After eight years in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as an electronics technician, Ross Heywood completed a bone carving course at the Wanganui Summer School, which led to a jewellery apprenticeship in Palmerston North. Now based in Queenstown, Ross has achieved international recognition for his carving and in 2005 exhibited his jewellery in a solo exhibition in Osaka, Japan. He is the creative force behind Hedgehog Art.
What do you make?
I make handmade sterling silver and sometimes 18ct gold jewellery. I also work with bronze, niobium and once upon a time did many carvings in bone and deer antler.
How did you get into your craft?
As a lad the things that were dear to me were animals, archaeology and making things. At school I took all the usual subjects for a boy from my generation: Maths, Metal Work, Technical Drawing, Physics and Chemistry. Art wasn’t considered a serious option at that time so I did not pursue it. Anyhow on leaving school I picked a trade and joined the RNZAF as an electronics technician.
While based in Auckland I saw someone bone carving in the mall at Takapuna. Gave it a go and was rather good at it. When I left the Air Force, some pottery friends suggested I do a carving course at the Wanganui Summer School of the Arts under Owen Mapp, one of New Zealand’s top carvers. After that the rest is history. My carving skills got me a jewellery apprenticeship in Palmerston North. From there I moved to that suburb of Auckland, Queenstown in the South Island and started to make money bone carving between washing dishes at night.
Above: steps in creating the Swiss blue topaz pendant in a sterling silver setting
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I am initially a self a taught carver and also have Trade Certificate in Manufacturing Jewellery. Apart from the carving course I did at Wanganui and I suppose my jewellery apprenticeship I have had absolutely no design or art training.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I like working with metals mostly but do enjoy the process of carving bone. I quite like it when I am doing the fine detailed part of the job. Especially when carving, as the object really starts to sing, so to speak.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
No flowery narrative to my work. Just things that appeal to my eye. I get great pleasure out of creating objects that are not mass produced and will be owned by someone else who appreciates what went into making it.
What inspires you?
Being fond of archaeology, especially Egyptian, the ancient designs in such cultures has led my design direction often. Also Celtic art which probably comes from me being 1/4 Scottish. But in reality anything can trigger an idea: architecture, flowers, animals, etc – after all, nothing is original. The shapes and designs that we create have been here for ever. We just put our spin on them.
Describe your workspace:
A small work bench since you don’t need much room to make jewellery.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“It makes me want to cry.” When reading my story on my pet hedgehog Harold. Regarding my jewellery it is always nice when customers come up to you wearing your work and tell you that they wear it all the time.
Claim to fame?
Selling a ring to Heidi Klum’s makeup artist Glenn Marziali and getting emails from him on his fashion shoots.
Do you have any pets?
One cat by the name of Eme who is over 20 years old, eight chickens, and of course my wee boy Harold the hedgehog who is three years old this January and he is still visiting at night for some cat food. And yes, he will still let me pick him up and give him a cuddle.
A favourite quote: Open your eyes and listen with your soul.
What was the last handmade item you bought?
A fantastic little felted dog in a walnut shell by Little Felts here on Felt.
Ross has a stunning range of $85 sterling silver earrings and will give away the pair of their choice to one lucky person who comments below. The draw is open to New Zealand residents only until Friday 26 October. Visit Hedgehog Art to see more of his gorgeous designs – which one would you choose?