This is fast becoming an even easier process with stonemasons from around the world able to find work through websites and Facebook pages like ‘Friends who like New Zealand Stonemasons Association'.
The Christchurch earthquakes damaged a large number of historic buildings around the Canterbury region. The Timeball Station in Lyttleton, built in 1876, is one such building that was severely damaged. Heritage New Zealand decided to restore parts of the station due to its historical significance, including the Timeball Tower. Damien Barthel and his company, Bosworth & Barthel Stone Restoration Ltd, won the contract for the restoration job.
The work required in the restoration of the Timeball Tower meant Damien needed to hire a banker mason. Having trained in France, Damien was able to talk to his contacts there who put him in touch with Marina Toullec, a banker mason from France who was already planning a trip to New Zealand. Damien says, “It made sense for her to extend her stay so she could work on the exciting restoration.”
Marina feelt privileged to work on the Timeball Station. She says, “I’m interested in construction, to see how the Timeball Station grew step-by-step. When you travel around Christchurch you see some great buildings. It is different to Europe, but you have good buildings here. I’m still learning and I have never had a job like this so, it is very interesting to me.”
Neither France nor New Zealand have many female stonemasons but once Marina discovered stonemasonry she knew it was for her. She says, “Initially I wanted to be an architect but I went to a school open day and saw the programme and found it didn’t interest me at all. I wanted to do something with my hands, to see what I create. I looked on the internet to find something else and I found stonemasonry so I tried it and I was happy with it.
“I’m really lucky with this career, I get everything I need to achieve. We are workmates, male or female it does not matter. I don’t think the physical work is a problem, you also have machines and technology to help now.”
Damien was not concerned about employing a woman and Marina has well and truly proven her worth, he says, “Everyone here is really impressed with her [Marina].”