James Washer

Jade and Hard Stone Carving Tutor

For James Washer, teaching at Tai Poutini Polytechnic is a dream come true. Once a student of carving, James has spent many years honing his craft, and is now a Jade and Hard Stone Carving Tutor.

A talented and passionate carver, James’ work has been recognised over the years for his skill and artistry. In 2006, three of his carvings were accepted into the New Zealand Pounamu/Jade exhibition; one of these won the Adornment category and is now displayed in the NZ permanent collection at the Left Bank Art Gallery in Greymouth and another won an award for technical excellence.

“I was also lucky enough to have Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern call into my workshop a few years back and purchase one of my carvings, which I see her still wearing occasionally in public appearances.”

James completed the Jade and Hard Stone Carving diploma at Tai Poutini Polytechnic from 2001-2002 with the aim to one day teach others the skills he learned.

“The carving programme is unique as it’s the only course of its kind in the country, so it’s a privilege to be able to teach something that I’m passionate about. We’re also located in a unique part of the country surrounded with amazing landscapes here on the West Coast.”

James was self-employed from his home workshop for seven years before working in West Coast backcountry, building bridges and huts for a couple of years. He then worked as a Regional Manager for a non-profit organisation for 10 years, a role mostly focused on managing a reforestation project in Barrytown, before beginning at Tai Poutini Polytechnic in March 2020.

Working at the polytechnic comes with its challenges, but James says that’s what makes it so rewarding. “It’s amazing to be able to work with students and pass on some of my skills and experiences, and see students develop and improve their technical carving abilities to set themselves up for a career in the jade and hard stone carving industry.”

Making positive changes in student lives, surfing on his lunch break, and getting to work with the team of staff at Tai Poutini Polytechnic are just a couple of the highlights of being a tutor. When he’s not working as a carving tutor, he’s spending as much time as he can in his own carving workshop at home.

“I enjoy the drawing/design process when it comes to my own carvings and have a general interest in all aspects of art and design.”

He’s also a keen surfer, snowboarder, skater, sea kayaker and tramper, with a side of native gardening. In his small nursery at home, James enjoys growing bonsai and carving pots from rocks he’s found.

“If you have an interest in art/design, are practically minded, interested in carving and a willingness to learn new skills, then the Jade and Hard Stone Carving programme could be a future career option.”