Lewis Gardiner is regarded as one of the most innovative and
respected Māori jade artists of his generation. In 1994, he graduated
in Māori Craft and Design at the Waiariki Institute of Technology
in Rotorua. During his final year he was introduced to the valuable
medium of pounamu (jade) and was immediately attracted to its
artistic possibilities. Māori had always valued pounamu for both its
hardness and for its translucent beauty. Lewis was no different — as
he says, “Our tupuna (ancestors) have given us, the Māori people,
the resource and knowledge base to provide a reference for us
and our children for years to come.”
In 1995, he became a full-time jade and bone carver specializing in
traditional Māori imagery. Since then he has established his own
business, which has enabled him to develop his own style and to
shape other carvers’ perspectives on the use of pounamu. Winning
the bi-annual Mana Pounamu Awards for contemporary Māori design
in 1999, 2001, and 2003, further enhanced his reputation as one of
the major jade artists. In 2003, he travelled to China to visit a master
jade carver to source tools and study techniques to carve on a larger
scale. This knowledge has influenced and enabled his ability to work
on both massive sculptural forms as well as small delicate work.
His unique sense of design and use of inlay, coupled with his ability
to envision large-scale works — often using several varieties of jade
— has set Lewis Gardiner apart from many of his contemporaries.
Spirit Wrestler Gallery, 2007.