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!


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.

Stone Works

“Ahakoa he kohatu koe, he taonga tino ataahua.”

2013-02-27 11.13.30Our ‘Jade & Hard-Stone Carving Course’ aims not only to teach us to carve stone but also to appreciate the wonderful medium that hard stone is. Obviously for us, jade is the ‘ultimate’ stone, but ours is not the only art form that utilises stone and to enable us to better accept this premise our tutor took us to view the the stone sculpture symposium being held near Lake Kanierekaniere2 27Feboutside Hokitika. It would be sufficient for some to simply visit the ‘open day’, the exhibition where all of the finished pieces are displayed for viewing. but this was not for us. Instead we visited first as the artists were just getting started on their creations, when they were commencing ‘stock removal’, when all of the big, grunty tools were doing their work- drills, saws, chisels, hammers & such and things were very noisy and dusty!!! We returned a week later to see the works much nearer completion and in finishing stages.

One might get a sense of what might be intended by the artist, but this isn’t always the case especially when any initial rough drawing of design made on the block has already been removed with first cuts. The artists were great with us, interrupting their work to help us understand something of what was going on- the stone, the particular tools they were using, hints about what was about to happen next, and so on, and to answer our questions.2013-02-27 11.35.11We must have really been an unwanted distraction but we weren’t once told or signed to “bugger off- I’m busy”!!!

Of the artists who were sculpting at the symposium one was the host, Rory McDougal who was making a Celtic sword form of Dunedin basalt,2013-02-27 12.19.12a lovely dark grey, almost black volcanic stone that looked quite ‘tight’ but didn’t give any hint as to what it might look like when finished.

Barry Te Whatu told me that his first loves are the stones from his rohe potae, Taranaki but the stones (yes, stones) he was using at the symposium were a local granite2013-02-27 12.18.45and a lovely fine-grained black basalt.

Lauren Kitts is a naturalised Kiwi who hails from the US and their loss is very definitely our gain. When we first visited Lauren was almost doubled up using a very noisy, dusty and angry hand saw2013-02-27 11.14.07to remove unwanted stone from a lovely orange granite sourced from a local gold mine.

Anna Korver is another sculptor who comes from Taranaki where she and her partner have an art gallery which features works by herself and her partner, Steve Molloy. When we arrived Anna was almost completely obscured behind billowing clouds2013-02-27 12.25.06of serpentine dust.

Jordi Raga Frances is a young Spanish sculptor who now lives in England and in the process of making his way to Aotearoa New Zealand he became separated from his tools and when we visited they had still not arrived and so he was still playing with his designs for the angular block of serpentine2013-02-27 11.42.24he was to create from.

It was fascinating to wander among these creative people and to see how they went about their art. It obviously had parallels to what we did back at the studio with their use of hand-saws, mallets and grinders2013-02-27 11.20.34against our use of trim-saw and coarse grinding tools to take away unwanted stone and to rough out the desired form. But honestly the connection appeared a bit tenuous!!

Much had been achieved by our sculptors by the time we returned the following week and they were all pretty much in the semi-final(?) stages of ‘finishing’ and this ranged from a variety surface effects to polished highly reflective surfaces that allowed light to play on the form and for the stone to show its inner beauty.

Lauren had almost finished her flowering bud2013-03-05 12.11.44and was using wet sanding discs to achieve the desired smooth surface to the petals while retaining a rough, stippled effect on the inner stamens. Her intent was to make a form that expressed the opening up of potential and she used the flower form with stamens erupting to achieve this. She told me that this local granite is the hardest she has ever worked- they even breed rocks tough on ‘The Coast’.

Barry was making a matau (fish-hook) with the shank being a white granite2013-03-05 11.57.18 and the barb2013-03-05 11.57.06(that would be affixed) made of the very fine-grained, dark basalt.

Rory had completed all of his shaping of the sword form and was giving the basalt a range of surface finishes.2013-03-05 12.07.14There were to be smooth areas that would have the velvet feel to them and highlights achieved using a rough-textured finish. Wetting2013-03-05 12.07.36the piece gave some hint to the final look of the sword.

Jordi’s tools had obviously caught up with him and he had made great progress on his work2013-03-05 11.57.45that he indicated was to look like a shape that had had the air removed from the inside. As he worked with his grinding discs to get the smooth, flat faces he desired Jordi achieved a fascinating effect with the dust that was trapped in the top bowled surface, an effect that our tutor (a mine of information) was able to explain to him.2013-03-05 didn’t need an explanation, I just enjoyed the effect!! At this stage the beauty of the stone was yet to be revealed.

Anna’s sculpture was nearing completion and she showed us its intended position2013-03-05 11.26.24 when it was finally mounted on the base that was being prepared for it. The lovely colours and patterns inside the serpentine2013-03-05 11.49.54became very evident when the almost finished smooth surface was wet.

The symposium was moving to its completion and I went again on the last day to see all of these great and different works finished and on display. The day wasn’t the finest with a bit of overcast which didn’t do some of the pieces complete justice, but I felt it was wonderful to see each piece as the artists intended them and ready to move to their sponsors’ homes and gardens where they would be displayed to the best advantage. And here they are-

Lauren Kitts’ orange granite emerging flower2013-03-09 McDougal’s Celtic sword2013-03-09 Raga Frances’ deflated stone form with his unique hand-etched surface2013-03-09 Korver’s beautiful serpentine flying figure2013-03-09 Barry Te Whatu’s granite and basalt matau.2013-03-09

I don’t know that I have a favourite favourite but I am a bit of a sucker for serpentine so Anna’s piece probably goes to the top of the class (because I think it was a nicer serp than Jordi’s piece of stone) but then the velvety feel of Rory’s  basalt was almost sensual so I might push that up the order somewhat. Of course I really do like the matau form and I think Barry’s design was very pleasing, so… No, there can’t be a favourite because each piece is unique and thus very special in its own way, whether it was the form/shape that the artist gave to the piece, or the treatment the artist applied to the variety of stone, or any combination of other factors each beautiful sculpture deserves pride of place wherever it is finally placed.

Thanks, Ric- it was a very enjoyable and rewarding hikoi.

Thanks Rory, Anna, Barry, Jordi and Lauren for being great hosts- sorry if we got in the way!!

And the meaning of my ‘whakatauki’ at the beginning? ‘although you are a stone, you are a beautiful treasure’. My thanks to my mate Derek Fox for his guidance in this.

Post Script: On our first visit we picked up various chips of the off-cuts from the sculptors’ stock removal and so I made a wee bit of a thing for Anna out of the serpentine she was carving.2013-03-06 19.22.37.cmprssdWhat a nice stone to work it was!! 


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!

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.


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!

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…
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.

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?
asymm3 cmprssd

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!!

asymm1 cmprssd

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!!


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?

jade cmprssd

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.

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!