Welcome to our Bone Art Shop. We appreciate your visit and hope that you enjoy our custom carvings.
This site is dedicated to genuine handcrafted art from natural resources. We try to provide a variety of styles at the Bone Art Shop but work especially on traditional styles of the Maori Tribe from New Zealand and Hawaiian Tribal Art.
All of our artwork is handcrafted using small drills, knives, files and polishing methods. The bone is primarily cattle shank bone, but you will also find that we use other resources including deer antler, elk antler and shark teeth. Each piece will be slightly different in style due to the natural material that we use. Satisfaction is Guaranteed.
We will also be glad to discuss custom designs if you don’t see what you are looking for.
Styles of Bone Art
Hei is the Maori word for ‘to wear around the neck‘. Thus the term Hei Matau stands for a matau pendant worn as a necklace.
All pendants, also Hei Maori pendants, can have several functions such as ornamentation, identification (belonging to a certain tribe), protection (i.e. good luck amulets) symbols) self-affirmation (i.e. resembling a particular mythological guardian) ostentation (i.e. Maori jewelry) award (i.e tribal elder, renowned warrior)
Hei Maori pendants were highly valued personal amulets. These Hei treasures were considered to have souls and were given personal names.
symbol is derived from the more broad Polynesian tiki. The precise meaning of tiki is unclear.
The legendary tiki is believed to be the first man on earth who came from the stars who created the first woman after his image. The Maori tiki symbolizes fertility and childbirth. The frequently occurring hands placed on the loins are said to illustrate this meaning. As a necklace it is used as a good luck charm. A protector against evil spirits.
Above all the Maori tiki is also a symbol of commemoration of ancestors. A tribute to forefathers. Especially jade carved tiki pendants, were thought to adopt the spirits of the persons who wore them before. This way they became vessels of ancestral knowledge, spirituality, and energy.
Those that wear a tiki necklace is considered to possess inner balance and strength, great wisdom, and a clear mind. They are said to be a thinker, a wise and loyal person. The reference to tiki as “the teacher of all worldly things” fits into this description.
The fish-hook shape of the hei matau finds its origins in Māori legend, which holds that the North Island of New Zealand was once a huge fish that was caught by the great mariner Maui using only a woven line and a hook made from the jawbone of his grandmother. Legend holds that the shape of Hawke Bay is that of the hei matau, which caught in the fish’s side on the beach. The Māori name for the North island, Te Ika a Maui (“The fish of Maui”) reflects this legend. For the Māori, the hei matau is taonga (a cultural treasure). It represents not only their land, but also prosperity, fertility and safe passage over water. They also denote the importance of fishing to Māori, and their relationship to Tangaroa god of the sea.
Materials and methods
Traditionally, bone hei matau were carved from whale bone.
- Hei Matau Fish Hook
Hei Matau came in several different forms ranging from the plain and utilitarian, used for catching fish, to the highly ornate, which served as treasured family heirlooms. Today, their main use is ornamental and they are commonly worn around the neck not only by Māori, but also by other New Zealanders who identify with the hei matau as a symbol of New Zealand. They are also popular items on the tourist market. In contemporary times, hei matau are commonly carved from cattle bone. Some Māori carvers continue to use whale bone, and such pieces are highly valued not only because of the beauty of whale bone and its cultural and historical significance, but also its scarcity. Current laws against hunting whales mean that Māori bone-carvers who carve in whale bone must use a combination of ancient standings or pre-existing supplies, or bones from whales that have recently beached. According to New Zealand tradition and law, Māori have first claim on part of the skeletons of any whales which strand and are unable to be refloated. This is, however, a very limited supply.
Hei Matau while not utilized in fishing anymore has become a very popular Tribal Art piece of jewelry.
Koru The Meaning
The koru (Māori for “bight” or “loop”) is a spiral shape based on the shape of a new unfurling silver fern frond and symbolizing new life, growth, strength and peace. It is an integral symbol in Māori art, carving and tattoos. The circular shape of the koru helps to convey the idea of perpetual movement while the inner coil suggests a return to the point of origin.
Koru as Jewelry
Koru can also refer to bone carvings. Those generally take the shape of the uncurling fern plant. When bone is worn on the skin, it changes colour as oil is absorbed. The Māori took this to symbolize that the spirit of the person was inhabiting the pendant. When someone gives a Koru pendant to someone else, it is the custom that they wear it for a time so that part of their spirit is given as well.