Taniwha!!

 

IMG_7472
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.

2013-03-14 09.55.36

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!

Done

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!

WP_20141107_010_edited

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

 

IMG_7446

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!

 

IMG_7215

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

 

IMG_7216

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

 

 

IMG_6984

The translucence and the colours in tangiwai are quite stunning!

 

2013-05-30 15.19.05

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!

 

IMG_7460

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.

 

IMG_7425

This is ‘Takutai’, or Foreshore.

 

IMG_7458

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!”

 

IMG_7455

2013-05-30 15.20.15-1

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

 

2013-05-30 15.20.26

 

WP_20141123_002

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!!!

Thank You, Oamaru (and Thank You Lee.)

During the Oligocene, conditions were rather quiescent; widespread thin bioclastic limestones formed, associated with glauconitic and occasionally phosphatic terrigenousstarved sediments. These biogenic and authigenic sediments are an important source of marine invertebrates and vertebrates.

To paraphrase-

A long, long, loooong time ago a whole bunch of things died and fell to the ocean floor and over many, many, maaany years were covered by successive layers of other ‘stuff’ which served to compress the thingy stuff and turn it into stone. We call the kind found around Oamaru in NZ ‘limestone’ and it was to this fun material that my stone carving course turned its attention.

Our design brief required that the creation was to have God, god or gods as the inspiration and so…we went to pencil, paper and planned. Lots of ideas, either inspired by lore or imagination. (One of my classmates developed a somewhat cynical but humorous design based on avarice and greed and featuring a large jug with a $ sign on the side and a key suspended around the neck- key, Key…get it?) I initially thought of my son’s association with the Maori god of war, Tumatauenga but none of the designs really gelled so I moved to an arguably more pleasant realm, that of Tangaroa, the Maori god of the sea. This ‘inspiration’ persisted but was modified. Tangaroa had a son, Punga who in turn had a son, Ikatere. Ikatere fled to the sea to escape land-based threats and became the ‘father of fish’. I gave Ikatere an offspring and named it (gender neutral, me) ‘He-Uri-O-Ikatere’ (An Offspring Of Ikatere.)

In our ‘stone room’ we were given our choice of stone and this is what I chose.


cmprssd3

It was a pretty daunting prospect to see this huge block of stone and picture the quite delicate and flowing model one had drawn hidden within. How to get it out!! First things first- remove the BIG volume of unwanted stone. My dear limestone tutor, Lee said this was an easy operation- first put in some deep saw-cuts that define the stone to be removed, then a few judicious blows with a mallet and the block would fall away. Simple. (I warned Lee this wasn’t going away any time soon.) She decided to show me exactly what she meant so gave the end of the block a few ‘judicious blows’ with the mallet and… off fell the whole end of the block instead of just the surplus section!!

Haha- sorry Lee!

She was super sorry and super apologetic but I looked at this as being a salutary lesson that at any time things can go wrong and not to become complacent when things are breezing along (never suggesting, of course that Lee was in any way complacent!)cmprssd4

Now it was a matter of following the guidelines I’d drawn and continue to remove bulky chunks, working gradually towards the form I’d planned. I don’t know whether my dear friend Lee had a pang of conscience or not but she introduced me to the reciprocating saw and what a great tool for quick removal of waste stone it was. A few cuts and then taps with the mallet and large chucks fell away. Thank you, Lee!cmprssd5

From there on it was saw, chisel, chisel, saw, mallet, chisel, and so on gradually removing more and more stone and getting closer and closer to the desired form. I hadn’t realised, of course how easy the stone was to work with- chiselling, sawing, rasping, sanding, drilling- all of these quickly removed varying quantities and fairly quickly it became easy(ish) to get close to the stage where finer detail emerges and more delicate methods are called for.cmprssd6

Something that was always at the back of my mind (and not TOO far back, either!) was what happened with the first bulk removal and I wondered how strong the stone was in the thinner areas and what danger there might be to chisel and mallet chipping away, a technique I fairly early on decided I wanted to use in order to preserve a very coarse texture on many parts of the work to contrast with some finer features- the ‘arms’ face and ‘offering bowl’. My fears were unfounded and although I was probably very tentative the nearer the point of the shell I got, the shell was indeed completed without ending up with integral bits on the carving room floor!!
???????????????????????????????

As I worked towards the final details I had an inspiration- (I do like the way designs continue to ‘evolve’ as one sees new possibilities!!). I wondered whether I could excavate a line completely through below the head and behind one of the arms…I thought it could look quite good! Go for it!
???????????????????????????????

Yes it did look good! Yes, it did require a lot more work but it did achieve another feature element. It also gave me all sorts of issues with finishing, but…

I intended some carving on the face- very simple stylised lines only and when these were done they did have the desired effect of new shadows and lines. After I’d done these however my friend of the $ jug suggested the moko might be improved by sanding and softening. Initially I didn’t like this idea but after sleeping on it I tended towards his view and so it proved- there was still line and shadow but the softer look suited the face.

The final feature to the carving was to place the paua shell eyes and it was pretty much done!
cmprssd7

All that was left, apart from checking this, that and the other for fine touching was to place some ‘offerings’. I had intended simply going to the beach and placing what shells, bones, weed and any other detritus I might find but as I had already carved a couple of nice stone mussel shells I decided that making a bit of a feature of the fascinating stones of our beaches would suit (remember ‘evolving’?) This I did- I have a number of colourful ‘shells’ I carved from various coloured stones and now I await He-Uri-O-Ikatere’s verdict- does he/she find favour with what I’ve made herim, or…
cmprssd8
The new experience of working limestone was fascinating, (although it was VERY dusty and messy!) and I reckon I did OK for a first effort! What do you think, He-Uri?

Thanks Lee.

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!

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.

2012-10-08 16.38.58

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!