Lewis Tamihana Gardiner
Lewis Gardiner (Te Arawa, Ngati Awa, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngai Tahu), is regarded as one of the most innovative and respected Maori jade artists of his generation.
In 1994, he graduated in Maori Craft and Design at the Waiariki Institute of Technology in Rotorua. During his final year he was introduced to the valuable medium of Pounamu (New Zealand Greenstone) and was immediately attracted to its artistic possibilities. Maori had always valued Pounamu for both its hardness and for its translucent beauty. Lewis was no different — as he says, “Our tupuna (ancestors) have given us, the Maori people, the resource and knowledge base to provide a reference for us and our children for years to come”.
In 1995, he became a full-time jade and bone carver specializing in traditional Maori imagery. Since then he has developed his own style and helped shape other carvers’ perspectives on the use of Pounamu. Winning the bi-annual Mana Pounamu Awards for contemporary Maori design in 1999, 2001, and 2003, further enhanced his reputation as one of the major jade artists.
In 2003, he travelled to China to visit a master jade carver to source tools and study techniques to carve on a larger scale. This knowledge has influenced and enabled his ability to work on both massive sculptural forms as well as small delicate work. His unique sense of design and use of inlay coupled with his ability to envision large-scale works (often using several varieties of jade), has set Lewis apart from many of his contemporaries.
In 2009, Lewis was appointed as the inaugural Tumu Whakairo (Head of School) of Te Takapu O Rotowhio (the National Stone and Bone Carving School) at the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, trading as TE PUIA. Lewis successfully sought to have the NZMACI student and consumer appreciation of traditional Maori adornment expanded from wood, to the beauty of Pounamu, Wheua (Bone) and composite materials through teaching refined traditional techniques and casting. Lewis vacated this role in 2013 to continue his own artistic development and runs a successful business in Rotorua.