The concept

This started as an idea to make a garden sculpture along the lines of a traditional garden gnome but a little more funky and they were going to be called Original Lawn Penguins. There were going to be 50 Face Value Explorer prototypes made with individually numbered ceramic tile bases starting with number 50 running up to 100.

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 pre paid and freighted.

The prototypes had individually stamped FVE tile bases with the first penguin being number 50 which would sell for $50, number 70 would sell for $70 and so on. 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 for the SNZM the plan was to start semi mass  production.

The FVE model would become a more individualistic sculpture with a unique paint finish, complementing the more basic SNZM.


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

Things were looking good

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.

Things were very busy and efficient.

One evening I thought I would pick up some phoenix palm fronds off the lawn and burn them in the fire place 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, 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 and my co tenants living space severely damaged along with all their possessions.

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

Thankfully everybody (except me) had total insurance cover. 

Workshop after fire

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.

Plan H        

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

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

An exhibition was arranged and $150 was thought to be about the right price for these collectable, handmade, hand painted, individual sculptures.

I then started making a new mould and new tile bases so that new penguins could be made to give me enough FVEs for the show.

Where we are

The show was not very successful but most of the FVEs have since been sold from the studio, some replacements made, and more SMNZ prototypes produced which have now been renamed Special New Zealand Models not Standard New Zealand Models as just about all of them were given as special presents or tailored for special client needs.

The role of a standard lawn penguin is now carried by the OLPCO limited edition range which was very successfully introduced at The New Zealand Sculpture on the Shore Exhibition November 2016.

That model was the OLPCO XX especially produced in a limited edition of 99 @ $99 each for that show, They are now completely sold out.

A new OLPCO model (the Harbinger) will be available January ex Studio for $100 and will be introduced on Trademe for the same price plus $20 p&p anywhere in New Zealand.


Face Value Explorer $180 (New ones will be $200 as they become available)

Special New Zealand Model $150

OLPCO Harbinger $100

2K14-2K15   Face Value Explorers on display at Northart June –July 2015.