Audio Series: Jade Art by Robert Singer | Mountain Jade New Zealand

interviews - 07,Jan,2016

Audio Series: Jade Art by Robert Singer

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While I was travelling down the West Coast of New Zealand I not only got to speak with pounamu artist Sheree Warren, I also got to meet Robert Singer. He makes sure our carving studio in Hokitika runs smoothly by guiding our small team of three carvers based there. As we were sitting down having a beer after work he flew through the door and in the space of five steps gave us some lighthearted banter, shook my hand and asked, 'are you ready for a drink?' He's funny and quick to share his opinion on everything jade which was refreshing, so we organised a time to talk the following day, after he had finished white-baiting of course. This is his story; a quick insight into the mind of jade artist Robert Singer; father, fisherman, hunter, and artist.



So how did you get a start crafting jade?

I've been in the industry since I was 17 years old. I'm now 52 so that's a few moons. It's close to 25-30 years. I left school, got a job around at Westland Greenstone and started doing the basics. Rounding over pieces of stone and putting a polish on the outside, and I did that for 3 months, day after day after day. They then put me onto a wheel shaping two to three hundred cabs a day for four and a half years. But, in the long run it really paid off because that's where it taught me to be patient. Not to be in too much of a hurry to push the boundaries because you start pushing the boundaries and that's when stuff starts going wrong. And I believe that's what has got me to where I am today.

I've been lucky enough to be given an opportunity in this company to progress further and show some of my skills off that I've always wanted to show. So I feel privileged really.

What do you love creating?

What I really like to do is the animals. You know, I've got a vision in my head where I'd love to carve a red deer stag one day. With its antlers back on its head roaring because I'm a hunter as well you see. The first thing you've got to do is find the right piece of stone, and having that knowledge for a know what to look for to make an animal is a battle itself. You don't just pick up a rock and away you go. There's more to it than that.

Did someone teach you to carve the fish hooks and animals you're known for?

I taught myself. For some reason at school I always had a fascination with art and I could always draw. When I was younger I also found my first piece of greenstone when I was five years old, and I continued going up the river from there on up until the day I wasn't allowed to, looking and finding stone and learning that skill aswell you see. So there always seemed to be an affinity with the artistic side, and then I always had the jade side and I was just lucky enough to be given the opportunity to work the stone.

It was meant to be for me and still is.

It's funny because you never stop learning, you're always learning all the time. I've had people say to me, "oh you've been in the industry a long time, you must know it all." You never know it all. The day you think you know it all is the day you should leave because I believe there's always room from improvement and to learn from people.

You know, I've had people text me and send me photos back and cards thanking me and that's where I get the thrill. Somebody else has enjoyed a piece of work that I've done. I love it but I love creating something for someone else to enjoy. I know that sounds a bit kranky but that's just me.

I've got the patience to do this, other things I've got no bloody patience at all. Fixing a car, or something like that, I wouldn't have a frikin clue. Everybody's good at something in their lives, so yeah, that's the way it is. I'm good at drinking beer..

And white-baiting..

(laughs) yeah...