Barrels made into skateboards

Wills Rowe and Indigo Greenlaw from The Paper Rain Project.
Derek Flynn

Wills Rowe and Indigo Greenlaw from The Paper Rain Project.

Making the old new comes naturally to a young Marlborough couple transforming aged wine barrels into beautiful longboards.

Indigo Greenlaw and Wills Rowe craft these long-decked cruising skateboards from recycled French oak, using crushed glass for grip on a rough-hewn top and elegant designs on a silky smooth base.

The one I see also wears the mark of its past life: "That's pinot noir," said Greenlaw happily. "Probably my favourite thing about the boards is the depth of story and the breadth of it.

"If we take the Seresin (Estate) barrel, for example - it's been grown for a certain number of years on a certain lot in France. Then it's been milled and aged for a certain amount of time.

"Then there is the wine making process - how many vintages it's been through and what type of wine. Before we even get it, it has this amazing story. Then Wills takes it and makes a brand-new sellable product."

When its life as a board is past, the wood can be reused or left to naturally break down. "It's a recycled product but it's also recyclable."

Rowe and Greenlaw's business The Paper Rain Project marries a passion for art and design with an ingrained ethos of sustainability.

"The way we grew up is quite fundamental to our business. Wills grew up on a cherry orchard, which his parents started in Spring Creek, and my parents brought us up on the northwest coast of Scotland, on a boat-access-only peninsula."

Life in Scotland meant windmills for electricity, wells for water and choosing to run either the laptop or the lights, but not both. "We grew up really sustainably, but we didn't notice. That's just the way it was."

Greenlaw was studying graphic design at Canterbury University in Christchurch when she met a man who was shaping skateboards out of water skis. She bought one bare and painted it, before buying more to upcycle and sell.

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Fast forward a few years to Wellington, where she met Rowe, and they decided to work together to create products of beauty and integrity, and nurture design in others.

The Paper Rain Project began with the custom skateboards and a T-Shirt design competition, and last year they moved back to Marlborough to launch the wine-barrel longboards. The support of family and friends made the business possible, and a handful of wineries have been unflagging in their support - both supplying barrels and buying boards.

The couple live on Rowe's parents' cherry orchard, where he also has his workshop. The arborist chooses the best pieces of each barrel to create his boards, before Greenlaw provides the design to be laser-etched into the wood.

They have a selection of motifs, including a fragile moth, pair of old scissors, and a paintbrush and chisel, but regularly produce custom boards, many of which head offshore.

The ultimate goal is simple, said Greenlaw. "We want our company to do well, of course . . . But in terms of personal success, we just want enough money to live sustainably."

 - The Marlborough Express

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