the equipment we will be using. We were also introduced to varieties of stone ranging from what excites us most- jade, to ‘lesser’ stones that we may very well consider our ‘bread and butter’ while we hang out for some of the ‘real’ stuff to come along.

We have touched on design elements and principles (or should that be design principles and elements?) and looked at the work of some of the notable stone carvers we have in New Zealand. These people are extraordinary and to be in awe of. They are people who create works of art that we can only dream of creating. Some of the pieces they have made are internationally recognised for the skill and beauty that are embodied in them. One in particular comes to mind- a piece by Ian Boustridge, a Greymouth artist who has been at the forefront of the jade industry in New Zealand for many years. It is a remarkable piece- a fabulously entwined tendril of pure kawakawa pounamu called ‘Sonic’ that when struck produces a pure sound that is audible for a full 35 seconds!Ian-Boustridge-Tendrils-of-Jade1-300x204Such a piece one can only aspire to tame imitation of.

Our first assignment was pretty simple and straightforward- design and make six free-form ‘pieces’. We were allowed to choose our own pieces of stone from a collection of off-cuts that previous students have trimmed off the larger stones they have produced advanced assignment works from. There were large(ish) pieces, straight(ish) pieces, chunky pieces, flat pieces and almost everything in between. There were pieces of jade, both New Zealand and  overseas (much of the ‘pounamu’ sold in New Zealand is, in fact jade from British Columbia or Siberia- or elsewhere in the world) and other stones such as serpentine, jasper, tiger eye and  such. The idea was for the student to see the potential in a piece and then allow the form that lay within to emerge through their working. It was also a chance for the emerging carvers to get their first experiences of the various tools they have available- how to remove stone most efficiently with both a ‘point carver’ and a hand-piece.

Of course the untrained eye just saw pieces of stone and was hopeful that something lay within and could be brought out.

We have 3 more days to complete our pieces with shaping, grinding, sanding, polishing and hanging to be mastered. (Mastered? You must be joking!) Anyway here is where I am at.

This piece I chose more for the interesting flecked texture that I saw in it and a feeling that it would polish up really nicely.pendant cmprssdIt is probably the nearest to what was the intention of the design brief- a simple free-form with no straight lines or surfaces. I still haven’t made up my mind where I will suspend it from! This stone is a piece of ‘Douglas Creek jade’, which I’m informed isn’t jade but is a form of a serpentine.

I picked out a lovely piece of Siberian ‘inanga’ stone that has beautiful milky colour and had some interesting patterning which took my eye.siberian cmprssdUnfortunately the patterns were ‘de-laminations’ or cracks in the stone and these caused flaking off around one end. I think I will end up with a pretty piece though.

I have a bit of design history from my bone-carving days of course and as a consequence got a bit carried away with ‘over-designing’ but… It meant that I set myself extra challenges but that can’t be such a bad thing, huh?

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This piece of stone is true jade and has some beautiful colours and patterns. The off-cut I made this from had a large fracture running through it but I thought I could make s0mething of it.

This piece has been quite problematic and this is due to choosing a symmetrical design that involves removing mass evenly.pendant3 cmprssdI don’t know that it has quite worked, but there are again some very nice patterns in the stone that will look good when it is finished.

‘Manu’ has emerged from a really scrappy off-cut.crappy off cutOr is that ‘crappy’ off-cut? I saw the fractures in it but thought that something could be salvaged. As I carved one bit broke off, then another and I nearly walked away from it.manu cmprssdI’m glad I didn’t because what I think is a nice bird-like design has come out of it.

When I thought the symmetrical piece wasn’t going to work I decided I’d better make a back-up piece and this black spike is the result.tooth compressedI’m going to suspend it with a hidden attachment and it should hang very nicely.

And my last piece (at this stage) is ‘tuna’,tuna cmprssda neat wee design that started as a simple coil which developed a personality and led me, with advice from the tutor to add a hint of gills and fin to end up with an eel which will be suspended from the ‘shoulder’ (if a fish has a shoulder?)

So here I am, 3 days from presentation day and with a bit to do but so far I’m not displeased.

Waddaya reckon?

Hard Stone

As I think I’ve mentioned in a number of places a wee while ago, I was going back to school. Back to school!! For goodness’ sake, why??? Well, I’ll tell you.

In this post I mentioned, somewhat in passing, that I once did bone-carving and also explained at least one reason as to why I am now living on The Coast. (It may be a bit fanciful, but fanciful is fine if either one believes in it, it harms no-one else or it’s just a bit of fun. Be that as it may I am now living on The Coast!)

Anyway, back to the bone-carving. I was self-taught and if I say so myself I did some OK stuff!

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The ear-rings I made to go with the necklace I gave to the kuia at Nga Hau E Wha.

It wasn’t for commercial reasons that I did it, but I even sold some of my work, exhibited in a couple of craft shows,???????????????????????????????and I was also on display at various times, so I guess someone else thought it was OK. Mostly I did it because I enjoyed creating something interesting or special out of something as ubiquitous as a hunk of beef shin-bone!???????????????????????????????I never got to work on whale-bone (although I have a piece I will have a go at one day) but I always had a wee craving (well, ‘wee’ may be a bit of an understatement) to move from bone to stone.

Well, I have gone back to school and so the title of this post. It came about when I was chatting with a clever young local artist who I had commissioned to do a piece for my second grandson (I have given a piece of pounamu to each of my children, grand-children and my wife.) Sheree Warren is the young lady’s name and she produces wonderful work. During our chat she mentioned that she was doing some more tutoring this year, and I inquired as to the particulars (if you don’t ask you won’t be told, huh?) and she said she was doing a guest stint on the “Jade and Hard Stone Carving Course” at Tai Poutini polytechnic later [this] year. I pricked up my ears at this and started thinking whether it may be about time I ‘scratched the itch’ that was the wish move from bone to stone. I went down to the polytechnic and sought the tutor of the stone carving school and as luck would have it, I knew him- small world, eh!

I chatted a bit with Ric about the course and he was very encouraging and almost promised I would be accepted (perhaps they needed a bit of ‘old’ to balance the ‘young’?) Long story short I picked up the enrollment form, filled it out and submitted it. I was delighted when my acceptance letter arrived a short time later then impatiently waited for the Christmas vacations to pass and the new educational year to begin. On Monday of this week it did and I went ‘back to school’.

The first week has been something of an anticlimax even though I completely understand the reason for the content of the various sessions we’ve had- the powhiri and obligatory sharing of food to remove the tapu from the new students on day 1 goes without saying, then a bunch of sessions on ‘health & safety’ and potential perils, and rest assured there are many in and around the various operations involved in “creating something interesting or special” out of a piece of stone. The stone (jade) itself presents hazards given it is closely related to asbestos and so the dust can be deadly, and it can break/chip/shatter if not treated properly and thus you can be cut, broken or bruised. The equipment that is used to cut, carve, shape and shine can also present perils for the unwary and anything that happens if things go wrong will generally be all over before you realise there’s a problem given rotational speeds of tens of thousands of revolutions per minute for many of the tools, and of course the grabbing of an unwary one’s hair, clothes or other dangly bits will also have happened before you are aware you’re even close to danger.

We had sessions on the tikanga around pounamu (more about that at another time, perhaps), a welcome to the library,  and then recognising styles of experienced and successful carvers then discussing the design elements that identify one from another and the particular processes that were used to produce a selection of these artist’s famous pieces. We have looked at what works and doesn’t work in design and the various conventions artists use, rely on or even challenge. We also spent a session in the cutting shed being introduced to the enormous range of stone that we will be playing with- I’m looking forward to seeing this process in action!

And we sat our first test!!! It was, naturally enough on workshop safety and covered the whole range of precautions we must take. The simple truth that indicated the importance of this test is that if we didn’t pass it, not only did we have to resit it but we would be unable to proceed to actually using the equipment and thus doing what we have come to do- carve stone! Fortunately it’s pretty much common sense even though a bit of terminology is expected, and it was pretty much an ‘open book’ test given we went over the test with the tutor and fully dissected its requirements.

The final day got better, though. We were a bit naughty and didn’t do the TPP Challenges- a variety of ‘team-building’ activities around the polytech designed to bring the study group together and to see other course’s work places. As we were a bit behind due to missing a couple of sessions Ric decided this would be the ideal time for ‘catch-up’ so catch-up we did.

Then we got into stone! We chose the pieces of off-cut material that we are going to “create something interesting or special” out of. Great!! The stuff we had to choose from won’t grab the interest of any of the top carvers, in fact it probably wouldn’t even prick the interest of a half reasonable artist, BUT… WE ARE ABOUT TO CARVE!

Our first requirement is to imagine, design and create six ‘free-form’ pieces. There are few criteria requirements because the intent is for the student (me) to get to know the tools we will be working with, to develop an awareness of the stone we chose, and to be able to bring a design out of the piece that will satisfy those few test criteria.???????????????????????????????I chose what I think are six pieces I can find some interesting and/or special shape within.???????????????????????????????They are not all jade so I will be feeling how a few different stones feel on the point-carver or the diamond burrs used for fine shaping.???????????????????????????????I am looking closely at each piece so I don’t try to impose previous designs where another design might be more effective.???????????????????????????????I do bring with me a supply of designs I’ve ‘doodled’ before which I possibly need to move out of my head for a while.

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I also need to stay ‘simple’ because these are due soon.

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Of course we also have to create and attach the cord to suspend any pendants, and carve any beads we intend to use with the cord for pendants. Hmmm! I’ll be back to show you how I got on.

So that took care of week one!