Off of the back of our apartment in San Diego I have a small workshop dedicated to the creation of bone carvings and sculptures. Bone carving is a traditional art form sacred to the Maori people of New Zealand.  It is the process of cleaning, carving, sanding and polishing bone into fine jewelry. The bone carvings I make are all of my own design and they tend to reflect my contemporary Western perspective, although some are based on traditional Maori motifs. My intent as a bone carver is to produce quality work that is unique and relevant to experiences in my own life.  I consider bone as a medium in itself for the purpose of artistic expression.


Growing up in Dunedin, New Zealand, I was exposed to a lot of Maori cultural influences as well as European and American. The sacred emphasis that Maori culture placed on objects, like woodcarvings and effigies, embedded a sense of respect within me for traditional Maori art and carving in general. While in Intermediate School (Middle School) I was lucky enough to have been taught bone carving as part of an optional club, and I developed a passion for the art. Something about the process of transforming a raw material like bone into fine jewelry struck a chord with me. I dabbled in bone carving on and off over the years which followed but I did not focus on the medium until my wife and I moved to San Diego, California in 2006.


Coming to the US was a bit of a culture shock for me and I became very homesick. I decided to take up bone carving as an attempt to reconnect with New Zealand culture through art.  I chose the Maori word ‘tapu’, which means ‘spiritually sacred or forbidden’, as my business name, in reference to the traditional and spiritual aspects of bone carving. In San Diego I have been exposed to many new artistic influences, and so Studio Tapu not only represents New Zealand culture but Southern Californian culture as well.



Bone Carving is a traditional Maori art form that goes back centuries. The Maori are master carvers and tell the story of their culture and ancestors through intricately carved effigies, buildings, canoes, weapons and even sometimes their own faces and bodies (Moko - Traditional Maori Tattooing).


The most common bone carving design is the traditonal hook or hei matau, a stylized fishing hook meant to bring good luck.  The hei matau refers to the Maori legend of Maui who raised the North Island of New Zealand while fishing with his grandmother's jawbone as a hook.


In the Maori tradition, a bone carving acts as a kind of vessel to resonate with the wearer's spiritual energy or mana. A carving could be passed down over generations, embracing each wearer's essence and becoming a treasured heirloom in the process.


In the early days of bone carving, whale ivory was commonly used, however as whaling was phased out in New Zealand only salvaged whalebone that washed ashore was used. Most New Zealand bone carvers use beef bone often purchased from local butchers. The rare shin bone of the cow has a flat surface suitable for bone carving and is often sold as dog food for the marrow. The bone is soaked and completely cleaned and prepared for the carving process. Other bone materials such as deer antler/horn and fossil ivory are sometimes used.



Commission based projects are an option, although it should be noted that bone as a medium has limitations, so not all designs are possible. To discuss the possiblitiy of a commissioned design please contact me via the contact page. Prices for this vary depending on the anticipated time it would take to complete.



Pricing is determined by calculating the time it takes to create a piece while considering the rarity and orginality of the object. Other considerations such as business expenses and market rates have an impact as well.


The typical carving can take anything between 3 - 5 hours to complete from start to finish while more complicated designs can take multiple days of working on and off.


Although I use some power tools in the initial roughing stage, the bulk of the carving process is done by hand including the traditional binding/cord.


Some pieces which use exotic or rare and expensive materials are priced accordingly.


California Residents - please note that California sales tax is required on purchases. Please contact me directly so I can factor the tax into your payment.



Shipping fees are applied to all orders. For bone carvings a $7.00 USD charge will be applied upon purchase. For all other products the shipping cost will be calculated and billed seperately.


For international shipping, please e-mail me via the Contact page in advance of purchase.





Returns are only accepted under the following conditions:

  • The item was not the same as the one requested and differs from the purchase order.

  • The item arrived chipped or broken. (please note: some bone carvings have blemishes produced by oil giving the bone a slight yellow tint in some places usually on the back. This is a part of the bone carving medium and is not considered a defect).


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