For close to 53 years Clive Fugill has been carving his way through endless pieces of wood, but last week he reached the "crowning glory" of his career.

The master carver (Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Rangiwewehi) from Te Puia's Māori Arts and Crafts Institute was awarded the John Britten Black Pin - the highest accolade by the Design Institute at the Best Design Awards.

"It was just nice to be recognised for the work I have done over the years. It is the crowning glory of my career."

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But in his day-to-day life, his joy comes from spending time teaching the new carvers moving through the school.

"I never worry about the things I know.

"I worry about the things I don't know and these guys will teach me something I would never think of most days."

New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute master carver Clive Fugill has taken home the Black Pin at the Best Design Awards. Photo / File
New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute master carver Clive Fugill has taken home the Black Pin at the Best Design Awards. Photo / File

One of the first seven successful applicants accepted to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute's carver training course in 1967, Fugill credits his longevity to the teaching of his teacher.

"Our master, John Taiapa, who was the first master of the school, said to us that you've come here to learn the art and to pass it on.

"And that's what's kept me inspired to do what I do."

Now, when a fresh piece of wood lands in front of Fugill he can picture eight different designs with a click of a finger. He said in his many years of carving he has always stuck to the traditional art form.

"There is always the contemporary art that is out there, but I have always kept true to the traditional form because it is the true identity of the people and of its art.

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"Carving is an abstract art form of itself, but once you abstract the abstract, you have nothing left. Your art is gone, and then your identity is gone."

The Design Institute chief executive Cathy Veninga said, given the strong sense of place that emanates from this year's finalist work, it was fitting that the institute awarded the John Britten Black Pin for outstanding leadership, vision and achievement to a Māori artist.

"As Te Puia's Master Carver since 1983, Clive has not only taken Māori art to the world but embraced the responsibility of ensuring that the skills, knowledge and tikanga of Māori design are not lost here at home.

"He is an inspiration not only for carvers but for all designers who seek to retain the kaupapa of design as they employ new technology to work across a variety of new media."