Perhaps it’s a trick of the light that lends translucence to Tamaora’s work. Or maybe this glow is evidence of an ancient Māori belief that pounamu lives and breathes. Tamaora regards pounamu with reverence and respect born of his Māori heritage, with traditional forms and symbolism deeply influencing his designs. Tamaora has ties to Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Ngāti Whakaue and Ngāti Rangitihi. He has also exhibited overseas and studied the work of international carvers.
"What drives me as pounamu artist is knowing that everything I create is forever. Just like diamonds but with mauri (life force) that will carry our art form into the future. So I’ll just keep pushing my style with stone."
A selection of
How did your journey as a carver begin?
My journey as a carver began when I was 17, back in 2004. I had no job and was just about to become a father when a female friend of my uncles seen a piece of bone I was carving. It just so happened that her son, Lewis Gardiner, was one of New Zealand's best known pounamu artists and was starting his own carving business. Lewis was looking for some young trainees to teach – so she told me to go and see him. I was pretty nervous and didn’t know what to expect, but eventually, I built up the courage to visit him - and he told me to come back in two weeks to begin training. From the very first day, we got straight into carving. The first design I learned to carve was toki, then hei matau, koru, manaia and finally tiki.
I worked under the tutorship of Lewis for around 7-years, and it wasn’t until around 10-years into carving that I began developing my own style that wasn’t influenced by my mentor. Lewis always pushed us to design for ourselves and create our own style, he always wanted us to grow.
What was the first piece you ever carved?
One of the earliest pieces I remember carving was actually a custom piece for my partner - I designed and made it myself. It was a combination of a heart, koru and niho (tooth) form and I was very proud of the result considering I'd just started carving. It's cool to see your designs worn by those important to you.
Where does the inspiration for your designs come from?
I get a lot of my inspiration simply from my portfolio of work and the number of years I’ve been carving. The different designs I’ve developed over time influence what I carve now - and will continue to guide what I design in the future. The traditional arts and the fundamental designs of my culture also inspire my work - as does the work of other artists. All those things coming together shape my inspiration for the next carving. I don’t really have a favourite design that I love to carve - I love it all - I guess my favourite piece is always the one I’m carving at that moment in time. I try to put that energy into every piece.
What do you enjoy most about carving?
I get the most enjoyment out of creating large sculptures, just because of the scale and the amount of material that you use to make them - I love it. I want to go bigger and do large scale sculptures - that’s the dream anyway. I’d love to do a large piece with jade or any hard stone. You often see impressive sandstone sculptures but imagine how beautiful they would be with jade. Stone has always been my preference of material, I can carve wood and bone, but stone is more beautiful, more timeless – and it will be around forever.