This morning I went for a walk along Wellington’s south coast – as I often do, but this morning I went earlier than I usually do. Along the coastal path I met the man who for three years now has been turning driftwood and stones into sculptures. His name is Stavros and I started a conversation with him – he was so enthusiastic about what he does. It clearly brings him pleasure as well as to the many people who walk along the coast.
He began in 2013 after a bad storm washed up a number of logs onto the beach. He balances wood and stones – in the first years the sculptures were mainly of pieces of wood, but more recently he’s been using stones. Some of the wooden ones are kinetic as they move in the wind.
He told me he likes to balance things – he feels the weight of a stone and looks at it carefully to see where the indentations are and how he can match that with another stone or rock. It takes patience. He doesn’t use tools, except for a sharp stone to make an indentation in wood – although once he did use a chisel to make a more pointed hole. The stones aren’t glued or tied on. Simply balanced, but they can stand up to fairly strong winds.
Sometimes people destroy his creations or throw them around the beach – if he finds them he constructs them again. One wooden piece kept getting broken in half and he would remake it with the ever smaller pieces. Finally, he took it home. Another time, a message was written on a piece of wood saying someone had taken a structure as they wanted it as their wedding arch and they would return it! It came back a few months later.
After looking at some of the stones he was working on when I met him – one in particular has a drawing on it and we discussed what it might be – we then walked further along the footpath so he could show me his ‘penguin family’.
I didn’t ask him if he thought of himself as an artist, but he did mention that he was interviewed for the local newspaper so I found that article when I got home. I think he just does it for the pleasure it gives him and other people. His assemblages are not ‘deep and meaningful’ or an ironic commentary on the art world, but in this cynical world I wish there were more people like him. Oh, and he also picks up rubbish from the beach!
Credit: Cook Strait News, 27 Jan 2014.
POSTSCRIPT: 25 June 2018
Earlier this year, the editor of the NZ School Journal got in touch to see if he could use one of the photos above in an article they were planning to write about Stavros. Recently I received a copy of the journal in the post.