Dean & Ivana make up the successful stone carving duo Kuru Pounamu. We've got some of their latest pounamnu on our Online Gallery so we decided it was the perfect time to find out a little more about the duo & their process.
‘Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini – My strengths are not of a single person but of many’
What do you make/art practice?
My name is Dean Marjoribanks and I am fortunate to be a part of a successful stone carving team – Kuru Pounamu with my wife and best mate Ivana. We have been together for over 30 years and we initially started working together many years ago when we managed the Pacific Arts Gallery in Devonport, Auckland. From our experiences managing the gallery we realised that we had a passion for indigenous art and so we relocated to Rotorua and created our own gallery which we named The Cave.
What does a normal day look like for you?
A normal day for us begins with coffee and discussions around what our priorities are – sometimes it’s spending time in the office and doing paperwork together, other times it’s about me getting out to the workshop to start creating while Ivana manages all of the many and varied office/business tasks.
How did it all begin - Where did this passion come from?
My primary passion is working with New Zealand pounamu but I also enjoy working a variety of other stone types from pakohe (argillite) to tuhua (obsidian), tahanga (basalt) to ōnewa (greywacke).
In the early days we were fortunate to meet a vast array of artists and creatives, many of whom we still call friends today, and this extended Whanau of fellow artists has been fundamental to our success. People like Pieter van den Akker, Andrew Pendergrast, Nick Ford, Charlie Wilson, Shane MacIntosh, Fayne Robinson, Lewis Gardiner, Ric Moor, Stacey Gordine and many others have all been fantastic inspirations and advisors and I am grateful that they chose to take time to share their knowledge and wisdom with us.
Where do you find inspiration as an Artist come from?
I am inspired by pre-European Taonga Māori and I have spent many hours in museums studying ancient and profoundly beautiful carved Māori objects. I have an extensive library of reference books and it would be fair to say that Ivana and I live and breathe our work, particularly since our workshop is based at home.
What do you love most about working & living in Aotearoa?
We both feel blessed to live and work together and in recent years we have moved back to the beautiful coastal area of the Eastern Bay of Plenty, a place that I have strong genealogical and cultural ties to through my Te Whānau ā-Apanui whakapapa. Being self-employed and living on ancestral land gives me a profound sense of peace and contentment. Life can still be chaotic and busy but it is tempered by a beautiful environment and a strong sense of connection to the land.
How has your artwork change over time?
Over time I have supplemented the knowledge of art and business shared with me by these mentors by completing a number of academic studies in Māori language, custom, art and carving – on top of many night classes and tuition I completed a Diploma in Māori and Information Management at Te Wānanga o Raukawa, a BA Māori at the University of Waikato, and most recently, I graduated from Te Takapū o Rotowhio, the National Stone and Bone Carving School at The New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua.
These studies have added to my knowledge of the arts and our Māori culture and I think it is important for us as artists to explore all the many levels of kōrero that surround our chosen fields. This gives us a broad theoretical base to draw from and put into our artworks.
My creative goal this year is to put more time into carving projects that push my boundaries – projects that are not necessarily time-efficient or financially rewarding but that give me creative satisfaction and growth.
How has the social media and the internet affected your artwork?
We are not currently too active on the internet, like most artists this is an area that we are developing in. We are so lucky that The Poi Room does such an amazing job with their Facebook and Instagram and their website too.
What is your studio/creative space like?
Our workspaces illustrate quite clearly our differing personalities in that Ivana’s office is ordered and tidy; my workshop conversely is messy, chaotic and industrial. My defence is that working stone is a dirty job but Ivana simply looks at me in a knowing way and raises her eyebrows….
What drew you to working with The Poi Room?
We were approached by Melanie-Jane and Clayton one year when they were on holiday in the Bay of Plenty. They had seen our work in the Whakatane Museum, where I was having an exhibition of my Taonga. They called us out of the blue and we instantly had an connection, it took a little while to meet in person and that just cemented our friendship.
Describe your relationship with The Poi Room & how our values fit with your business?
We just love the integrity, passion and loyalty that Melanie, Clayton and their team bring to our relationship. One couldn’t wish to work with better people and I sincerely hope that we can continue to support each other for many years to come. Life is a journey and working with The Poi Room just makes that journey so much more enjoyable.
Mauri ora ki a tātau katoa
Nāku iti nei
Well here we are again... As we are Auckland galleries we were thrown back into level 3 basically overnight with the doors to our wonderful galleries closed to customers. At least we have had some prior experience at this level. A little bit of de-ja-vu with a huge amount of “oh my goodness, not again”.