In 2013 I went to visit my brother in New Zealand at the end of my year abroad, figuring it was a lot cheaper travelling from China than from the other side of the planet. After painting the playhouse so the kids would remember I existed, I went on a whistle-stop train tour of the North and South islands, including Christchurch.
Christchurch is a really unusual, interesting city in which everyone has a story of where they were when the 6.3 earthquake hit in 2011. Vast stretches of the city are condemned (leading to lots of employment for itinerant builders) and the parts that are rebuilt are part shipping container and part work of art. There’s a massive focus on community art projects with something new on every corner.
So, something I’ve always wanted to try is carving, and my mother’s fellow exhibitors at arts and crafts shows would curiously never entrust me with sharp pointy objects. Suffice to say I was very over-prepared, showing up at The Bone Dude’s studio with pages upon pages of ideas that he promptly informed me were impossible. I also kidnapped two people from the hostel to come with me.
The only viable design was a fern, which doubles as a quill for my love of writing, with a swirly pattern I took off the NZ dollar coin.
Traditional Maori designs include the spiral (koru), wave, twist (pikorua), adze (toki), fish hook (hei matu), hei tiki, and manaia; each with its own ancient origin story. In particular the North Island is believed to be a vast whale dragged out of the ocean by Maui, using his grandmother’s jawbone as a fish hook. Whale tails and wheku (faces) are also popular.
In the words of Daft Punk, here is how one goes about bone carving:
The Studio The Stages
Filing the shape down.
Carving the details in and three grades of sandpaper later.
Drawing, dremeling, and The Bone Dude himself, more crafty with one hand than most people are with two.
And finally, a little wax and buffing: