One of the most Kiwiana of souvenirs you can buy in New Zealand is a hand-carved greenstone or bone pendant. But why buy one when you could make one yourself?
That's the best thing about The Bone Dude's Bone Carving Studio - you can actually carve your own and even take it away with you when it's all finished. Saweeeeet!
John Fraser has been carving for about 18 years, and has been running the Bone Carving Studio for the past five years. John explained that he started out making jigsaw puzzles for kids, then he realised his machine had the right attachments for carving so he taught himself and set up his own business so now he can make whatever he likes. Nice.
"I set this up because as a carver I can't compete with those importing cheap carvings, and I wanted to share the carving experience with other people. Most people can make better carvings than they could buy, and it's all about putting honesty and integrity back into trading,'' John said.
Too right, I thought to myself.
I had two fellow backpackers joining me in the studio for my carving session - Pam Colligan, 22, and Kaley Romney, 21, both from California. They had both been in New Zealand for two months.
"I've used my own design. I soaked the bone in tea for five to ten minutes to give it a brown tinge, then I sanded it off to make it stand out. Carving is lots of fun,'' Kaley said.
Once I'd checked out how they were getting on, it was time to get stuck in myself. There was a range of 16 contemporary designs to choose from, or you could create your own using your imagination..so I decided to put my creative skills into action.
First up, I drew out my design and then John helped me by transferring my drawing onto the bone. I then had to start carving the edges away so my design could take shape.
"It wasn't too tricky to get the hang of it as I was using simple hand tools, no flash or complicated equipment so that was great."
It just required a fair bit of patience, as the edges had to be really smooth, so when I showed John how I was getting on, he gave me a few pointers, then off I'd go with the carving again. The studio was really relaxed and some pretty cool tunes were pumping out which gave the place a very good vibe.and John was a great inspiration!
I found out that contemporary bone carving in New Zealand has evolved from the use of bones as a resource in the manufacture of tools, musical instruments, weapons and personal status symbols, by pre-European Maori and is today regarded as a predominantly New Zealand art form.
It was great to have this unique opportunity to create my own unique symbol to remember my time in New Zealand . Definitely more personal than just picking up a carving in a souvenir shop, that's for sure!
The Bone Dude's Bone Carving Studio can be found at 229B Fitzgerald Avenue in Christchurch , which is very central and you can walk there.
Session times are from Monday to Friday at 9am until 12pm and 1pm until 4pm. Saturdays start at 10am and finish at 1pm. Other sessions are available.
Allow three hours for the whole session and prices start at $55.
Bone carving is fun, safe and enjoyable - no experience is necessary.
There is also a gallery displaying locally produced art.
Rachel stayed at Stonehurst Backpackers, 241 Gloucester Street , Christchurch , just two blocks from the city centre, with 24 hour reception. For more info call 03 379 4620 or Freephone: 0508 STONED (0508 786 633) or visit www.stonehurst.co.nz