The Bone Studio and Gallery ... Master Carver Ian Thorne
Welcomes you to
Master Carver Ian Thorne
Offering bone, jade, stone, ebony, sculpture, gemstone and Maori carving in a unique craft Gallery with bone carving classes in the Bone Studio. Whalebone and other artefacts are on display, too!
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View a video of Ian at work.
"Ian Thorne - Whitianga"
Whitianga carver Ian Thorne works in just about any material but the one he most enjoys is whale tooth.
"Because it's rare, because of its colour. It's just pleasurable to carve. It shaves nicely and you get really good detail."
But he also enjoys saving whales and, as a member of Project Jonah, he has taken part in lots of rescues and anttempted rescues. It gives him no pleaseure to lose a whale even though some time, down the line, it may mean more whale tooth for carving. Ian is passionate about carving and prides himself on the quality of his work which has occupied him for about 20 years.
He began in a flatmate's workshop in Wellington, learning the basics, before moving to Whitianga and teaching himself the rest. He's been a full-time carver for the last 10 [now 15] years.
His early work was in beef bone, recycled ebony, shells and horns. Sinde then, he's worked in jade, whalebone, pig tusks and teeth, wolf teeth, walrus tusks, birds' wing bones, stone, wood, emu and ostrich eggs and even mammoth ivory.
He acquires materials when and where he can. He's picked up whalebone pieces, some quite large, while beachcombing and has been given other pieces. Recycled ebony comes from old statues or jewellery in second-hand shops and he trades paua shell on the internet for mammoth ivory from Canada.
On smaller pieces of jewellery, he works mainly by hand, creating beautifully crafted carvings that are in a totally different class from the mass-produced carvings in some tourist shops.
Many of his designs have evolved from a traditional base, with the unfurled kour and the double fishing hook frequent motifs. He's particular[ly] interested in twin forms and exploring a theme of growing together. He also likes doing some weird, funky pieces.
He's become fascinated with taonga puoro (Maori musical instruments) and makes and plays a wide range. "I love making them. They're very meditative to play, a sound that's uniquely New Zealand." He says he's had nothing but encouragement and interest from Maori experts in this field.
In recent years, Ian has also produced bigger pieces of sculpture, again in a wide range of materials, from stone and marble to granite and andesite. He's taken part in a number of sculpture symposiums and is a retular participant in Dave Fowell's symposiums at Eggcentric Cafe, Flaxmill Bay.
Up until recently, he was a regular performer - he plays guitar and base and sings - at Whitiange Musicians Club sessions at the Cafe. The club has now lapsed.
He enjoys teaching carving and regularly has students from overseas at his Bone Studio and Gallery in Whitianga. Teaching helps him as well as his students, he says.
"Every piece I make teaches me something. And every piece I teach someone else to make teaches me something. You've got to be a perfectionist."
By Shenagh Gleeson
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The carvings featured on this website are Ian's original creations as well as those of many fine New Zealand carvers. Because a true carver's creations are "one-off" originals, the images shown here identify each carver's attention to detail and the quality of their carvings in the hope that visitors will arrange to have a piece carved to suit your individual requirements and preferences (most pieces are quickly sold). These creations are not expensive as you're not paying the markup of brick-and-mortar galleries by dealing directly with master carvers.
Artists -- The Bone Studio's Gallery proudly features the works of ...
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Questions? You can e-mail Ian directly at or go to his
contact page for all the ways to contact him and the carvers he represents.
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