Hokitika has a cluster of carvers working with jade, both the local pounamu (Greenstone) and imported jade. One of the larger galleries in the main street is run by Ngati Waewae, the Maori tribe with controlling rights to all pounamu from the Arahura River area (a sub-tribe of Ngai Tahu, who were granted rights to all pounamu as part of their 1997 settlement with the Crown). Another, the Jade Factory, is laid out to encourage customers to watch the carvers at work.
This chap was very friendly, happy to explain what he was doing.
He had been working for about a week on a large mask.
I watched as he carefully and laboriously ground away material from the back with a small carborundum stone, hollowing out the mask so it would appear more translucent.
The stone was a type of pounamu called Totoweka, recognisable because of the reddish flecks. It was already possible to see the character of the stone emerging, the finished piece will be impressive!.
Several other carvers were at work on small pieces, using high-speed diamond grinding wheels.