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!


The Beauty Of Stone

I am a stone carver. I came to the game late and have quickly been captivated by the medium we use. It is self-evident that people ‘like what they like’ and I have no intention to question individual likes or ‘tastes’ BUT what follows is simply to illustrate what an amazing variety of colours, textures, patterns there are available to us.

It is also pretty evident that most visitors to Aotearoa-New Zealand equate jade souvenirs with nephrite jade, that gorgeous, translucent, deep green stone that Maori call ‘pounamu’ (greenstone) . Many prefer the ‘plain’ stone without any patterns or variation in colour (although of course there are many varieties of nephrite, not all being clean and green) and are prepared to pay very good money for souvenirs made from it. Their choice, of course and who am I to argue? I imagine this will remain the case but I (and many others) enjoy working in other stone as well.

It is also the case nowadays that all pounamu is not nephrite and many of the stones that I have shown here fall into the generic category of ‘pounamu’ so don’t believe artists or tradespeople are trying to pull the wool over your eyes by labeling something ‘pounamu’! (They are probably not likely to do so as widely as they might.)

Anyway have a browse and see what lovely variety there is in stone. What you see here includes the ‘traditional’ pounamu but also other varieties than the ‘clean green’ such as kokopu (named for the similarity to the native trout skin colouring), inanga (named for the colouring of the whitebait fish), flower nephrite (with rich pale veins flowing through it), cloudy Marsden jade (named for the area it comes from),  Australian black jade (not New Zealand and not true jade), some tangiwais (a nice bowenite stone that has translucence when thin enough), serpentines (a non-jade stone that is similar in mineral makeup and would have become jade had it been further heated and compressed), and a variety of non-jade stones that I like for the colours and patterns that they present such as quartz, obsidian, greywacke and argilite.

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It may well be that I will have some of these creations for some time to come but the hope is that if enough of us make enough of these and enough of you see them and enough of you buy them we may see a bit of a shift in the perception of those who buy stone adornments- the other stones ARE lovely and the pieces that we make from them ARE made with the same care and attention as the ‘traditional’ jade creations.

None of this is to say or suggest that traditional ‘pounamu’ is not the ultimate beauty in Aotearoa-New Zealand stones- it is and will always be and it fully deserves the mana and mystique it has, and we will continue making beautiful things from it.


My Stonework

It’s been quite a busy year indulging myself in my new passion, jade and hard stone carving. Browse through a selection of the sorts of things I’ve been doing- it’s not all of the pieces I’ve done by any means but is fairly representative of what I’ve done. Some of these have been pieces created during assignments while others are ‘spare time’ creations. It’s been great fun and I look forward to the Diploma year.

Of course the work I do is often for sale and if you see something here you like, ask- it may be available. (If it’s not I may be able to make you something similar.) If you have any queries do drop me an email here kutarere@yahoo.com and I will get back to you as soon as I am able. Enjoy!

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!

Assignment The Second!

After getting my results back for the ‘free form’ assignment I moved on to the next challenge on my CJA10 Jade & Hard Stone Carving course. This time we were required to produce 4 ‘asymmetric drops’ and to present 2 for assessment. Asymmetric? OK! Piece has balance but no symmetry.

I took a few lessons from my last assignment in that I had tried to run before I had learned how to walk, (or perhaps crawl before I could walk?) I had probably over-designed some of my first efforts despite the two assessment pieces- this one???????????????????????????????and this one???????????????????????????????being pretty basic and largely lacking in any ‘intricacies’.

This time I consciously ‘stuck with the plan’ and used the KISS principle, our tutor indicating that these first challenges are more about the tools than they are about the design and learning how the various point-carving attachments and sanding/polishing tools work and interact with the stone.

So, how’d I do?
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This piece made from Marsden jade is one of my assessment pieces because I think it conforms with the design criteria, but I just love the colours!!

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This piece has developed into a quite nice piece – another piece of Marsden- great colours!. 2003-01-01 00.00.00-11

This is also a piece made from Marsden- simple although getting the curve right across the face was the main hurdle- think I did it!2003-01-01 00.00.00-12I’m using this as my other assessment piece. It’s a nice simple form made from NZ jade. I am pleased with the simple form and have developed nice curves on front and rear. 2003-01-01 00.00.00-14

This is a nice piece of Polar jade from British Columbia- nice colour and picturesque speckles inside feature in the translucence.

I didn’t stop there but also made this pendant.2003-01-01 00.00.00-18It is a wee bit special because there’s a story that goes with it! When my wife and I moved into our new home several years ago there was a large green stone door stop in the lounge. I always wondered whether it was there because it was greenstone or just a green stone. We cut it the other day and this is what was inside! Lovely buttery yellow Marsden stone with a wide variety of other colours- greens , blues, pinks, browns. I am delighted that this stone has proven to be ‘proper’ jade.

Oh, by the way- I got 88% for my free forms!! Did OK!!

Quite Chuffed

I’m pretty chuffed with progress ‘at school’ today (my jade & hard-stone course) where I had my first day on the second assignment- “produce 4 asymmetrical pieces and choose 2 for assessment”.

I learned a bit of a lesson after kinda over designing some of my ‘free form’ assignment pieces- the KISS principle works well in these early stages while we are getting to know the gear we work with and how to use the different bits and pieces more (most?) efficiently.

I have pretty much finished my first two pieces and have done a good amount of ‘stock removal’ on the other pieces. I’ll get back to the workshop on Wednesday when I am confident I’ll get both of these finished, plait some cord to suspend them from, and get some finer work done on the other pieces.

This piece has some wonderful colours- it is marsden jade and has some exquisite colours.asymmetrical 4 cmprssdThis is from the outer part of a boulder and the bottom part of the pendant is actually more rind than pure jade but I still think it is beautiful to look at. (I have some more of this stone so am now VERY excited about working on a piece that comes from nearer the middle of the rock. There is no ‘front’ or ‘back’ necessarily to the pieceasymmetrical 3  cmprssdalthough I like to think of this as a stylised bird with wings and tail spread (picture the cord through the eyes.)

The other almost finished piece is British Columbian jade from the Polar ‘mine’ in the Cassiar area in northern BC.???????????????????????????????I understand it’s pretty high quality stone and is used for jewelry and museum quality carvings. I’m sure you’ll be as impressed as I am with the colour. My tutor told me the darkening at the top of this pendant is caused by a minute difference in the mineral content in that part of the stone (and he stressed minute– miniscule, tiny, almost nothing!)

So, I’m quite chuffed!


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!


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.