“I always carried a knife around with me as a kid and was always finding things to carve into shapes. I see a shell and I can already see faces in it, what it will be,” says the self-taught black pearl shell carver.
“No one else makes things the same as these. They’re unique.”
The barramundi and the butterfly fish he points to are perfectly formed and easy to recognise and each piece is engraved on the back with his signature.
Growing up on Tongavera, “I don’t like calling it Penrhyn,” he had plenty of black pearl shells to choose from.
His sister Nanave Ford, makes beautiful delicate necklaces and fans. She says people under appreciate the work that goes into them. “There are about 11 steps just to getting the material right,” she says. And what turns into a fine white thread, is skilfully interlaced into wearable pieces of art, some incorporating the shell her brother carves. “I was taught as soon as I was walking basically,” she says.
Penrhyn born, she is looking forward to heading back to Penrhyn for an aunt’s 80th birthday party in 2020.