Welcome to the Moana Nui Designs website! I am a self-trained, self-employed, independent artist, and surfboard shaper (ALT Surf Works) from New Zealand.
I was born and raised in the seaside town of Mount Maunganui, which is located on the East coast of the North Island of New Zealand. My cultural background is Maori, who are the native people of New Zealand. More specifically, my Iwi (or tribal group) is Ngati Pukenga, Ngai Te Rangi and Te Arawa.
Strangely enough, my career path began in the ski industry. I worked as a professional ski instructor in the US, and spent a few years based in Colorado and Northern California. My skiing also took me to Japan and Australia, before I eventually landed in Maine where I pursued an education in economics and skiing. During my time in the Northeast US, I traveled through Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York. After graduating from the University of Maine at Farmington, I moved to the Boston area to look for work and play rugby.
A brief stint working as a marketing analyst for a company in Boston caused me to realize that a change was needed; and I started to plan my escape from the cubicle…
Moana Nui Designs developed from a desire to reconnect with my culture, and to create a more balanced lifestyle. I learned to carve in a Maori tradition during high school, and I re-discovered my love for carving in 2000 as a way to connect with my home. I began carving full-time in 2001 and I continue to learn and develop as a carver every day. Over the past number of years, I have enjoyed many opportunities to showcase my artwork and to make connections with other artists and carvers.
My artwork has been displayed in the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA; and I presented on Maori carving at the annual meeting of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania. In addition, I feel privileged to have participated in many US nationally-recognized art shows including: The Philadelphia Museum of Art Show; The Bellevue Arts Museum Arts Fair in Washington State; The St. Louis Art Fair; The Sausalito Art Festival in California; and The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival, in Texas.
Today, I create a full range of traditional and contemporary designs which are based on Maori shapes, and are infused with a variety of meanings. In addition, I have been able to source unique and rare raw materials, including “fossil”walrus ivory and mineralized Steller’s sea cow bone, which add further color and dimension to my carvings.
I create carvings as a means to connect with my cultural background and to express my relationship with family and the environment.
I draw inspiration from the history of my people (The Maori of New Zealand) and the world surrounding us. From these sources, I try to blend traditional forms with the worldview that I have developed in the last 25 years of traveling. During this period, the ocean has been one of the defining factors of my life: from my love of surfing and feeling the power of the ocean, to the calm that it brings me in times of stress. The ocean, (or Moana in Maori) is a huge inspiration for me and works a basis for many of my designs.
One of the things I enjoy most about carving is the ability to express both the physical and spiritual nature of life. This duality is represented in my carvings by the shape of the design and the spaces carved within. I find it particularly rewarding when I can blend these elements together in a fluid design, while still telling a story.
In addition, the introduction of unique materials that have varying colors and textures, has allowed me to explore new ideas that use these elements to enhance my designs. This is an exciting process of discovery, with the raw material characteristics adding a new layer to my design technique. Not only has carving provided me with the opportunity to learn more about my own cultural background and its artistic context; it has also provided me with a platform that allows me to educate other people about Maori culture and art.
“Whaia e Koe ti iti kahurangi
ki te tuohu koe he maunga teitei”
Seek that which is most precious: if you bow down, let it be before a lofty mountain