Carving a new career from limestone rock

SELINA POWELL
Last updated 12:00 29/01/2014
stone carver
SELINA POWELL/Fairfax NZ
Rock star: Upper Hutt stonecarver Brett Keno with an a sculpture he made at the Archibald’s Stonecarving Symposium.
Stone carver
IMPRESSIVE EFFORT: First-time stonecarver Filipa Lynch made this frog statue at the stonecarving symposium.

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Upper Hutt Leader

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Brett Keno has exchanged suits and meetings for days spent whittling away stones that are millennia old.

The Upper Hutt stone carver was one of 22 budding artists who took part in a 10-day long stonecarving symposium at Maidstone Park recently.

It is 10 years since Mr Keno started stonecarving after his wife signed him up without his knowledge to the Archibald's Stonecarving Symposium.

"I fell in love with it [stonecarving] straight away."

Mr Keno began making sculptures for family and friends, before taking one day off each week to enable him to spend more time on his hobby.

A website showcasing Mr Keno's artwork has brought in requests for customised sculptures from people as far afield as Whakatane and Invercargill.

Last year Mr Keno took the plunge and swapped his career in finance to work full time as a stone carver from his Trentham home.

"I feel like I'm living the dream. It's almost like I'm on holiday," Mr Keno said.

"Everyone seems to have a fear that I'm going out on a limb, that I'm giving up a good job for a hoop dream, but it's going well so far."

Mr Keno uses Oamaru limestone in his work - a rock that has a long history before it comes into the stonecarver's hands.

"It was under the ocean for millennia. In it, you can see interesting things like seashells and wood."

Next year marks 21 years since the first Archibald's Stonecarving Symposium.

Mary Archibald, who held the first event in her garden, said stonecarving was "good for the soul".

She said people who attended the annual event had become like a family.

First-time participant Filipa Lynch made a sculpture in the shape of a frog at the symposium.

She said she had wanted to take part in the event for years but this was the first year she had been able to get time off.

"It was a really good atmosphere."

Miss Lynch's stone amphibian will be added to a collection of close to 500 frog ornaments that she has collected since she was a child.

THE STONE DIARIES

 

Brett Keno uses traditional Maori designs in his artwork, such as the matau (fish hook) and koru. He said the history in each design allowed him to tell stories with his artwork. A koru can symbolise growth and new beginnings while the matau can convey strength, authority or good luck.

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- Upper Hutt Leader

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