I haven’t been very busy on my blog this year. Well I haven’t been ‘busy’ at all on it, really. I made several starts when certain things became topical but for one reason or another I didn’t get them finished before the topicality ran out!!

have been a bit more busy with other stuff and completed my ‘Diploma in Jade and Hard Stone Carving’ and in the process have made a few pieces I am a bit pleased with. So- being a bit pleased I thought I’d kill two birds with one carefully directed stone- complete a blog-post and share just some of the pleasing pieces with you!


This is ‘Wairua’, a piece I carved for the Aotearoa Jade Carvers National Exhibition in Hokitika a couple of weeks ago.



I used a combination of design elements based on waves on the sea and ferns in our bush. Interestingly mine was the only one of the 35 pieces in the exhibition that sold!



One of the stones I’ve developed a soft spot for is ‘tangiwai’ a bowenite and close cousin of nephrite.



Tangiwai is classified as one of the ‘pounamu’ stones, along with nephrite jade and serpentine.




The translucence and the colours in tangiwai are quite stunning!


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It’s fun to grind these discs very thin so that one is able to even get to the extent of seeing right through the stone. The irony is, of course that we then hang it against the body so the colours and patterns aren’t seen!



I have a good friend whose daughter talked her into her first tattoo, so to celebrate this momentous occasion I carved her this copy of the design in South-Westland jade.



This is ‘Takutai’, or Foreshore.



I started the carving course because I had ‘an itch I needed to scratch’, to move from bone to stone. My original bone carving on the left and the jade replica on the right could probably indicate “the itch has been scratched!”



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This a simple fold design with a jade bead cord attachment that brings out the internal colours and patterns of this nephrite stone well.


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I completed these simple serpentine drops yesterday. There seems to be nothing special about these pendants but I am pleased that I have done them. They are destined to be gifted to some of the protesters at Ferguson in the United States. If this is going to help in just a tiny way by letting the people know that others are thinking and supporting their protests, I am happy.

Job done! I am now the holder of a Certificate in Jade and Hard Stone Carving and a Diploma in the same ‘discipline’, and I have completed a blog-post!!!


Lovely Stone

I’ve now been doing the ‘Jade and Hard Stone Carving’ course at poly for 5 months and have just completed my 6th carving assignment- there have been a few ‘other’ requirements too of course but the carving is the fun part! I’ve posted on a couple of the previous assignments, this one on the limestone carving I did, this one on some early pieces, another done part-way through my ‘free form’ assignment, followed by this one on the finished articles done in the free form section. It goes without saying I am loving the whole experience and each day brings something new.

Yesterday I was given my results for the ‘discs’ assignment. We were required to produce 4 discs and what we did with these was pretty much open-ended as is the case with most of our assignments- they want us to explore our creativity and use our imagination as much as possible with in a few conditions and to extend our skills in the use of the various pieces of technology we have available. A few key words pop up and in this case ‘curve’, ‘centred’, ‘concave’, ‘binding’ were a few of those key words.

The basic disc shape isn’t a biggy as we can use a range of core-drills to cut our blanks (of different sizes if we wish) but from here it is the eye that is most important and technique when removing excess to create symmetry and even curvature to the surfaces of our discs. What we do to decorate or enhance the surface of our discs is the open-ended part. It is not to say a simple, clean greenstone disc isn’t a thing of beauty- it certainly can be exquisite, but an important part of the course title ‘…and Hard Stone’ resonates with me. There are so many beautiful stones available to us that don’t have the same translucency the ‘pure jade’ has but have colours and patterns that just cry out to be presented in one form or another.


I made my first disc way back when I found a piece of dark, dark grey streaked obsidian that took my eye when we were carving asymmetric drops and I played around with a simple disc form. What pleased me most about this little exercise was that I didn’t use any core drill or tool to create my circle but relied on my senses. It worked out OK!!

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Just to emphasise the point about stone other than the ‘traditional’ greenstone/jade/pounamu that has translucency (that’s when you can see the light through the stone, to varying degrees) this is made from one of the many serpentines that are found down this way. The colours are delicious, and the patterns that can be found are endless. It is also classed as ‘pounamu’ but is a small step away from being true jade.???????????????????????????????This another piece of serpentine- very dark and with almost no internal features but veru handsome indeed. One of the elements we were to use was ‘concave’ and so I put a simple dish in the centre. Of course this can be as large as the stone allows, and can also god sufficiently deep to enable light to show through even the least translucent stones. It wasn’t my intention here because the dinky little feature that the suspension comes from wasn’t by design! There was a flaw through the piece and as I worked on the curvature of the faces a section of the side broke away! Never say die!! I simply smoothed this off and made it a feature and it also provided me with plenty of stone to carve a groove to take a hidden cord.2013-06-14 14.05.08 cmprssd liteOne of my favourite stones is Marsden Jade because of the wonderful variety of colours you can get in it. This disc is about 6-7mm thick and this sets good challenges to get the even curvature across the faces right but given it is also nearly 7cm across it provides plenty of surface to show off those lovely colours.
2013-06-10 18.13.33 cmprssd liteI was watching the tutor work on some discs he was doing and he’d had a corporate commission to make a number of large discs. As I’ve intimated with the Marsden disc the bigger the disc is across the greater the challenges of getting the even curvature and good, straight edges. This being so I thought, “I’ve gotta make one!!” Unfortunately the serpentine that I really wanted to use had a couple of fractures (so I used it to make the 6cm dark serp disc above) but there was another nice slab in the ‘goodies box’ so I cut a large (about 18cm) disc and started working it. It was real challenge to keep at it so that there was no flat centre and to preserve enough ‘meat’ at the edge for final finishing without losing the round. Being such a size I thought few would wear such a sized pendant so I cut one of the beach stones I had picked up in half and made a base for it. The base is another nice serpentine- very dark with just hints of colour and patterning. It did have a serious fracture that was going to be very obvious and while it would probably have been OK to leave it rough with the argument that it was just a beach stone “…and they have cracks in them” I thought some surface carving to remove the crack and enhance the face might be the go, so…2013-06-12 18.50.55 liteI had a very dark, almost black piece of serpentine that could possibly be Australian Black Jade that I made into a wee bowl. It is very deep so I had the perplexing problem of how to suspend it. It wouldn’t sit properly if I had simply drilled a hole at the rim and hung it from there, and I thought that the only option for a mid-piece suspension would require two holes which wouldn’t look flash in the middle of the bowl. I then had a bit of a brain-wave- put some fruit in the bowl to disguise any holes! As you can see this I did and I threaded the jade bead ‘fruit’ and took the cords through a shaped silver collar that makes the fruit sit flat, bound it off so it doesn’t slip around, and added a couple of similar jade beads to the ends of the cords to finish the theme off. Nice.

???????????????????????????????So these are the pieces I presented for assessment. I’m delighted my tutor was almost as pleased as I was with them and gave me a very good pass score.

Discs will feature again before long when we are challenged to make a range of pieces that feature the koru as their dominant design element and I already have a couple of ideas about the koru form being carved into the surface of a disc to not only feature the design element but also bring translucency into play.

We’ll see!

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!


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.


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!

Arahura Marae

Some time ago I wrote about one of my most treasured possessions. The place this taonga (treasure) came from is a tiny settlement at the mouth of the Arahura River.The sub-tribe of the people who live in the area are Ngati Waewae who are providing cultural experiences for visitors to The Coast and, of course are marketing their major taonga, pounamu or New Zealand jade.

I heard that they were in the process of building a new marae on the hill overlooking their settlement and having a couple of minutes to spare on my trip from Greymouth to Hokitika recently I decided to go up and have a look.Wow!! Some development! This is an architect’s artwork of the project that is featured on the notice at the site’s entry. The dark building in the centre will be the whare nui (big house) which will be the focus for manuhiri (visitors) who will be welcomed after being called onto the marae atea (open courtyard in front of the meeting house) by the tangata whenua (local people).

The other buildings that will complete the complex will include ablutions, sleeping and very importantly, the whare kai (eating house).

I look forward to seeing this when it’s finished because it promises to be a spectacular addition to the West Coast.