Dad’s tools lead to carving career
By Pam Ferla
Francis Kropidlowski-Lees creates beautiful Pounamu carvings at his workshop on a hill near Tairua, and there is a growing appreciation of his work. It all started when his dad, Glen Lees, was clearing out his workshop five years ago.
“Dad was sorting things in his workshop when he came across a grinder he used to work with when carving. He handed it to me and I said, ‘that looks cool’, so then he came back with more stuff and said, ‘Have a go and see what you can do.’ Then I started making simple random shapes. After a couple of years I began working with a dremel.”
Using the dremel, Francis made a feathered greenstone ruru for a local woman - a lovely piece that showcased his carving ability. Over the past five years he has created more carvings for this family and also done other commissions.
As well as greenstone, Francis has worked on other stones including jasper, obsidian, lapis lazuli and some crystals. One of his favourites is argillite. Greenstone is rated around .6 hardness, which means it is not too soft nor too hard to carve and enables him to do detailed work without it breaking.
“You need a lot of patience in this work. A fish hook can take about four hours and my ruru carving took around seven. I’m currently working on creating a carved greenstone boat and this may take between 50 - 100 hours - I don’t know yet.” The boat carving is one of his commissions and he has already created about 30 pieces for this client.
In a deeper sense, Francis sees himself as being guided by the stone he is carving, saying it carves itself and he is only the instrument. When asked what has been the most satisfying work he has done, he smiles, saying “It’s the one I’ve just finished.” They are all my favourites and when I know I’ve done a good one, I feel I want to keep it.”
Francis enjoys travel and has been eight times to the world’s largest rock fair, Tuscon Annual Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show in Arizona. He attends this while working for Tairua’s Heaven and Earth Crystal Shop. He works for shop owners, Robert Simmons and Kathy Warner, and appreciates their support and the knowledge he has gained from them.
Francis can visualise a full 3-D image of what he wants to create and understands that having dyslexia has helped him develop this ability.
He has an interesting collection of personal pendants, including a silver snake, silver dragon, tanzanite aura quartz, meteorite, an Argentinian cross, a distinctive moldavite bracelet and pounamu. Though he loves working with pounamu (its ancient meaning is light from Lemuria), he does not wear his own carvings.
Francis appreciates nature and loves walking with his retriever/red collie, Jules, as well as rock hunting around the beaches, rivers and hills of Coromandel. His mum, Erin, is known for her teaching of Hawaiian Bodywork.
There is a growing appreciation from many quarters of Francis’ work. Francis can be contacted on Instagram, - nightfeatherdesignnz.
Caption: Carver Francis Kropidlowski-Lees, pictured at his workshop near Tairua.