Squamish artist Klatle-Bhi (pronounced cloth-bay) is known in Vancouver for creating some of the world’s most unique pieces.
Now, the West Coast artist is spending three weeks at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute (NZMACI) at Rotorua’s Te Puia, hosted by two of the school’s renowned artists - foundry head caster, Eugene Kara and stone and bone carving lead tutor, Stacy Gordine.
He also attended the World Indigenous Business Forum (9-12 October), a major international platform to showcase indigenous business, engage indigenous people in global economic discussions and leverage indigenous trade. The forum welcomed more than 500 indigenous businesses from over 25 countries.
“My aunt came across the forum and put my name forward to attend as an artist,” says Klatle-Bhi.
“I was only meant to be in New Zealand for a few days, but NZMACI warmly extended the invite to stay and learn at the school for three weeks – such a big honour.”
Growing up, Klatle-Bhi learned native carving techniques from his grandmother, who also gifted him his name.
Since 1990 he has pursued his passion, creating a spiritual connection between his artworks, culture, and the earth. Today, Klatle-Bhi has over 25 years of experience with his own unique and distinctive carving style.
“I only carve using wood – I love it so much.
“I feel as though wood is going somewhere, it’s on a journey – and I’m just helping it get here.”
His stay at NZMACI has seen him carve one of his famous pieces, Piercing the Veil, out of tōtara, alongside NZMACI senior wood carvers Tony Thompson and Haami Te Aho which was unveiled at the forum.
He feels these pieces are an “expression of moments in life that are spiritually inspiring when you feel like you have experienced something completely non-physical”.
Klatle-Bhi plans to carve a few more pieces during his stay at NZMACI.
“The wood in New Zealand is much harder than what we use in Canada, but it’s still beautiful.
“I’ve noticed a few differences from my stay at the school already, such as the variances in the tools we use to carve. I use a range of knives to carve my pieces, where the carvers here use chisels.
“And while the carved pieces have some similarities, Māori pay a lot of attention to detail with moving lines that create beautiful designs, especially around the eyes.”
He says he may venture into the other schools to learn but feels as though he would need at least a month at each school to do the art justice.
“I’m just enjoying my time here with the amazing people that have taken me in as though I am family.”