My ancestry is Norwegian and French on my fathers side, hence the surname, Danish, Scottish, and English on my mothers side. I was born in Lower Hutt New Zealand on the 14th. of August 1950, and lived at Paraparaumu, fifty kilometres north-west of Wellington, for most of my younger years. My education was at Raumati School 1955-63, Kapiti College 1964-68, and Victoria University of Wellington 1969 and 1974-75.
I have been blessed with the hands that came to me from my family, a long line of jewellers, goldsmiths, and watchmakers, on my father’s French side and also very hands-on people from my mother’s side, a cooper amongst them. My father taught me basic wood working skills and I was used to making things from a young age. I started woodcarving in 1974 as a balance for the study at university. Gradually the carving became more important than the Social Sciences. The feeling that the only thing I had ever really found satisfying was making things with my hands came to the fore, so I left university to follow the carving. Initially I made furniture out of recycled native wood with the carving being something on the side. An early meeting with Owen Mapp in 75 turned me on to bone carving for which I am forever grateful to him. The carving world of the Maori has always fascinated me, and was my starting point, particularly the bone and stone.
In 1979 I was invited by Matahi Greg Whakatuka-Brightwell to be one of the team working on the rock carving project at Mine Bay on Lake Taupo, and spent two summers carving the insitue volcanic stone of the cliffs over looking the lake.
I have moved around and lived in lots of places, Mangaweka, Karamia, Holloway Road (Wellington), and Pukerua Bay. In 1982 I was awarded a grant from the QE II Arts Council (now Creative New Zealand) and travelled to Papua New Guinea for five months studying the carving cultures there, a fantastic opportunity to see a whole new world of carving. 1984 saw me in Los Angeles for the Olympic Games Arts festival as a guest artist supporting the Kahurangi Exhibition. As a carver I have also been exposed to the world of hard stone carving, through people like Donn Salt, and John Edgar, thanks is also due there. In the early eighties I started to work hard stone realising that it was the logical step from the bone.
BECOMING AN AUTHOR
In 1987 I left Pukerua Bay to marry Mary-Anne Crompton, who works for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. My Book Bone Carving was published. This started my life as a following partner in the New Zealand diplomatic service. Almost two years in Solomon Island was followed by three years in Vanuatu, both very stimulating places for my work. Our son Jacob was born at the end of 1988, in Wellington. We moved Jacob back to Vanuatu at five weeks old and I became primary caregiver for him which slowed down the carving a bit but was rewarding in so many other ways. We had two and a half years back home after Vanuatu and then Mary-Anne took up a posting to Moscow, Russia, in 1994, were we lived for almost three and a half years. Moscow was a very rewarding posting for tools, material, and techniques, as at that time there was a lot of good quality diamond cutting gear available as well as very high quality jade and other semi precious stones. I also learned a lot about the techniques of cutting and polishing there. Christmas 1998 saw us back in New Zealand and we lived at Paraparaumu Beach, two hundred metres from high tide, for the following seven years, time enough for me to explore the stone carving as well as do several sculpture symposiums with soft stone. At the end of 2004 we moved to Geneva, Switzerland, to take up a four year posting. Returned to NZ February 2009. I am continuing to work from home at present.
Kia Ora, Stephen Myhre
BORN: 14TH. AUGUST 1950
LOWER HUTT, NEW ZEALAND
EDUCATION: RAUMATI SCHOOL 1955-63
KAPITI COLLEGE 1964-68
VICTORIA UNIVERSITY OF WELLINGTON 1969, 1974-75
I was raised on the Kapiti Coast, fifty kilometres northwest of Wellington. While I was at University in 1974 I started carving wood as a balance to the study of Social Sciences. Working with my hands became more important than working with my head, and in 1975 I left University to follow the carving. 1975 and 1976 were taken up with part time work to support myself, but all the time the carving was growing. In order to understand wood as a medium, and widen my skillbase, I started to make furniture for a living using recycled native wood, which was abundant at the time of earthquake risk buildings being demolished. Along with the furniture I also made turned objects off the lathe.
1976 was an important year because I met Owen Mapp and saw what he was doing with ivory and bone. This was a crucial meeting and resulted in my turning my attention to bone carving. Gradually the confines of straight and square in the furniture and round on the lathe gave way to the less machine oriented work of bone carving.
1977 was taken up with establishing my skillbase for carving bone, concentrating on the non-precious, and readily available, beef bone because at this time I had no access to ivory and whalebone.
1978 Moved to Mangaweka, with low outgoings I was able to concentrate on the carving and also study the cultural links in bone carving, in particular the place it had in Maori Society. In late 1978 Greg Whakatuka-Brightwell invited me to join him and Jono Randell on the rock-carving project he intended starting at Whakamoenga Point on the shores of Lake Taupo. The summer of 78/79 was spent carving the insitue volcanic stone (tuff/ignimbrite) preparing the forms for the next summer to come.
1979 I spent most of the year back at Mangaweka, and then late in the year I moved to Pahiatua to join Greg and the group to start the Hawaikinui voyaging canoe project. At the end of the year we all moved to the lake to work on the rock carving again.
EXHIBITED New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, Contemporary Crafts.
Awarded the Lombard Art award for Contemporary Crafts.
Artist member New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.
1980 Was a restless year with my own work becoming more important than the work with the group, starting with my leaving Pahiatua and a lot of movement, including a three-month stay on the West Coast where I made contact with Bill Matheson. He introduced me to Pakohe, a metamorphosed sedimentary stone that has a fine grain and is good for carving. Pakohe was extensively used by the pre-European settlers of New Zealand for stone tools, particularly the earliest people here. At the end of the year I came to rest in Holloway Rd, Mitchelltown, Wellington.
Exhibited: New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, Annual Craft Exhibition
Presentation piece for Minister of Maori Affairs, U.S.A. trip, Vice President Walter Mondale.
1981 I worked at the Wellington Teachers College as a part-time tutor teaching bone carving for the Art department. The Academy also employed me as a gallery assistant, a position I held for five years. Guy Ngan the director of the Academy at the time has always been very supportive of my work. Working for the Academy I learned a lot about the necessary gaps between the works.
Exhibited: New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts twice, the Craft Show and the Sculpture Exhibition
Commission: Stone sculpture for the entrance of the Huka Lodge, Taupo, working with Jono Randell.
1982 Was an exciting year. I received a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council grant to travel to Papua New Guinea and study the carving cultures, and also look at the way body adornment is such a fundamental part of Papua New Guinea’s past and present. The five months that I spent there had a profound influence on me, not the least being the extending of my work into the wider Pacific base.
Exhibited: Dowse Art Museum and Gallery, “Small Treasures for Japan”
Southland Museum and Art Gallery, “Sculpture 82”
New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts
Teaching workshop, bone carving, Wellington Teachers College.
Teaching workshop, bone carving, National Arts School, University of Papua New Guinea.
1983 was spent trying to digest the huge amount of information and experiences of the Papua New Guinea trip, including the incorporation of the Melanesian hand adze into my wood carving tool repertoire, and the carving of masks, which is important to the carving cultures of the Sepic River. This was my first exposure to Mother-of-Pearl. I moved to Pukerua Bay, 30 kilometres north of Wellington
Exhibited: New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.
Turnbull House, group show “Inside Outside”
Commission: Presentation piece given to H.R.H. Diana Princess of Wales by the New Zealand Governor General’s wife Lady Beattie while their Royal Highnesses toured New Zealand
1984: As part of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs sponsored exhibition, “Kahurangi”, I was a guest artist for the Olympic Games Arts Festival in Los Angeles. One of the high points was travelling to New York City to see the “Te Maori” exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum of New York City.
Exhibited: Pacific Asia Museum. Pasadena, Los Angeles, California, “Kahurangi”
Wellington City Art gallery, “The Box”
Commission: Bone pieces for the IBM International Conference
1985: The director of the Dowes Art Museum and Gallery, James Mac, asked me to help curate the Pacific Adornment exhibition, by way of making a selection of adornment pieces from the “Melanesian Mission House Collection” for the historical section of the exhibition. I also exhibited in the contemporary section of the exhibition. This year was the first time I had confronted the hard stone carving using the metamorphosed mud stone Argillite (Pakohe), and the first parts of the book were put down on paper.
Exhibited: Dowes Museum and Art Gallery (Pacific Adornment)
Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C. (Treasures From The Land)
Nippon Club of New York City, (Konnichiwa New Zealand)
Wellington City Art Gallery, (Ties That Bind)
Dowes Art Museum and Art Gallery (Pakohe, Argillite Show)
Compendium Gallery, Devonport Auckland, (Award for the Bone)
1986: Most of the year was spent working on my book “Bone Carving: A Skilllbase of Techniques and Concepts”. June to August full-time teaching workshop one on one in my studio with Diane Connal covered by an Australian Arts Council grant, and also a one-week bone-carving workshop for Te Awamutu Kokiri.
Exhibited: Masterworks Gallery, Parnell Auckland, (Opening Show)
Crafts Council of New Zealand, (Sculptural Forms)
Antipodes Gallery, Wellington, (Kallista)
1987: Lots of changes this year, Mary-Anne Crompton and I were married in the Solomon Islands where we lived for almost two years. The work took on more of a “Pacific” feel with the access to all the wonderful materials of the Solomons, Gold-lip Mother-of-Pearl, Black Coral, Fossilised Clam Shell, and Turtle Shell, as well as a host of tropical hard woods to play with. My book was published at the end of the year, making it very special.
Exhibited: Porirua Museum, Porirua, (Contemporary Bone Carving)
Freehand Gallery, Beverly Hills, California, U.S.A.
1988: A time of hard work learning about the materials and forms of the carving in the Solomons, especially the history of the Clam Shell carving which took this material to a very high level. Also of interest was the soft stone carving of the Western province where the volcanic stone, Andosite, is worked to a high degree. Guest Artist at the final exhibition venue of “Kahurangi” at the Bishop Museum Honolulu, Hawaii. A further move to Vanuatu later in the year meant a lot of time spent in packing up and re-establishing the workspace. The birth of Jacob Rei at the end of the year made it complete.
Exhibited: Villas Gallery, Kelburn, Wellington
Gallery Two Four Two, Hastings.
1989: Mostly taken up with looking after Jacob, but some work got done, such as helping with the first Annual Exhibition of the Port Vila Arts Group, which included both expatriate and local, Ni-Vanuatu, artist working in contemporary forms.
Exhibited: Crafts Council of New Zealand, (Box Show)
Art 89, French Embassy, Port Vila, Vanuatu
1990: Explored the materials and carving of Vanuatu. The local coral stones were of interest and I did some larger bowls, and canoe forms in tropical hard woods.
Exhibited: Art 90, French Embassy, Port Vila, Vanuatu.
1991: Joint exhibition with Ni-Vanuatu, Emmanuel Watt, a contemporary carver, and sculptor. We returned to New Zealand in September of the year, and I established the workspace at Riwai St. Paraparaumu.
Exhibited: Joint Exhibition with Emmanuel Watt, French Embassy, Port Vila.
1992: Re entry to New Zealand. A lot more work with beef bone, which had been largely left behind during the stay in Melanesia. The jade and other hard stone carving re-established.
Exhibited: Compendium Gallery, Devonport, Auckland. Joint exhibition with Dave Hegglun.
Masterworks Gallery, Parnell, Auckland
1993: A year of cutting deeper into the jade with a trip to the coast to buy pounamu. The bone carving running in parallel with the stone.
Exhibited: Cave Rock Gallery, Christchurch.
Compendium Gallery, Devonport, Auckland.
1994: In August we moved to Russia, where Mary-Anne took up her post with the New Zealand Embassy in Moscow. I took a small-scale workshop with me and set it up in an underground cellar at the Embassy.
Exhibited: 5th. National Jade Carving Exhibition, Left Bank Gallery, Greymouth Australasian Diamond Tools Award for fishook pendant.
Kapiti Coast Regional Arts Council Easter Exhibition, Southwards Museum, Paraparaumu.
1995-1997: The time spent in Russia was very rewarding for work because of the access to wonderful material, Nephrite Jade and Mammoth Ivory along with other semi-precious stones. I was also lucky to be able to buy some very high quality diamond abrasive tools, so the workshop was increased immensely. My contact with Russian carvers showed me a lot of new techniques, and my ability to cut and particularly to polish the stone was increased.
1998: Returned to New Zealand end of 97, and moved to Paraparaumu Beach. Once again workshop establishment took time, but ultimately I have a great workspace, which nourishes my creative energy. Presentation work for Coastal Tankers Ltd. “Carving if New Zealand” National Museum Of Denmark, with four Maori artists.
1999: Te Taraitanga Sculpture symposium three weeks work on a large piece of Andosite from Taranaki. Presentation piece for Heather Mckasey.
“Contemporary New Zealand Carvers” Czech Republic. Vladimir Cizek
2000: A TREASURY OF NEW ZEALAND CRAFT RESOURCES, virtual gallery, and Millenium Exhibition
2001: Te Taraitanga Sculpture symposium, Marble/hand tools. Trinity farm Sculpture symposium. Masterworks“Working the Stone Jade April. MANA POUNAMU, Left Bank Gallery, Greymouth, biannual Jade carving exhibition, Dec 2001 – Feb. 2002.
2002: Trinity farm, Netzuke Show, Japan, Life was a beach…. Bivalve form
2003: Trinity farm, Te Tareitanga (marble mussel grey&pink)
2004: Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The end of the year was absorbed by the tomb job with a trip to the coast to find material and the packing of the workshop, for Geneva, at the same time, was a bit intense, but the job ended well. Exhibited; Compendium Gifts Fit for a Queen, (greywacke boulder) and individual show.
2005: Geneva setup; Exhibited: May; Freehand 25th. Trip to the opening in L.A.
2007: Trip to Bratislava to pick up David McGill and went to Carrara with him also
2008: Hard stone workshop in Turnov Czech Republic with Owen Mapp
2009: Returned to New Zealand, January, and moved back into the house at the beach.
Mahara Gallery The Colour of Water, Pataka Gallery, Artifact show.
2010: Headstone for Tia Barret, Box Show Pataka gallery, Quadrant Gallery Dunedin.
2011: Mahara Gallery twice. Quadrant Gallery, Dunedin Flametree gallery Coatsville, Taupo Museum.
2012: Expressions Gallery Upper Hutt. Taupo Museum Matariki Exhibition. Pataka Museum “Songs of Bone and Stone”. Quadrant Gallery 5 Years Anniversary Show, two shows. Waiheke Community Art gallery, Waiheke Island.
2013: Aratoi Gallery, Masterton, “Spirit Tree”.
Many of my pieces have found their way around the world through various private and official channels. My work is represented in such collection as:
Dowes Museum and Art gallery, Lower Hutt.
Jade collection, Left Bank Gallery, Greymouth
Owen Mapp Collection, Paraparaumu.
Guy Ngan Collection, Stokes Valley
Auckland Institute of Technology
David Kamansky Collection, U.S.A.
Robert Liu Collection, U.S.A.
Fritz Schmidt Collection, London and Switzerland.