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.
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.
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.