Not many people in our club know Nigel Brown, but behind the scenes he must be one of our most productive lapidaries, in and among all his other commitments. His website has been listed in this newsletter’s advertisements for several months now ( When I looked at it again recently I saw he had been busy producing jade kiwis so I asked him for an update of his work. He sent us this: 

Little Spotted Kiwi

This little fellow came about on a whim, and I finished it in June 2016. I wanted to try using brass for its legs and beak instead of the much easier (as I found out!) wood, used for my other kiwis.  And yes, the left foot does have three forward-facing claws (check the shadow) - I didn't want both feet flat on the ground - too static!  The body is made out of Cowell nephrite from South Australia, which I realise is almost a sin to New Zealanders but hope they'll allow me some cultural flexibility, or can call it artistic licence maybe? I made a couple of advances in the design and am happy with the end product. It is 65 mm high by 72 mm long.

Greater Spotted Kiwis

The kiwi is unique to NZ, and is a fascinating bird, and yet few people seem to carve them. I was asked to carve one in early 2016, and figured that two are almost as easy to make as one. They are made of South Westland pounamu (nephrite) with wooden legs/feet and beaks. They stand approximately 85 mm high and are quite imposing, though I say so myself!

Each species of kiwi has its own characteristics, and as I carve more of them I'm picking up on their individual traits. I can see these will not be my last! I finished them in July 2016.

Heart-shaped Manaia

This was a commission from a friend, to her own design. I carved it out of a piece of South Westland inanga (nephrite), and what fun I had with the variations in hardness in the rock, not only with the white, pure nephrite crystals but also with strong variations in hardness within the rest of the rock!

The word manaia is derived from the word mana, which means prestige and power. The design incorporates the head of a bird, the body of a man and the tail of a fish. But there are different levels at which to view this piece. The design is heart-shaped overall, with its obvious connotations, with the left and centre representing the manaia spirit. The heart motif is repeated at a smaller scale, and the koru (think of a young fern frond) is represented in the tail, symbolising new growth, strength and peace. The carving has an abalone eye. It is one of the more complicated pieces I have made. I only polished the part of the carving which represents the spirit to reinforce the importance of it within the whole.

The manaia is interpreted as representing the sky, earth and sea to Maori, but also being the messenger between this world and the realm of the spirits. As such, they are seen as protecting the wearer from evil.

On a personal note, during carving, I found that the eye-socket often had a drop of water and a small bubble in it, and it felt like I was being watched. I hope I have done justice to the subject, and my friend.”