The unlikely carver

Maemaruki turns his welding skills to become a wood carver

img_5870Unlike many local carvers who learn the art and skills from their parents, Tom Maemaruki learned the trade from his brother in-law.

Tom is of Solomon Islands and Fiji parentage.

His father, late Dr Daniel Maemaruki, was from Su’uboko village, near Malu’u, in north Malaita.

His mother is a Fijian woman.

Tom was born and raised in Honiara where he attended St Nicholas Primary School from 1972-1979.

After completing his form five at KGVI School in the 80s, the 51-year-old found his first job with Mendana Enterprise Ltd, now trading as Ela Motor.

He served the company for 15 years.

Tom started as an apprentice in mechanic and later went into welding where, an area he became highly skilled.

After many years of engaging in the busy schedule of being employed by private companies, Tom made up his mind and set up his private business in public transportation.

Tom owned busses and cars where he operated for public service/transportation up until when he was lured by the art of carving.

The soft spoken man, who married to a woman from Marovo, Western Province, survived with three kids after his first wife passed away in 2007.

He then married to a second wife also from Marovo and now has two kids.

Tom said life was a struggle and tough after his first wife died, but through God’s grace and love, he and his children were able to get by.

“Patient is the only golden rule in every sphere of life,” he said.

“To succeed in life, you must be patient,” Tom added.

“There comes a time when you will smile and say, Oh! Yes I now reap the fruits of my labour.”

Tom put across those powerful words from his life experiences.

In 2012 Tom decided to venture into the art of carving, something he knew nothing about.

He said he developed that interest through his association with his brother-in-law, who is married to a woman from Malaita.

“It’s not my talent and sometimes I want to give it up but my brother-in-law keep encouraging me not to give in,” he said, smiling.

Tom said during his early days, his products were horrible.

“When I look at my finish products, I wonder whether anyone would want to buy them at all,” he recalled.

But he said he kept to his dream and through the process, improved as time goes.

“I learned from my mistakes and improve from there.

“Patience is a virtue and the best thing in life. So in my all undertakings, I have to be patient to realise my dreams.”

Tom said by the time the Festival of Pacific Art (FOPA) was held in Honiara in late 2012, he was prepared to showcase his first product to the world.

By 2014, he said, his products started selling and this motivated him to keep striving.

“I was inspired when people started to buy my products, which drive me to put my full effort into the art of carving,” he said.

He added a lot of his products were bought by the government, which were then presented to foreign visiting dignitaries.

Tom said at the recent Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) held in Honiara, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs bought four of his Nguzu Nguzu at $2500 each.

“I earned $10,000 from those four products, which is a blessing.”

To ensure he finishes his products in time, he would wake all night to do his work at home.

Tom revealed that from the recent tourist boat (Pacific Eden) that visited Honiara, he made $13,000 on that day.

 “This business is now the main source of income for my family.

“The money I got from this has helped me to pay for my children’s school fees and meet our family needs,” he added.

He testified that his family was without running water for two and a half year since Solomon Water cut off their supply from his Panatina home.

“My family was without water for two and half years and we were in trouble thus we have to ask our neighbours to use their water.

“This was a dilemma in my life because our outstanding water bill was $7,000.

“But through the sale of my carving products I cleared off that $7,000 bill just in one day after I received a cheque of $10,000 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that bought four of my Nguzu Nguzu worth $2,500 each to present them as gifts for Pacific Islands leaders.

“Today, we now have running water into our home.”

Tom said there are times we want things to happen as quickly as possible but God knows the timing.

“The only thing we need to have in our hearts is patience because one day you will reap the fruit of your longsuffering.”

Tom told the Solomon Today Posy that his products were sold to people as far as Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan.

He said another of his products were bought by the government and presented to United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon in New York.

He added his products range from $50 to $30,000 depending on the size.

However, Tom admitted that sometimes marketing is the main challenge he faces.

“But that this does not pull me down,” he said.

While acknowledging the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB) for bringing in cruise ships to visit our shores, Tom said we need more of those tourist boats.

“This is because the more tourists come in, the more money they bring into the country.

 “They pour in money here when they came ashore and purchase local products.

 “So I call on the SIVB to ensure more cruise boats come to our country,” he said.

Asked what the future holds, Tom said he’s enjoying what he’s doing now.

“I enjoy and love the work I’m doing now. Not only I’m I earning money from it, but I’m now my own boss.

 “I think this is my life now till I die.”

 He thanked the government for its effort to build proper craft centre for artists at the Art Gallery, which is expected to complete next year.