Fuelled by the love of seeing his ideas come to life in pounamu, Akapita Scally carefully considers design flow and significance when creating his signature pieces known for their meticulous finish and radiating beauty. As a part of Rotorua’s carving industry for the past decade, Aka has had the privilege of working alongside some of the town’s finest pounamu artists. His designs are notable for their perfect lines and exemplary finishing, and he is particularly skilled at reflecting traditional forms whilst pushing contemporary boundaries. Akapita has ties to Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Ngāti Whakaue and Ngāti Rangitihi.
It all started with my brother Tamaora asking me if I wanted to give carving a go. I’d left high school before I’d graduated and didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I took him up on the offer and joined him at Te Puia where he was working with Lewis Gardiner. There, I spent 3 to 4 months just plaiting cords – so I did a lot of pre-work! Carving really began for me when Tamaora opened his own store in town and he spent the time teaching me all of my base skills to get me going. I’m grateful and privileged to have learned all of my base skills from my brother – and I think he likes that too!
For me, coming up with a finished product that you created yourself and crafting something that people love is what drives me to carve more and more. I don’t think I will ever want to do anything else; I’ll still be carving pounamu when I’m 80 if I can! When I started, I wasn’t very artistic and I couldn’t really draw with a pencil. But, as I worked on my skills over time, the craft grew on me and now I just love it. I get to do what I love as a job!
I can’t remember my first ever carving, but the first big job I did on the machines was carving 100 free form pendants. I was a little bit nervous because of the material, as once you grind it's gone and you can’t put it back! But, I think everyone makes quite a few mistakes in the beginning, and trial and error is just part of the process as you learn.
I get a lot of my design ideas from the images I see on a daily basis, whether that be something I’ve seen on the internet or something visually captivating in nature. I use these images as inspiration for the things I want to carve and use my design skills to take the idea to the next level. A lot of my pieces I design solely for how they look. I am often driven purely by the visual outcome of the piece and the flow of the design, rather than the meaning behind it. Everything I’ve been creating at the moment is all freestyle, so I draw it straight onto the stone, there’s no templating, I just draw. I like how we are not limited by any boundaries; we can carve anything we imagine. If you can draw it, you can carve it!
My connection to the material also drives my passion, our ancestors all worked the material and its part of my history. I’ve carved other materials too, but there’s something about pounamu and its characteristics that just feels right for me.
I’m pretty lucky as I’ve learned from so many carvers from around Rotorua. After learning my base skills with Tamaora, I went on to work with renowned pounamu carver Niki Nepia for nearly 7-years. Both Tamaora’s and Niki’s carving styles are quite different, and both of them have greatly influenced my own carving style into something which is unique in its own right. I will continue to learn from those around me and work on new designs as my interests change.