Master carver

COOL CHISELS: Peter Akurangi with an Oamaru stone sculpture he created at the Whakatane Sculpture symposium. Photo Troy Baker D0848-097

FOR a long while, Peter Akurangi dedicated all of his time to his passion – carving and sculpting wood, stone and bone, producing the intricate and detailed pieces he came to be known for. But these days, time for his passion is shared with a fulltime job.

“For about 20 years I carved fulltime” says Peter, who now bases himself between Whakatane and Rotorua. “I’d travel all over the country to carving symposiums and when I wasn’t doing that, I’d be working on commissions.”

But nearly 10 years ago, he found the travel was becoming too much and the appeal of a steady income beckoned. Changes were made. These days, Peter limits his attendance at symposiums and carving events to the Bay of Plenty, and along with commissions, continues in a fulltime job.

WHICH WAY UP: These twin carvings by Peter can be turned upside down to show a different face. Photo supplied

In town last week for the Whakatane Sculpture Symposium, he says his last event was in November at the Rotorua Sculpture Symposium – an annual event attracting sculptors from around the world and at which a competition is held. Peter was a finalist.

“I really enjoy the symposiums. They’re fun and it’s always a good chance to catch up with local artists,” he says.

Peter considers himself a wood carver (of native woods) first and foremost, though he says sculpting Oamaru stone has long been a big part of his repertoire. “My work is mostly toi whakairo, the traditional Maori art of carving,” he says. But with many of his commissioned works, though the design will mostly evolve from a traditional foundation, he says he likes to stray away a little, too.

“I do a lot of headstones and plaques and in those cases, I like to add more of a personal touch.” And with requests for a piece to celebrate a 21st birthday – a common request – Peter encourages his clients to think outside the box.

“It doesn’t have to be a traditional 21st key,” he says. “If I’m talking to the parents of a daughter who they view as a princess, I might suggest a patu, or for a son they see as a warrior, a taiaha.”

Further examples of Peter’s work can be seen on the Facebook page of his business, Cool Chisels.

By Lorraine Wilson