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Nephrite Jade "Pounamu Mere"


When I started finding and carving jade here in Northern California, I knew that if I ever found the right stone, I'd like to carve a mere like those I saw in New Zealand, as a way of bringing together and honoring New Zealand pounamu and the extraordinary craftsmanship of traditional Māori carvers, and the deep connection and appreciation I have with the Klamath Mountains.

A few years ago, I came across a 102lb jade boulder along one of my favorite creeks, and had an immediate sense that it was the right stone for the project. The trick was carrying it the mile back to the car along the creek. 

I did some research online through the Te Papa Museum's online catalog, and was very inspired by the mere pounamu 'Tawhito-whenua". Measuring just over 20.5" long (525mm) and carved from the inanga variety of New Zealand pounamu, this mere has a very rich history and felt like the right inspiration for this project.

As this was a longer mere, the dimensions would just fit inside one of the two large slabs I was able to cut, and I was able to keep the dimensions very close to the original.

Working with a traditional form from outside of my own culture, I did so with a great sense of respect and intention. Rather than trying to copy this form, I wanted work with it as a medium that could bring together the love and respect I have for the Klamath Mountains, and our local nephrite jade.

After cutting the stone on a 36" drop saw (with the help of Justin Barrett of Verdant Valley Mining), I was able to begin the layout of the design on the stone.

Part of jade carving is learning how to complete each stage of a process. Some of that is learned from others, in books and through videos, but a certain amount of creative thinking is involved. I knew I would need to remove material in a smooth taper from the tip to the hilt, and built a jig out of wood that would hold the stone in place while raising the correct section of stone above the surface of the wood. From there I was able to use an orbital water-feed unit and diamond pads, and slowly remove material on each side.

Once that stage was complete, the fine work began around the hilt to create a series of bands. For this stage, I used diamond slip sticks to get the channels smooth, as I found the handpiece I started with was leaving too many small nicks and grooves.

After completing all of the shaping, I moved on to pre-polish and final polish, starting with  diamond sanding blocks, moving to diamond paper, silica carbide paper and finally diamond paste on a felt wheel to finish.

The completed mere rests in a special place in my home, and is a reminder of the rich gifts the ancestors have left to use over their centuries of study, the beautiful and sacred mountains I call home, and the sweet sense of completion in seeing a project move from an idea into a finished form. 

If you have an idea for a commission and would like to have it created, I would love to hear from you and find the right stone and design for your idea. While I work primarily with local stone from the Klamath Mountains, I am open to working with jade from other sources around the world, especially if you have a special connection to the place of it's origin.

Thanks! Message sent.

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