Commemorative seat situated in Westport.Carl* is using his community sentence and his talents to make his mark on Westport with the creation of a commemorative sandstone carved seat.

Carl, who is serving a community work sentence for drug offences, is turning his life around through his art and making a new start on the Coast.

“Art can be an important tool in rehabilitation,” says Kelly Hill, Service Manager, West Coast.

The limestone bench seat, gifted to the people of Westport, commemorates the 29 miners who lost their lives at Pike River. It was commissioned while Carl served his community work sentence and was completing a Jade and Hard Rock qualification at Tai Poutini Polytechnic (TPP).

Corrections agreed to allow Carl to use his community work hours while creating the piece.

“The community work sentence requires that offenders give something back to the community against which they offended,” explains West Coast Service Manager, Kelly Hill.

“In this case Carl was able to gift his special talents to create something especially meaningful which will be enjoyed by the community for many years.”

The bench was unveiled in a special ceremony during Exercise Katipo and the 2015 Royal Tour.

Carl, a fitter and welder by trade, hadn’t done art at school past intermediate school, but says he has always been ‘pretty arty’.

Carl moved to the West Coast two years ago, to create a new start.

“For some reason, I was drawn to the idea of carving,” he says. “I had enrolled in the TPP Jade and Hard Rock carving programme. It was my tutor, Ric Moor, who put my name forward.”

The Jade and Hard Rock carving programme, like many of the programmes offered at Tai Poutini Polytechnic, has a focus on changing lives with foundations in tikanga.

“Our programmes are about gearing people up into self-employment,” says Carl’s mentor and tutor Ric Moor.

“We could see that Carl had the talent to take on this project and that he would greatly benefit from the process. Projects like this teach you that the world is what you make it and through these experiences you learn to take responsibility for your choices, and become the director of your own destiny.”

“I can fully see Carl having a future in this area.”

Carl says he is set on a new direction. “It was really incredible to be asked to do such an important and significant sculpture for my new town. I am so proud of what I have created and that people have believed in me.”

“This is what I want to do with my life, work for myself and create beautiful things. I think it is important to do what makes you happy and I am fortunate to be able to do that. Not everyone can do a job they really enjoy.”

Carl has since qualified with a Certificate in Jade and Hard Stone Carving and is now studying for his Diploma.

“This project showcases the skills and talents of both Carl and the tutors at our local Polytechnic, and has benefited the Westport community,” says Kelly.

“Research shows strong links between employment and living crime free. Through his new start, his training and his sentence; Carl has discovered a new passion, one he can create a living from, one that can offer him the new start he wanted.”

“Through this piece of art Carl is showing his commitment to his craft, to change in his life and his new community.”