This started as an idea to semi mass produce a garden sculpture along the lines of a traditional garden gnome but a more funky. There were going to be 50 prototypes called Face Value Explorers made with individually stamped and numbered ceramic tile bases starting with number 50 running up to 100. Each penguin would be individually identified and registered on the Penguin Studio Website

These prototypes would be used to develop the Standard New Zealand Model Original Lawn Penguin (SNZM) which would be sold from the Whakatiwai studio or prepaid and freighted. 

The FVE prototypes had individually stamped tile bases with the first penguin being number 50 which would retail for $50, number 70 would retail for $70 and so on. 

Hence the name Face Value Explorer.  

Sales of these early FVEs would help to defray development costs of the SNZM. Another purpose of the incremental increase in price was to find what would be a realistic and acceptable price for a basic model. Once I knew what paint finish and what price would work  on the production of the Standard New Zealand model was to start. Further FVE models would become individual reasonably priced sculptural art works with their own unique paint finish, rather than a funky black and white gnome type penguin that the SNZMs would be.

Early prototype SNZMs about to leave the Penguin Studio Whakatiwai Xmas 2014 

After many moulds being made, many penguins being poured, many concrete recipes, many paint jobs, a final shape and paint job was established for the SNZM.

The kiln was firing predictably, the SNZM was coming on stream, the workshop was getting tidy, it was close to paradise for me.


One evening I thought I would pick up some phoenix palm fronds off the lawn and burn them in the fireplace in the workshop.

This was something I had done many times before, the workshop floor was concrete, the chimney had been worked on to make it draw efficiently.

I was so confident of the situation that I left the fire to it and started doing work in the studio which was some distance from the workshop.

A visitor arrived maybe 10 minutes later, going to meet him, I returned to the workshop to discover an interior wall near the fireplace was on fire with flames running up it and into the ceiling. There was no fire extinguisher or high-pressure hose either of which may have controlled the blaze. The whole scenario rapidly turned into an ever-increasing catastrophe.

To cut a long story short the workshop, all my tools and equipment, resources that I had been collecting for the last 30 years, all my books and most of my clothes that I had temporarily put in the workshop so that I could clean out my living unit were totally destroyed. The main building belonging to my landlady was severely damaged along with my co-tenants possessions. 

I think that night was one of the worst experiences that I have endured.

Thankfully everybody (except me) had total insurance cover. 

The workshop contained 2 large LPG cylinders. One exploded and the other one vented into the workshop turning it into a kiln. The rear wall with chimney is still standing, as is a portion of the wall next to my neighbours, otherwise the workshop and all it contained was totally obliterated

With the kiln being destroyed in the fire, the firing of the tile bases was contracted out.

Different paint jobs were done on existing FVE prototypes and these and some of my paintings were shown to Wendy Harsant at Northart Gallery.

They appeared at a group exhibition in 2015 and $150 was thought to be about the right price for these collectable, handmade, hand painted, individual sculptures.

The show was not very successful but certainly provided an impetus for production. FVEs have since been sold from the studio, some replacements made, and more SMNZ prototypes produced which have been renamed as Special New Zealand Models (not Standard New Zealand Models). These were used as special presents or tailored for special client needs.

The role of a standard semi mass produced lawn penguin was taken over by the OLPCO Harbinger limited edition range produced in the standard black and white format with variations. (OLPCO stands for Original Lawn Penguin Company, FVEs SNZMs were just OLPs) Starting in 2017 these were sold from a retail outlet and from the studio for a year or so.

This was not the only OLPCO Model.

The first was the XX which was a limited edition of 99 that sold for $99.They were produced specially for the  New Zealand Sculpture on the Shore Exhibition November 2016. The XXs motif was a reference to the female chromosome as New Zealand Sculpture on the Shore’s main purpose is to raise money for Women's Refuge. These were completely sold out.

Another series of OLPCO XX Penguins were made and exhibited at NZ Sculpture on the Shore in 2018. Both editions of XX penguins were a rushed job and were sold with generic rather individual Laminated identifications.

There are currently 30 or so Penguins in stock, mainly Harbingers with a few SNZMs and FVEs which are being refurbished to a much higher standard than previous penguins.

Prices are $350 ex Studio