I was lucky enough to get into woodworking at a young age. Back at school art and woodwork were the only subjects that I approached with any enthusiasm. At 16 I had my first lathe and not long after left school to do an apprenticeship as an engineering pattern maker, for a company that made mining equipment.
It was an exciting trade that made you think inside out, upside down and back to front in order to make the patterns that would be then molded in the sand, removed from the mold, into which molten metal would be poured to get the metal castings. It seemed a bit strange to me that once made the patterns were coated with a grey undercoat and didn’t even look like timber.
During this time I went to the night classes at Asquith High School that was run by the legendary Les Miller where I learned woodturning techniques different from those used in pattern making. My boss used to let me stay on after work sometimes and use the workshop equipment to make my first bits of furniture, usually out of bits of timber I’d scavenged from local tree falls or the like.
This was more enjoyable to the trade work for me as you didn’t have to work to elaborate drawings or exacting dimensions, rather you could just think of something and make it in a serendipitous sort of way and enjoy the colors and grains of the timber being used.
After 5 years in that job I’d had enough, saved some money and spent a year traveling Australia on my bike with Tasmania last stop. There was something about the beauty and wilderness of the countryside not to mention the abundance of fantastic timbers that appealed to me. I’ve now got a workshop/studio next to my house south of Hobart in a picturesque bush setting where I can make a bit of noise and not annoy anyone.
In 1995 I enrolled in the Tasmanian Universities of Art to do the Furniture Design course. It’s a great course with a well-equipped workshop and very skilled technicians. There was something about the design process however that I found a bit stifling, how you were expected to do initial sketches than a scale model than a life-size mock-up then the final piece after much discussion and critique. I guess for me it was a bit like the difference between working from drawings and working in the serendipitous fashion back in the apprenticeship days. Sculpture as a subject seemed to suit me better as it seemed to be a much more free way of creating. Also, the nonfunctional aspect of it was something that was new to me. So, ended up majoring in that.