Bonz & Stonz Pounamu Carving 2
Meet the locals

Artist workshop trail

Hokitika – Bonz n Stonz

A guide to artists, artisans and other arty experiences

Art is all around here. Jaw-droppingly natural beauty, diverse land, sea and mountainscapes, changing light, colours and moods, the West Coast offers endless creative inspiration for artists, photographers and your social channels.

You can see that in the multitude of West Coast inspired artworks – from carved pounamu (NZ Jade) to traditional western artworks displayed around New Zealand and the world – and the many artists who make their permanent homes on the Coast.

Garth Wilson Jade Garth Wilson Jade
Garth Wilson Jade, Greymouth

Pounamu carver Garth Wilson at work in his open workshop near Shantytown.

Pounamu – beauty and strength

The West Coast arts scene goes right back to Aotearoa’s earliest artists, making it at least as old as primitive pounamu objects from the 12th century.

Known also as New Zealand greenstone, pounamu is a form of nephrite jade that’s among the strongest natural materials known to man. Māori traders from all over New Zealand travelled to Te Tai o Poutini / West Coast to source pounamu greenstone to turn into beautiful adornments, tools or weapons.

Today pounamu has protected status under the guardianship of the South Island’s Ngai Tahu tribe. Certified genuine pounamu can only be sourced from one of a limited number of West Coast rivers, and only by tribal members – although anyone can take home a pebble off the beach.

Artist Garth Wilson, whose family traces back to the Māori tribes that first traded pounamu, personally sources every piece of stone that he carves. He welcomes visitors into his studio workshop near Shantytown to watch the carving and learn the stories behind the designs.

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Westland Greenstone Westland Greenstone
Westland Greenstone, Hokitika

Pounamu carvers at Westland Greenstone create fine jade jewellery.

Hokitika – Jade Country

Hokitika means ‘place of return’ but it’s also known as Jade Country. The Arahura river is a rich source of pounamu and Hokitika is a hub for numerous pounamu artists and carvers; though you’ll also find greenstone artists in their workshops all along the coast.

The team of skilled carvers at Westland Greenstone produce stunning jewellery and sculptures in traditional or contemporary designs for sale online and in their Hokitika shop. Nearby Traditional Jade displays one of New Zealand’s biggest raw jade collections, and you can watch carvers at work in this small family business.

Hokitika also boasts working studios for artisans of gold and glass. Westland’s rich gold mining history comes to life at The Gold Room where the jeweller crafts natural gold nuggets into beautiful jewellery. Check out the photos, old mining objects and models, then hold a big gold nugget in your hand to feel the weight.

The Hokitika Glass Studio is another fine family affair with two generations of the Wilson family working on site to produce their gorgeous handmade sculptural glass art works.

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Arahura Greenstone Tours Arahura Greenstone Tours
Arahura Greenstone Tours, Hokitika

Learn about Māori culture and history on a guided tour to the Arahura River, a rich pounamu source.

Hands-on experiences

A pounamu creation is a classic and lasting souvenir from a visit to New Zealand. Pounamu figures prominently in Māori culture and history through legends, family stories and the treasured pieces that have been handed down the generations.

Delve deeper into Māori culture and art, and learn from the locals on a fascinating, personalised tour to the Arahura River, just north of Hokitika, with Arahura Greenstone Tours or Te Rua & Sons Pounamu Trails. Discover pounamu at the source, hear the legends that surround the fabled greenstone and the significance of the traditional designs, then search for your own piece of pounamu and create a precious memento to take away.

For a hands-on creative experience with friendly locals, you can craft your own pounamu souvenir at Te Koha Gallery or Bonz n Stonz. Spend 2.5 hours with the Goodall family in their Franz Josef workshop, or with the relaxed master carvers at Bonz n Stonz in Hokitika, learn some carving skills, design your piece and leave with your own pounamu treasure. At Skeleton Crew Carving Studio in Barrytown the friendly team will guide you to carve your own bone pendant.

Nimmo Gallery Nimmo Gallery
Nimmo Gallery, Greymouth

Landscape photographer Stewart Nimmo's works adorn his Greymouth gallery.

Photographic galleries

Photographers are never out of inspiration on the West Coast, and there are more than a few notable practitioners to be found here.

Coasters ‘born and bred’, Stewart Nimmo and his daughter, Lydia, can often be found at work in the Nimmo Gallery + Studio in Greymouth. Stewart’s beautiful landscapes cover the walls alongside a fine selection of New Zealand and locally-made artworks and artisan products, from ceramics by Kotuku Pottery to fine jade works by internationally-renowned West Coast artist Ian Boustridge.

German-born landscape and wildlife photographer Juergen Schacke moved to Hokitika almost 20 years ago. Find his works, complemented by a selection of carefully-curated works from other local artists, in The Wilderness Gallery, which he runs with his wife Monika and daughter Anna; and also adorning Hokitika’s Beachfront Hotel.

Photographing glaciers and ice first brought Czech-born Petr Hlavacek to New Zealand; two decades later he’s still here, living in a tiny village near Franz Josef Glacier and working from a purpose-built destination gallery (just north of Whataroa). Petr’s award-winning portfolio includes many images of the pristine wilderness on his doorstep. He also conducts multi-day photography tours.

Left Bank Art Gallery, Greymouth, LBAG 02.PNG Left Bank Art Gallery, Greymouth, LBAG 02.PNG
Left Bank Art Gallery, Greymouth

A fine collection of contemporary New Zealand art displayed in an historic bank building.

Art galleries

The Left Bank Art Gallery showcases contemporary New Zealand art with a focus on local content. A major feature is the fine collection of award-winning pounamu/greenstone works and two large carved pounamu boulders. The gallery, which occupies a restored historic bank building, is run by the 300-member West Coast Society of Arts, which includes many active practising artists.

Palm Street Gallery – Westport Artists Collective is a community gallery celebrating the creative talent of artists in and around Westport. The gallery is run by volunteers so opening hours can vary.

Torea Gallery, Granity – Northern Buller Artists Collective features the works of 30 artisans, including three leading leadlight artists.

Reefton has two galleries side-by-side in Broadway. Reefton Gallery features the fine art works of eight professional West Coast artists and writers who may be found in residence at the gallery. They include long-distance athlete/artist Emma Timmis, who now makes her home in Reefton. Next door, the Hale Gallery displays oil paintings by Westport-born Alison Hale who works from studios in Reefton and at Carters Beach, Westport.

Driftwood & Sand: girl, flags, seat, sign Driftwood & Sand: girl, flags, seat, sign
Hokitika Driftwood & Sand Sculpture Festival

Driftwood sculptures on the beachfront at Hokitika.

Arty events

Greymouth Art in the Park — 27-28 April 2024: One of Greymouth’s biggest weekends, Art in the Park is a long-running fixture on the West Coast calendar, attracting artists from all over New Zealand to exhibit, share and sell their original work. Exhibitors include new and returning artists and all works are for sale. It’s excellent buying as there’s no commission charged.

Hokitika Driftwood & Sand Sculpture Festival: Nobody celebrates beach culture like they do in Hokitika where the wild coastal beachfront comes alive with the fabulous, family-friendly Driftwood & Sand Festival. Held annually in January, this outdoor art feast of driftwood sculptures is open to amateurs and professionals alike. It takes place over a few days but the driftwood creations stay on the beach for as long as they last.

Hokitika Junk2Funk wearable art: Visit the Westland Industrial Heritage Park during the month of October to view crazy, wild entries in the fabulous Junk2Funk wearable art competition. Contest creations must be made of 75% recycled materials.

Karamea Pop Up Gallery: With a population of just over 700 residents, Karamea — in the West Coast’s ‘far north’ – counts 50-plus resident artists. The Karamea Community Arts Council organises regular ‘Pop Up’ art exhibitions and events; next up, the KaraWearable Arts Show at Easter. In 2023, 39 wearable exhibits paraded on the catwalk.