On the cover: How Carin Wilson carved New Zealand’s design identity

For the 2018 Design Issue, we wanted to explore New Zealand’s national identity and the way it is interpreted through different forms of design. So, we reached out to renowned furniture maker, sculptor and design educator Carin Wilson and asked if he wanted to interpret Aotearoa’s identity and its ties to our indigenous culture through a carving for our cover.

Wilson has been honing his craft for 40 years, with his work featured in the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Headquarters, the Te Puia cultural centre, the Waitangi Museum and more. He often works on public and private projects with a cultural focus.

His carving for Idealog’s cover is made from recycled Puriri and white Maire timber wood from a demolished house. It is inspired by the Maori proverb:

Whaia te iti kahurangi 

ki te tuoho koe

me he maunga teitei

Which can be interpreted as:

Aim for the highest cloud

So if you miss it you will hit a lofty mountain

Wilson says the carved maunga (mountain) also speaks to how New Zealand’s volcanoes have played a big part in Maori life and tradition, particularly in speechmaking custom on a marae or at hui (gathering) where speakers identify the mountain they come from.

He says it also shows the respect and reverence for the gift of wood from Tāne Mahuta, god of the forest.

Meanwhile, the ladder encourages New Zealanders to be persistent in their journey and set their standards high for excellence.

“The symbolic ladder is aiming for the highest cloud. It’s a bit whimsical, but it wouldn’t be me if it wasn’t,” Wilson says.

See the creative process he took while creating the carving below. 


Wilson is also interviewed in our More than a Koru feature on Maori design in the 2018 Design Issue.

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