Acts of Kindness Not So Random

Hi Reader- thanks for visiting!
This isn’t an explanation- it’s a brag. Id’ really appreciate it if you would read this before you continue with this piece- it will make it so much more meaningful.
I met L through Twitter (as you do).
She’s military (or ex-military) and I have lots of connections even though I haven’t served- I taught at Waiouru and THINK our paths may have crossed but more importantly I have family who have served- brothers (one dead), son, father, nephew, uncles, and my namesake was killed at Melamie air-field on Crete and is buried at Suda Bay on that island.
(…and now I’m quietly crying thinking about it!!!) 🙂
I’m sure L’s met my brother, and likely she may have even met my son (who has done two tours to one of the worst shit-holes in the world- Afghanistan……. and the government is committing  us to go to the next worst!!! Sorry!)
Her Old Man is ex-absolute top non-commissioned position in the NZ Army and a man I have the utmost respect for.
So we started tweeting and occasionally messaging as you do on occasions. 
It so happens that she was going through a ‘thing’ and I was able to be a shoulder and offer her support which she obviously found some strength from. I’ve been around the block a couple of times and what she was handling resonated a bit. I won’t go any deeper into that because that is her stuff to talk about- not mine.
Suffice it to say we have made a wonderful connection. Obviously there’s nothing more- we have just jelled, and it’s wonderful.
This lady is doing this WW100 Gallipoli tour (and that is no small part of her stress) and I have made a big request of her. I initially asked her to take with her a piece of my pounamu (my special toki made early on in my jade-carving ‘career’) with her to ANZAC. And to see if she were able to bathe it in the sea at Suvla Bay where our guys landed. In so-doing it would impart huge mauri and mana so my beautiful pounamu toki might become a very valued family heirloom. To my absolute delight she said she would do this for me!!
(…more tears.)
After thinking about what I had asked, I then cheekily went one better and asked her to take my tiki (the Most Treasured Possession) for the same purpose. You will by now realise how special this taonga is (to me) and this will be treasured in time by other generations of my family, and now with it will be the story of its sacred journey to one of Aotearoa NewZealand’s most hallowed places overseas and one which holds such a special place in our national psyche.
AND SHE HAS SAID YES, and one of the Maori policemen who are her protection squad will recite karakia over it!!
(……Now I’m howling even more!!!)
I will be giving her the pieces, along with a special piece of pounamu I have carved for when we meet, which I am delighted we are going to be able to do!!!
So there you go!!
I’m proud to have shared this with you.
It’s not private- it’s awesome!!



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!


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!!!

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 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!

Te Tauraka Waka A Maui

A couple of weeks ago our jade carving course joined the chefs course for a noho marae to Bruce Bay further down ‘The Coast’- (way further down!) I was pretty excited about this trip having driven past the marae a few years ago when on our way to Central Otago. I was a intrigued by the wee whare partially hidden by a stand of kanuka between the road and the tall rimu and kahikatea that marked the start of extensive pakihi swamp further inland.??????????????????????????????? On our way down we had a couple of stops to enable the chef trainees to gather cress for the planned boil-up, and to visit Okarito, a gathering place where ‘mahinga kai’ was traded back in the days of Maori travels on The Coast. In our case (‘mahinga kai’ referred to traditional food items that the culinary arts students would learn to recognise, collect and use in their cooking.)

When we arrived at Te Tauraka Waka A Maui we were welcomed with a traditional powhiri on the marae atea in front of the beautiful whare nui- “Kaipo”.bruce bay cmprssd 7Atop the barge-boards that represent the encircling arms of the tipuna that the whare is we see


Maui who stands on a large toki.???????????????????????????????After sailing from Hawaiki Maui’s crew thought they sighted land but he thought it was a mirage, (he tiritiri o te moana) but it was the Southern Alps. The weapon (called ‘te hei mauri ora’) is what he used to kill the two taniwha who guarded this beautiful bay that he landed in before going on to fish up the North Island, Te Ika a Maui.

We were invited into the whare for the whaikorero and hariru. (Interestingly on this marae whaikorero is always done indoors rather than on the marae atea as is the norm. The reason is simple- namunamu.) The interior of this whare is wonderful. Around the walls are story-telling tukutuku panels between beautifully carved poupou that each represent one of the ancestors of the Ngāti (Kāti) Māhaki ki Makaawhio . Featured in a number of the poupou is pounamu, that magic stone that is so important to the people of Te Wai Pounamu. Several poupou have a panel with a thin slice of pounamu that is back-lit and gives the whare truly unique ‘night-lights’ providing striking visual addition to the pou while creating a subtle soft light for those who need to negotiate their way through what may be a crowded ‘whare-moe’.  After the hariru (the shaking of hands and hongi) with our tapu status removed we proceeded to the whare kai, called ‘Poke’ after the tipuna wahine who was the wife of Kaipo, for shared kai with our new ‘whanau‘.

After we had all ‘broken bread’ together to cement the new bonds of whanaungatanga we returned to the wharenui for a talk from our host about the whare and then mihimihi.

Jeff Mahuika was our host and as a stone carver was responsible for carving all of the greenstone neck pendants that were given to our 2012 Olympians. As we sat on our mattresses around the sides of this lovely house, Jeff told us about the ancestors that are represented by the poupou and the various special historical elements of the area represented in the tukutuku panels that line the walls. It was a fascinating session and to see and feel the reverence of this guardian of his hapu’s heartplace was somewhat humbling.

(As I age I increasingly regret being of a race that relies on written records for these can be lost, can be undervalued or can be overlooked. I know my family has or had bibles that had our full bloodline in but I have no idea where these bibles are. I know who last had the Australian one but sadly he has lost any interest in his family history and has no recollection of where it is either! I know my father had inherited one but when he died and his widow (not my mother) moved from the family home that one was lost. I know that one of my family is researching our family history but the frustration that exists waiting for the results of that research )

Mihimihi is the process whereby we introduce ourselves to others and recite to them our ‘whakapapa’. This is one of the most daunting of tasks for those who are doing it for the first time, to stand in a new and strange place among a group of strangers trying to recite a family tree (that may have only recently been learned) in a new language- mihimihi should be delivered in ‘te reo’ (the language, in this case, Maori.) Of course all of the ‘manuhiri’ (visitors) had been given some time to research and learn their own family roots and put them in the traditional form- first you tell of your physical origins naming your waka (or canoe that your iwi arrived in Aotearoa aboard- this relates to the fact that all tribes trace their origins to tipuna who came from Hawaiki on one or other of the waka of the great fleet) your mountain (maunga), your river (awa), your iwi (tribe), your hapu (sub-tribe) and perhaps your notable tipuna/tupuna who came with your waka. From these important elements of where you came from you then name your progenitors, your immediate family line. This may go back as far as you wish- in fact in many instances for pakeha or non-Maori this may only be for a couple of generations, whereas for Maori verbal historical record-keeping means the whakapapa may extend step-by-step from the very waka mentioned at the start of their mihimihi and extend generation by generation in direct line to one’s immediate mother and father, and self. You should realise, of course, that such a ‘direct line’ has many branches if all of the forebears who contributed to one’s being are named- everybody has maternal lines, and paternal lines, and these are all seen as equally important to Maori. Of course as this was a learning experience for the young and not-so-young people in our group and we were in the whare rather than on the marae atea where it is traditional to speak only in te reo/Maori, some chose to recite their mihimihi in English while some, rather than make up their own ‘traditional’ elements gave due deference to the hosts by using the local maunga, awa, iwi and hapu and then their own family.

My mihimihi went something along the lines of…

“E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o nga hau e wha, tena koutou. (I could have then said, somewhat facetiously “Endeavour te waka” but chose not to…) Ko Ben Lomond te maunga, ko Loch Lomond te moana, Ko Campbell ofArgyll te Iwi, Ko Buchanan me Graham of Monteith toku hapu, No Taranaki ahau. Ko Jean raua Charles Crozier i Bathhurst oku tupuna ki te taha o toku whaea, Ko Alma Patterson i Tasmania raua Bill MacGibbon i Castlemaine oku tupuna ki te taha o toku matua, ko Allan raua Jeannie MacGibbon oku matua, ko Murray toku ingoa. No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou tena huihui tatou kotou. Kia ora.”

The next couple of days were simply spent- sitting on the beach watching Bruce Bay sunsets,???????????????????????????????and just quietly talking about this and that and learning more of the rohe,visiting the Makaawhio Riverbruce bay cmprssd 3to look for the special stone, aotea found only in that river, trekking along a bush trackbruce bay cmprssd 9looking for ‘mahinga kai’- pikopiko shoots, mingimingi berries, kiekie seeds, kareao or supplejack shoots, and being told about the medicinal properties of so many of the fruits of the forest.

It was wonderfully restful (even though there was a continual running battle with the namunamu (sandflies) that are a real feature of the area.)  Of course we all shared the various tasks of food preparation, cleaning and ‘housework’, and had some formal ‘lessons’ but these were all ‘in context’ and didn’t serve to detract from the overall sense of being at peace in a special place.


After a poroporoaki on the marae atea we somewhat somberly loaded ourselves on our buses and headed home, mostly warm in the knowledge we would always be welcome back.

Our first stop was at Fox Glacier to ‘water the horses’ and to buy a welcome cup of ‘proper coffee’ before we detoured down to Lake Matheson for lunch. As magical as Bruce Bay is, Lake Matheson is also a very special place and we were lucky to arrive when it was calm and clear enough to experience what is special about the little lake,bruce bay cmprssd 8the iconic reflection of Aoraki Mt Cook in the still waters. After a walk around the lake and a leisurely lunch we continued our journey home stopping only at Harihari for a comfort stop. Here we saw a new addition to the village,???????????????????????????????a project being installed by renowned Kiwi artist Sue Syme.???????????????????????????????Each one of the colourful message tiles has been designed by the sponsor of it and then glazed by Sue. Visually exciting!

It was a great trip and everybody brought something home with them. Some were pleased with their pieces of aotea found on the Makaawhio, some with their new knowledge of mahinga kai, or their broader knowledge of tikanga Maori, some with their new-found friendships and some simply with the warm sense of having been there. If you have a bucket list add a stay in this very special place to it.

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!!

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.