A chippie has turned his back on regular building work to create gypsy caravans.
Phillip Luxton is producing the finely crafted caravans and traditional wheeled shepherd's huts in his Weymouth garage.
He is now putting the finishing touches on a bow-top Vardo wagon that was traditionally used by British Romani people.
The Vardo is Mr Luxton's first gypsy caravan. It has been commissioned by an English woman with gypsy heritage who lives in Three Kings, Mr Luxton says.
Her brief was for a fully working caravan ready for a horse to pull.
Mr Luxton started from the bottom using hand-blacksmithed axles and added original turning gear and shafts for a horse.
The wagon will roll out of Weymouth primed and ready for painting by its new owner.
"She will design the colour scheme which I am a little bit worried about because gypsies are so gaudy - they love colour and lots of it," Mr Luxton says.
The tradition of the Vardo is seen as a cultural meeting point of artistic design and the woodcrafter's art.
The price defines how finely crafted and detailed the finished product is.
Mr Luxton says the work has seen design challenges at every corner.
"But luckily I enjoy that sort of thing. I love working with timber - it's a new-found love and every day I can work in my shed instead of on some building site."
He is also relishing learning new skills such as laminating and bending timber.
"In a way that looks like a hobbit hole and I wasn't after that but I quite like it. It's very human, bent forms. There are no angles - it's comforting."
Mr Luxton will begin work on a wheeled shepherd's hut once the wagon is done. He is doing the work on contract for a builder who has taken time off to build his own house. The huts were originally rolled out into the countryside so shepherds could keep an eye on their flocks in comfort.
Now they are used as sleep-outs, extra bedrooms, offices or writer's studies.
"They're all finished in timber, beautifully finished and they're very old-world. They are just a delight to be in and the beauty of having things on wheels is you don't have to get a consent for it," Mr Luxton says.
- © Fairfax NZ News