A TREASURED piece of woolly mammoth ivory rests in mixed artist Lachlan Squires’ workshop.
A talented carver of bone and ivory, Lachlan says it will remain tucked away, waiting… until he is inspired with a “really good idea” on what to create with it.
Surprisingly woolly mammoth ivory is not on the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), because mammoths are extinct. Neither are there any legal restrictions placed on the buying and selling of the ivory.
Lachlan said his 5cm by 8cm piece came “from a collection from the Russian permafrost”, and because of its rarity, it placed a burden on how he would use it. “It’s one of those things, you can’t really muck up.”
Aside from the mammoth ivory, Lachlan also carves various bone, shell, whale bone, marlin bill and tagua nuts, also known as ivory nuts or vegetable ivory, which come from certain palm trees and were used to make Japanese netsuke (miniature sculptures).
Each medium had its different challenges, something which gave pleasure to Lachlan, a self-taught artist. The different colours of paua and pearl shell, and how to extract each pieces’ best qualities, were also challenges.
His artist sojourn began just over a decade ago when he was a teenager.
“Dad bought me a Dremel hand tool, a type of carving tool, which was very basic… and it all began from there.”
Beginning with paua shell, he progressed on to bone, before expanding to other mediums.
“I have really enjoyed the process, always pushed the limits, such as carving a [chicken] egg shell” to test the technics.
Part of his education was spending time on the Cook Islands to expand his knowledge, cultural understanding and symbolism. “I learnt how important it was to get a grasp of understanding of what you are carving…
“The story behind it [each piece] makes it very personal.”
Lachlan also takes on commissions. Recently he was given a whale tooth on which he carved an albatross and whale tail, with detailed carving which looked like a tattoo, as a 21st pendant.
“It has been a journey up to this point where I am now getting those pieces that really count… I love the ones that have a story behind it.”