Carving Our Own Jade in Hokitika

From the moment we arrived in Hokitika, we got to work on designing a jade stone pendant for each other. After a day of finding inspiration around town that brought us to the beach to sketch our ideas, we felt semi-confident that we had the perfect design for each other. Today, we are going to see if our confidence is just or pure delusion. Today, we are carving our very own jade stone!

Appropriately in the district known as “Jade Country”, we start our day in the Mountain Jade Backpackers, just a 5-minute walk from where we are going to be jade carving.

Bonz ‘n Stonz

The fence with wood carved like carved jade stone (woah, inception!) and a window display of brilliant greenstone designs of all shapes and sizes indicates that we have arrived at BonZ ‘N StonZ.

Steve, our tutor originally from the Solomon Islands, welcomes us in and takes us upstairs to the design room. To this point, we’d been feeling anxious about showing each other our designs – thinking they were not doable, we did something too complicated, and we suck!

The Grand Reveal

We each take out our sketches that have been lying scrunched in our wallets for days. At first, it is a pause of silence as we both take in the designs we have done for each other. They’re perfect!

“A sketch tells a lot about a person,” Steve says, as he points out that Robin’s clean sketch with no eraser marks meaning that Robin has direction. Laura, on the other hand, has nearly burst through the paper with her erasing. I think we can all guess what that says about her…

At the drawing board. 10 minutes in: we need a coffee! At the drawing board. 10 minutes in: we need a coffee!
Choosing our jade stone Choosing our jade stone
Steven shows us how it's done Steven shows us how it's done
What the f*ck is that, Robin? What the f*ck is that, Robin?

Sketchy business

Nevertheless, we have had approval for our sketches and Steve gives us some suggestions on how to make our pendant smaller and how Laura can make her whale tail work with the necklace string.

From here, we sketch our final designs on a thicker piece of paper then cut it out so that we can trace around it on some jade.

Meanwhile, Steve is keen to get the coffee in and we sit, chat and relax as we sketch away.

Choosing jade and let the carving begin!

Back downstairs, we are ready to choose our jade. Jade comes is all sorts of patterns which are best seen when the stone is wet. Robin goes for a dark green stone, while Laura picks a lighter one with black dots in it that resemble a kiwifruit.

Aprons on, Steve puts us to work on a spinning machine to reduce the edges of our jade. He shows us what to do, then leaves us to it as he tends his shop.

We carve away at our own pace, realising that carving stone is a lot less smooth that the bone carving we did in Barrytown. The stone slowly carves into shape, whereas you can whip up a bone carving mostly with sand paper in no time!

Bonz ‘n Stonz’s best students

Coffee, curves and edges

Once we have gone around our edges, Steve offers us more coffee and to sit out in the sun for a break! Ah, we love this island mentality of relax and enjoy!

He also takes the time to show us how we start to add some curves to our jade – something that Robin is about to realise is where jade carving is a lot more complex than bone carving.

Robin’s “WTF” moment

Robin takes the curves to a whole new level, reducing the size of the pendant by half. (The photo above says it all, really).

Nonetheless, we said that Steve is a reassuring guy, so Robin feels a bit better knowing that the pendant he made for Laura is not going to look as, well, bad as this by the end.

When in doubt, have lunch

“We’ll have some lunch and then you’ll feel refreshed,” Steve says. We can’t argue with that, so we go outside once again for a natter in the sun and some lunch.

For the course of the afternoon, we’re going to be carving the more intricate shapes, such as the koru (spirals) in our designs using some sort of carving pen machine with changeable ends.

Buffing our final pieces Buffing our final pieces
The evolution of our greenstone necklaces The evolution of our greenstone necklaces
Tah dah!!! What do you think? Tah dah!!! What do you think?

Whitebait and a disappointed German

As we’re bevelling our pendants, adding some sexy curves and such like, Steve is visited by a Maori lad who sells him some whitebait. Steve then gives us the whitebait to take home and make some whitebait fritters – a classic Kiwi dish! Awesome!

Later in the day, a German guy enters the shop clutching a handful of stones.

“I’ve just been down to the beach trying to find greenstone and I just wanted you to have a look at them?” He asks Steve.

Before he even shows Steve the stones, Steve asks: “Did you know what you were looking for?”

The guy gives the shifty eyes.

3 tips for finding greenstone

Unfortunately, he hadn’t found any greenstone, but Steve let him know three things to look out for:

1. Look at the wet stones where the tide has washed over them – jade is more distinguishable when wet.

2. Use the oil of your skin on the stone – not only will the oil make it easier to see the colour of the stone, but it will keep the green of the jade visible for longer.

3. If you have a pile of possible greenstone and one looks different from the rest, then that might just be it! (Or at least that narrows it down).

The final result!

Clutching our own greenstone, we are coming to the final stages of sanding, buffing, cleaning and oiling our pendants to give that professional look! All we have to do now is choose a coloured string for the necklace. Laura plaits her dark brown string, while Steve works on Robin’s.

Steve puts the string and pendants together and voila! Our necklaces are complete and, we don’t want to brag but, man, they look good! We are proud to gift them to each other. In fact, the whole experience of creating our own designs, choosing our own jade, and carving it ourselves makes it feel like a great achievement!

The end to an epic stay in Hokitika!

We had an awesome day with Steve, but now, with our new pendants dangling on our necks, we are making our way back to the Mountain Jade Backpackers, cooking up some whitebait, and getting ready for an early start tomorrow! We’re going to be head to Franz Josef to helihike on top of the Franz Josef Glacier. We can’t wait!

Laura and Robin

Rounding up an awesome day at BonZ N StonZ
Rounding up an awesome day at BonZ N StonZ Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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Comments
  1. Those pendants you guys made are beautiful! I really loved Hokitika (too little time, too little time) and am hoping to visit it again- so thanks for all the great posts on what to do and have a look at!

    Comment avatar Viktoria
    23/09/2016 at 7:57 am
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