Ten Minutes: With Jade Carver Niki Nepia | Mountain Jade New Zealand

interviews - 06,Jan,2016

Ten Minutes: With Jade Carver Niki Nepia

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Recently Niki Nepia joined our carving team as an artist. For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Niki is an extremely talented designer and craftsman who draws on his Maori heritage and upbringing to inspire his jade carving. We profile Niki briefly under his artist profile in our online store but it just scratches the surface of his character, so we dug a little deeper and arranged another interview. We sat down in our Rotorua carving studio on a sunny Monday morning and spoke for ten minutes about where he came from, how he became such an accomplished pounamu carver, and where he wants to go with his craft. This is what he had to say.

What is your full name, and where did you grow up?

'It's Niki Fraser Nepia, but everyone calls me Nik. I grew up in a very remote area here in New Zealand, 'up in the hills'. It's a place called Ruatahuna, and it's in the heart of the Urewera national park." (The Ureweras are a remote, rugged, and immense range famous for its lakes, forested beauty, and stormy history).

Has coming from the Ureweras inspired your carving?

"Yeah it has. They surrounded me...the natural flow seen in the forest was everywhere. The nature, the birds, and the bush, all of these things that surrounded me growing up, they are now the basis of my design. It's that organic flow of the these things that has really influenced my work."

How did you begin carving after graduating highschool?

"Really it was a fluke and happened when I was playing rugby. The manager of our rugby team had a father that was a top New Zealand jade carver. He had just signed a lease for a workshop and I started slowly learning with him. It just...happened, and the rest is history. I plan to carve for the rest of my life."

So, why have you chosen to keep following this path?

"It just doesn't feel like work...I love it. Carving is just part of who I am, infact my great grandfather was a jade carver aswell and I, like him, just love to create things. Imagine coming to work each day and being able to sketch a design, carve it, and leave with something you've created. That feeling of having creating something from nothing, an idea, is why I keep following this path."




"My great grandfather was a jade carver aswell. Carving is just part of who I am."

Why are there not many people doing technical carving like you?

"I think it's because alot of carvers have different motivations. Some are driven by quantity, not quality, but I'm driven by the opposite. Taking that extra bit of time on each piece is what sets your work apart from the rest. I've taken it, and can now carve anything I can draw which is when you can begin carving technically."

If you had access to the best nephrite jade from anywhere in the world, which would you choose to carve and why?

"Russian, because the highest quality material is pure and has no flaws, but I do like New Zealand jade aswell. There's a familiarity when I'm carving a piece of New Zealand jade, more of a connection to the stone. Maybe it's because I'm from New Zealand, because whenever I carve a hei-tiki from non-NZ jade it just doesn't 'feel' right."

What designs to you enjoy carving most?

"Definatley stylized tiki forms. I always carve them with manaia heads. The tiki and manaia have such a flow to them, and carving them is challenging and the process different. I also like the idea of carving Maori weaponry like patus and wahaika, but I need good stone, and good stone is hard to come by."

Where will you be in 5 years?

"I just want to keep developing my style, making my work more 3-D, and exploring the influence of Chinese carving. It's the most technical in the world."