The art of the mail box
Doug's creations ad an artistic touchJARED NICOLL
Elaborate letterboxes have been stopping traffic on Queen Charlotte Dr, says resident and designer Doug Collins.
Mr Collins has made about 23 custom letterboxes for residents along the stretch of road outside his home at Momorangi Bay over the last five years.
The retired 79-year-old former signwriter hand-crafted the boxes based on requests from people looking to add a personal touch to their postal service. Sometimes he charges just enough for the box and some plywood, about $100, but most of the time he treats them as a favour-in-kind and a hobby.
Designs included a mini courier post delivery van for the rural delivery driver, a snapper fish for the family who always seem to catch them in the bay, and a kingfisher for the couple who always see the birds when they arrive at their bach for a summer holiday.
"It's just a hobby of mine, it takes up a bit of time but it gives something to the residents," Mr Collins said.
"We get tourists stopping to take pictures, there can be quite a few in summer."
Each box took about a month to complete and often involved shaping plywood around the letterbox frame, suiting it to the design the person wants and painting the final product.
He donated several to Linkwater School to be sold in silent auctions or used as prizes at fundraisers.
A workman at the Havelock refuse transfer station saves old letterboxes and plywood dropped off at the station, which he passes on to Mr Collins.
His letterbox features a large, bright red horse with the body running down the side and a big grinning face on the front. He got the idea from a children's book which had a side-view of the horse and he completed the design when applying it to the box. "I just saw the picture and thought it would make a good one."
It sits next to a dog he made for his neighbours.
The customising craze started when a rural mailman living nearby held a letterbox competition five years ago with awards for the most artistic, useful and worst letterboxes. The winner of the worst letterbox received a new one as a prize.
Mr Collins enjoyed the idea so much he decided to keep it going and now receives requests from people who see his work.
The first one he made was a colourful tuatara with rigid scales shaped from moulding putty, but "after three years in the rain it started to lose its skin like the real thing."
He moved to the bay when he retired about eight years ago after spending two years travelling the country in a caravan.
His sister decided to buy land in the bay and subdivided it with him. The pair live in houses side-by-side.
Do you have an interesting letterbox? Send us a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Marlborough Express