Carving School Creation

Back to School: Carving 101

We went back to school to learn how to carve oyster shells.  I’ve always known this was craft required true talent, patience, and creativity.  None of which I possess.  I knew this would not be easy, but I was wiling to give it the old college try.  My friends Carolyn (on “Askari”) and Sandra (on “Pico”) joined me for this adventure at the carving school.

We each picked our desired creation and Hefara, the teacher, hand drew each design onto the inside of the oyster shells.  Armed with our shells we headed over to the work stations. 

Tricks of the Trade – the tools.  Truth be told we used a lot more tools than what is shown below, but these are the main tools used at the carving school.

Carving Tools

Carving Tools

Practice Makes Perfect

Hefara shows us how to practice using the Dremel.  He drew several straight lines on a shell for each of us and tells us to carve a straight line next to the green ink line.  Easier said than done.  Learning how hard or soft to press on the shell; how to stay just above the green line; and how to do short downward strokes.  I had issues maintaining the same amount of pressure with each swipe.  It seemed to have rippled which is not ideal.

Practicing a straight line

Practicing a straight line

Let the Carving Begin

1ST tool rather small dremel tool to begin the carving outside the green line.  At this point we did not know if we were carving the design on the shell or if we were doing a cut out of the design (there is a language barrier). Don’t move your hand, but your wrist.  Only use short, downward strokes pressing evenly each time.

We also did not know how deep to go so we were all really apprehensive and rather gentle when carving which took us a lot longer to carve our pieces out

2nd tool was much bigger and had a super sharp point – it looked like a cone. We held this at an angle to make the carved area much bigger.  If you did not hold it correctly you ended up with lines in the shell.  Had we known we were cutting it away we would have been more aggressive with this tool

3rd tool cutting – Hefara used a cutting tool to cut out our designs– then you bang it on something to make the piece pop out

4th tool larger cone tool was used to remove the excess around the edges. Hard because of the uneven surface makes the tool slip which can ruin your piece

5th tool is a cleaning tool with sand paper. This is used to clean up the piece and get the shell to the pretty colors.  You push rather hard to remove the top layer of the inside of the oyster shell

6-9 tools: Hefara uses three different tools to carve Polynesian symbols on my manta ray

Students to the Rescue

After about 2.5 hours, Hefara asked a few of the students at the carving school to help us out.  It was the last few hours of the last day before a 2-week holiday break – they wanted to leave and we were too slow.  But we appreciated the help on the intricate details from the professionals.

We were each absolutely thrilled with our finished designs.  I wish I could say this was all me, but in reality, it was about 70% me and 30% Hefara. With the best parts and most intricate designs coming from Hefara.

Click here to read the blog post on the carving school with more images of their stunning works of art.

The local school is Le College Saint Raphael de Rikitea.

Events from this blog post occurred on 1 April.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Paradise on Puaumu

Puaumu is truly a small piece of paradise.  This little motu is located on the north end of the Gambier archipelago.  It is a private island owned by two families.  One is a friend of ours, Stephan and Manu.  Nobody lives here permanently, but the owners and their families do camp out for long weekends and holidays.

Puaumu Paradise

Puaumu Paradise

For some reason, cruisers don’t tend to come this far north so we often find ourselves alone in this beautiful, serene anchorage. Matt and I are able to cozy up to shore in between the large bommies.  Monohulls have to stay out in the deeper water as they have a long draft whereas we have a shallow draft at just over 1 meter.

Exploring the Motus

Matt and walk around the entire island which is a whopping 1nm.  It is not the distance but the terrain that make this fun.  The leeward side of the island is nice beach or small coral making it super easy to walk on during low tide.  However, the windward side of the island is covered in dead coral, large rocks, and debris making it a bit of a challenge to traverse.

We try to walk the island during each of the different tides.  When it is low tide you can walk along the water’s edge and find lots of sea treasures that wash ashore.  During medium tide you are a little higher on the coral shelf and high tide forces you up on the top of the coral shelf.  Always something new to be seen and found.

There are about a half dozen smaller motus south of Puaumu and two fairly large motus to the NW of the island.  As you might recall, Gambier is one large archipelago which has motus and small islands all around its outer edge that separate the inside lagoon from the Pacific Ocean. 

The red arrow is Sugar Shack located at Puaumu.  The two larger motus are on the top of the screen and the smaller motus are the light-yellow marks below Puaumu.  They are so small that they don’t have names.  It means that in a few decades they will be gone as they are slowly sinking into the sea.

Exploring by SUP

We are able to paddle board to a few of the smaller motus on calm days.  But the two larger ones to the NW of us require a little dinghy ride as they are about 1.5nm away.

These two motus are called Tepapuri and Teauaone.  Say those three times fast.

Motu Tepapuri

Matt and I walk around the entire motu which was about 3.5 miles over several different types of terrain ranging from sand, to small pebbles and shells, to rocks and large dead coral.

Coming around the corner of the motu sat this lone tree awaiting the rise of high tide.

A Few Good Finds

Matt found a long rope and decided to bring it back with us to make a tree swing.  It was super heavy.

I found the best treasure of all!  It is a glass pearl float.  Back in the old age (not sure how long ago, but it was a very long time ago), fisherman used glass floats.  Now they are hard plastic which is far more durable.  I am trying to talk Matt into letting me keep it so I can add it to my garden when we find ourselves on land.  Check out our next blog with more on this glass float.

Looking glass

Looking glass

We decided to take Sweetie to the edge of the reef, after we circumnavigated the motu. As we got closer, Matt had to walk the dinghy in as it was too shallow to use our outboard.  We secured Sweetie and then walked to the breaking waves where they were so clear you could see the reflection of the reef below in the curl of the wave.

We were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow after a rain shower.

Puaumu’s beauty has no limits.  I love that the water inside the lagoon is so vastly different from the water outside.

Events from this blog post occurred during March 2021.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Driftwood Art

Driftwood Art: A Turtle

Cruisers have a lot of spare time on their hands. Some are super creative and make jewelry or garden while others create masterpieces out of driftwood.  A friend of mine, Carla on Ari B showed me some of her creations that she did as a “hobby” and I was blown away! 

Finding the “right” piece of driftwood that is good for carving and speaks to you is challenging.  I had two pieces of driftwood on the boat.  Both were being used to prop up sea shells (so not really used in other words).  I showed Carla and one looked like a turtle!  Game on.  She took the piece and said she would think on it to see if she could do something for me – and did she ever come through!

The Unveiling

Carla told me my piece was done about a week later.  I zipped over to her boat and was so pleased to see she had an official unveiling of her artwork.

Carla unveiling her art

Carla unveiling her art

Understanding the Polynesian Symbols

She then proceeded to walk me through the meaning behind each of her Polynesian symbols or designs.  I will only call out the larger designs as there are too many to list in a single blog.

Carla selected Polynesian symbols that reflected her opinion of me and my journey.  

Front and Side of the Turtle

  • Behind the eye, on the neck is the “Marquesan cross” (cycle of eternity from life to death to life, ancestor, soul)
  • Below the black circle is the “Tapa’s Sky” (sky of the goddess Tapa, goddess of lightening and storms, announcing the fertile rain.)
  • Belly area is the large compass “He’o’o” which symbolizes navigation, guide, orientation, stars
  • At the tail is the sea “Tai” which means to travel, migrate over the ocean
  • Above the compass are many symbols including:
    • The turtle “Honu” (passage into another world, messenger between humans and the gods)
    • Sacred Divinity “Etua po’u” (a protector of spirits) looks like a “U” with 2 candle holders)
    • Tiki Look “Mata Tiki” (watch over someone or a family)
    • Two sacred turtles “Keakea” (keep bad spirits at bay, multiple protection by powerful beings)
Driftwood Art

Driftwood Art

Back and Tail of Turtle

  • Hand “I’ima” (to give and be generous)
  • Center of the back (mostly white) is Cetacean “Pa’aoa” (image of human being united with the aquatic world, protector, rescuer, unwavering friendship)

Top of Head and Back Side

  • Across the top of its head is a turtle “Kea me te poka’a” which is to give life, protection of life
  • Across the middle of the back (looks like a pitch fork with triangle) are Women Spirits “A’a hanaua” female warriors who protect
  • Spiral “Kavi’I pu” (promise of life, someone who really wants to evolve or develop). White spiral
  • Ear “Pua’ika” (always ready to listen and understand). Located to the right of the spiral
  • Immensity of clear sky “Aki haupeka” (journey), symbols along the bottom near the tail looks (like a “Y” with a square in the center)
Driftwood Art

Driftwood Art

The final piece is nothing short of a masterpiece made from a simple piece of driftwood.  A small pearl for the eye and he is complete.

Driftwood Art

Driftwood Art

Events from this blog post occurred during mid-March.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.