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last updated Fri 27 Jul 12

Reading Pieces

Donald Gibson a deaf and blind sculptor was commissioned to make a sculpture to mark van Asch Deaf Education Centre's 125th Jubilee.

The sculpture, "Nurturing Hands" is made out of white Mt Somers stone. Donald went to Mt Somers and selected the piece of rock that would become the finished sculpture. It depicts two hands. One hand is cupped and the other hand is protecting and sheltering it. Hands were chosen as the subject for the sculpture because of their importance for deaf people for communication. It sits on a concrete plinth and is the centrepiece of the Memorial Garden. When the sculpture is viewed from the old steps it resembles the pupil of an eye.

The sculpture took just over five months to complete. It was started in October 2004 and completed in early March 2005. Donald worked on the sculpture at the South Brighton Sculpture Park in Christchurch, near the sea.

Donald Gibson was born in Hamilton and within a few years had moved to the lower South Island with his family.

At the age of four years, in February 1964, Donald started at the Sumner School for Deaf as a boarder.

Two years later his family shifted to Christchurch to enable Donald to attend as a day pupil. Donald continued on at Sumner School for Deaf until March of 1976, when he was seventeen years of age.
At school Donald was interested in and enjoyed art. He did detailed accurate pencil drawings.

Later Donald began to learn how to paint. He held an exhibition of his work in conjunction with the Deaf Association and the Blind Foundation.

As Donald's sight deteriorated he began working with clay, at Risingholm Community Centre in Christchurch.
In 1994 he visited sculptor, Bon Suter in Christchurch. He established a friendship with her. Bon began to tutor Donald in her back garden in stone carving. Then with consent from the Christchurch City Council the South Brighton Sculpture Park was set up in Marine Parade, opposite Bon's house.

Donald was the inspiration for the Te Pani Sculpture House, in Seaview Road, Brighton. Te Pani grew out of a need for a venue and focus for sculpturing. He is currently the Trust's artist in residence.

Donald went to Auckland initially, to be trained to work with his first guide dog Lobo, in 1990. Further training then continued in Christchurch. Lobo, a retriever cross was retired three years ago due to arthritis. He was unable to jump in and out of the car any more. Donald refused to be parted with Lobo when he was retired and he still lives with him today.

Harry, also a retriever cross, is Donald's second guide dog. He has been serving Donald for three years. Donald can tell the two dogs apart by feel.

For optimum communication Donald uses deafblind communicator Maree Bone. Maree uses hand over hand communication with him. Donald uses New Zealand Sign Language to communicate what he wants to say.


arthritis -Inflammation of the joints of the body with pain and stiffness
commissioned -van Asch Deaf Education Centre placed an order with Donald Gibson to make the sculpture for the school jubilee
confirmed -To prove to be true
continued -Remained, stayed
demolished -To tear down or break up
depicts -To show something
deteriorated -Became worse
due to -Because of
enable -To make something possible or easy
initially -In the beginning
inspiration -A person who causes some special activity to happen
jubilee -A special anniversary, for example 25th, 50th or 125th, etc
optimum -Most favourable or advantageous
plinth -A rectangular block that forms the base of the sculpture
retired -At a certain age, usually 65 years, give up paid work
sculptor -An artist who makes a 3D carving.
sculpture -To make a 3D work of art, especially by carving
serving -Helping
tutor -Teacher
venue -A place

Making the Sculpture
First, Donald made a small
clay model of the sculpture
Second, he sawed a piece of
stone into the basic shape.

Third, he used a scutch hammer to hit big chunks of rock away.
Fourth, he used a chisel
to cut away little bits.
Fifth, he used a rasp to smooth off rough bits.
Last, he used sandpaper to smooth off the surface.


Images courtesy Donald Gibson and Tony O'Grady.




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