FEATURE
HANDSTONED JADE CARVINGS, by Stephen L. Myhre, of Siberian nephrite, Canadian nephrite or Cassia (celt) and innuaga/kokapu New Zealand jade (whaletail, 3.7 centimeters long). Photograph by Robert K. Liu/Ornament.
Handstoning Jade Carvings


Stephen Myhre

 

 

Some of the most inspiring archaic pieces, from many diverse cultures, were made without the help of machines. Stonecutters of the past were careful and skilled in their selection of stones and abrasives. That is what made their achievements possible.


In 1974 I first started carving wood as a balance to the study of social science at university; gradually handwork became more important than scholarship so I followed my instincts of becoming a carver. I am primarily known as a bone carver through my book, Bone Carving, a Skillbase of Techniques and Concepts, but over the years I have moved over to carving stone. My primary passion is jade, but I also enjoy working with various hardstones. I still like to carve bone and ivory occasionally and work with other softer materials such as Mother of Pearl, wood and horn. Being a New Zealander means I have had the good fortune to be exposed to the long history of carving here and to artifacts both pre-European and contemporary. When I was reaching for something to do with my hands it was natural to start with that history, and those pieces.

I have been aware of Maori, pre-European stone adze blades for a long time; in fact I can remember when I was a kid playing with a friend and making small stone blades. There are many good examples in the National Museum of New Zealand, and many other collections in this country. I have always been fascinated by the seemingly perfect lens-like surfaces on some of them, particularly the older argillite, Pakohe, metamorphosed sedimentary stone blades. These blades are finished way beyond their utilitarian purpose, which gives the nod to their being much more than just tools—really they were cultural objects used in the complex system of exchange and trade that existed in Aotearoa (pre-European New Zealand).

 

 

 

Stephen L. Myhre started woodcarving in 1974 as a balance for university study. Gradually the carving became more important and today Myhre is a celebrated jeweler and carver, working in materials like wood, bone, ivory, and stones such as the rich jades abundant in his native New Zealand. He is the author of Bone Carving, a Skillbase of Techniques and Concepts, an invaluable resource on carving.

 

 

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