Eric Dyer has always considered himself a creative, hands-on person. The Summerset at Bishopscourt resident has been a bone carver for 30 years, a hobby sparked by having to fix an antique bone artwork in the 1980s.

“I couldn’t find anyone to repair it so I went to bone carving training at a night school.”

Eric, now 75, used to carve about 15 pieces a week, travelling to Queenstown and Wanaka every weekend to sell his work as well as a stall at the Dunedin markets.

Examples of Eric's beautiful carvings

To make a carving, Eric explains he first collects beef bone from the local butchers.  “I clean the bone marrow out, wash and boil it, and then scrape the tissue off.”

The bone then gets cut to size and into wafer pieces to work with. “It’s an 18-step process,” Eric emphasises. “The wafers are then cut to shape, sanded and polished.”

“It can take up to two hours to shape smaller pieces once the bone has been prepared. I find pleasure in the intricacies of carving.”

Eric has up to 600 patterns he sells at any one time, most he describes as being a European style of Maori symbolism.

“I have dolphins, seahorses, fish hooks, korus, and more. People love buying a New Zealand made product, and tourists love New Zealand-style crafts.”

Eric adds paua shell elements, and has played with colouring bone by soaking his pieces in clothing dyes.  “The tools I use look a lot like dental tools,” he jokes. “Bone is very hard, so a lot of pressure is needed to carve it.”

Eric has recently stopped carving bone due to his hand health, but continues to sell hundreds of finished pieces at local stores and markets – and has taken up gardening and knitting instead.

Eric displays examples of his work