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CLIENT NEWS: Huge boost to New Zealand jade artists seen from Auckland Airport store opening

A new store opening at Auckland Airport is expected to provide a boost for the jade carving industry in New Zealand.

Mountain Jade, New Zealand’s largest jade retailer, will open a flagship store in Auckland Airport’s international departure area in early December.

Mountain Jade Managing Director John Sheehan Jnr says the company is excited to be part of the impressive new development at Auckland Airport. The flagship Mountain Jade store will provide an opportunity to showcase jade and pounamu artists and craftspeople to the 10 million international visitors passing through the airport each year.

Mr Sheehan says there is already increasing recognition of and appreciation for jade art and carved items -  whether stone is sourced in New Zealand or internationally. He expects the flagship store will further boost this demand, and that Mountain Jade will be working closely with carvers to meet that increased demand.

“We currently collaborate with more than 20 jade artists and craftspeople, and they produce truly excellent work, ranging from jade jewellery and small carved items to higher-end art which is becoming increasingly popular. We hope to be able to support more carvers and artists by sourcing more work from them.”

Mr Sheehan says a number of carvers and artists who work with Mountain Jade are themselves supporting other employees, including younger carvers. “There’s some amazing emerging talent in New Zealand and we’re keen to help build their profile and have them come along on this journey of discovery with us. It’s a great opportunity for them to earn a good income and have their work in front of a really wide audience.”

Jade artist Lewis Gardiner (of Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa, Whanau a Apanui and Ngāi Tahu descent) says the opening of the flagship store is great news for those working in the industry.

Mr Gardiner, who has a team of carvers at various stages in their careers, says New Zealanders can be guilty of associating jade and pounamu simply with the tourist market. The new store will be a sophisticated and educational space that will help revive the mana of pounamu and of the carvers and artists who work with the stone, he says. “I hope it does really well, because everybody will benefit.”

Mountain Jade agrees, seeing the Auckland Airport store as offering a unique approach to showcasing artists, while providing a window into the jade-carving world. “Our artists will now have huge exposure to a wide range of international travellers, many of whom seek either a carved piece to remind them of New Zealand, or a high-end and unique piece of art,” Mr Sheehan says. “This new store will be a gallery for these top works and they’ll be viewed by many thousands of people each day – that’s a whole new market we can provide for these talented artists and craftspeople,” Mr Sheehan says.

The store will feature collaborations with contemporary artists and jewellers as well as hosting digital, audio and touchscreen experiences for visitors. Mountain Jade hopes to roll this out to other stores in Hokitika and Rotorua in the next 3-4 years, providing an innovative and educational space in all.

Mountain Jade, which was established in the 1980s by John Sheehan Snr, has employed nearly 20 additional staff for the new airport store, to add to the more than 70 staff already onboard.

“The opening of this major new store is an important milestone for Mountain Jade,” Mr Sheehan says. “We’re very pleased to be bringing more people into the Mountain Jade family through our carvers and artists, and also through our employees who will be sharing the jade story with so many travellers.”

AIRPORT ART: Mountain Jade Managing Director John Sheehan Jnr with a piece of work destined for the new Auckland Airport store. The work is “Roimata” by Rotorua’s Tamaora Walker.