Art has been a constant theme throughout Thomas’s life. In the late 1970’s Thomas received his first formal training in the art of Maori carving under the guidance of Dennis Conway, head carver and tutor at the Orakei Marae, Auckland. Thomas moved to Nelson in 1981, and with two other artists, opened a shop, making ivory and bone carvings, silver jewellery and sculptures. He received a Queen Elizabeth Arts Grant to study and work with well-known Nelson silversmith, Jens Hansen.
In 1984, Thomas learned the skills another more delicate form of carving, that of scrimshaw (fine and intricate etching onto ivory, shell or bone). He spent two years in Australia working for 3 scrimshaw collectors. Always seeking new ideas and skills, Thomas travelled to China where he learned to use a variety of specialised hand-tools for particular carving techniques on ivory. While in China, he also acquired specific painting styles and techniques from local artists. In 1988, Thomas returned to New Zealand and settled near the Huria Marae in Tauranga, providing an environment in which he once again took up Maori carving, studying under local carvers and researching different styles. Thomas has acquired 30 years experience in marketing carvings and artworks into galleries, museums and various retail outlets. He has sold his own art throughout New Zealand, and internationally, as well as large commissioned works for city councils, lodges, businesses, and collectors.
Thomas designed the face of the 2012 Maori Art Coin based on the Hei-matau. In his design he incorporated the denomination of the coins in Te reo. This is the first time a New Zealand coin has had this. He also designed and hand carved the wakahuia lids used for presenting the coins.
As a part of a group called Te Whare Puwerewere, Thomas as exhibited work at the Taketake Gallery in Whakatane, and at Tepapa Museum in Wellington, and has held painting exhibiitions with a number of artists. Thomas also joined four other carvers to form a group Kaiwhao Design, creating both traditional and contemporary carvings for museums and galleries throughout New Zealand.