Getting to the heart of wood

00:27, Dec 05 2012
screen print
CRAFTED GEMS: Centre for Fine Woodworking 2012 graduates, From left, Ben van Ginkel, Reece Cargill, Daniel Martin, Natasha Courtney, Jeff Gillham and Graeme Henry.

A dozen graduates from The Centre for Fine Woodworking are preparing to showcase their handiwork in the centre's end-of-year show at the Refinery Artspace on Halifax St. Anna Pearson reports.

The Centre for Fine Woodworking director John Shaw says this year's graduates are "a bit like clucky hens" ahead of their exhibition opening at the Refinery Artspace tomorrow.

"They're all very proud of their work. They're a bit like clucky hens, looking after their little chicks. It's a show that's welcomed. People look forward to it," he says.

Shaw says the exhibition of about 30 to 40 pieces of furniture expresses where each student has "got to" in the nine-month course.

"It encapsulates the progress they have made. The progress will continue, but this is like a punctuation mark."

Ben van Ginkel


Ben van Ginkel did high school through correspondence, and was looking for a new project about three years ago.

The 19-year-old, from Upper Moutere, picked up a library book on scroll saws and that set him on a new course.

"I was unsure what I wanted to do when school finished. This seemed like a pretty good option." He did a two-week course at The Centre for Fine Woodworking a year and a half ago before signing up for the nine-month one - and has learnt "almost everything I know about woodwork now".

He still uses a scroll saw, however, as in a small wooden box in the end-of-year exhibition decorated with marquetry depicting a country scene.

Reece Cargill

Reece Cargill completed a marketing degree at the University of Otago, before he realised "it wasn't really for me".

"I thought I wanted to get into advertising, but I realised every single person in New Zealand has got a marketing degree," he says.

Cargill cottoned on to The Centre for Fine Woodworking through his architect mother, who heard Shaw speaking at a conference.

The 23-year-old worked in the construction industry while growing up, but his woodworking experience was minimal.

Cargill says designing and making furniture was "freedom", and he was "absolutely sold" on it.

"I love it. This is what I want to do. I found it." His pieces in the end-of-year show are inspired by artist Piet Mondrian, and characterised by straight lines.

Cargill says he especially loved the design side of furniture making, and learning how to translate what was in his mind on to paper with the help of drawing tutor Bernie Stokes, who has a few drawings in the exhibition.

Daniel Martin

Daniel Martin hails from South Africa, but has lived in New Zealand for seven years.

His woodworking journey started at school in Saudi Arabia, where his family lived for a while. The 26-year-old did a furniture and joinery course at Unitec in Auckland in 2007, and went on to work as a furniture restorer.

He lost his job when the man who employed him retired and ended up in Dunedin before coming to Nelson to study at The Centre for Fine Woodworking.

Martin says the course has "broadened everything" as far as his woodworking knowledge goes.

"I learnt a whole lot more. I think John's even learning still, and has been doing it for 30 years. I don't think you ever stop learning," he says.

Martin's works in the end-of-year show include a set of two walnut coffee tables, and a high-backed chair.

Natasha Courtney

Natasha Courtney's foray into woodworking was about five years ago, with a DIY project at home on Waiheke Island.

A friend showed her how to build a retaining wall, and she "got the bug".

The 39-year-old then signed up for a community education woodworking course, and got into "upcycling" - converting waste materials into new materials - with a bunch of enthusiastic locals.

She came to Nelson last year to "test the waters" with a two-week beginner's course at The Centre for Fine Woodworking, and decided to take the plunge.

The former retail banker says woodworking is a "huge change" from her past career, but the course is "one of the best life decisions I have made".

Courtney doesn't know what the future will hold, but definitely wants to be involved in the furniture world.

"I would like to see if I could develop myself a bit more to perhaps get involved with teaching," she says.

One of her pieces in the end-of-year show is an upholstered beech armchair, partially inspired by the simplicity of European furniture design.

"I wanted something really kind of simple and stylish - something that's not trying to be more than it is. I welcome everybody to sit in it."

Jeff Gillham

Adelaide man Jeff Gillham took up woodworking as a hobby about 15 years ago, and now teaches woodworking to migrants with a primary focus on English language instruction.

He took a year's leave from his job to study at The Centre for Fine Woodworking, after seeing an advertisement for a previous graduate show in a magazine.

Gillham's pieces in the end-of-year show include an oval stereo table with three legs, two chairs he is going to give to his sons and a glass cabinet.

"I just like to sort of find a simple solution to what needs to be done," he says.

The 50-year-old has a workshop at home in Australia, and says he is going to keep up his furniture making.

He says he learned a lot of new skills on the course, like steam bending and veneering, and would be able to offer his students a much better range of experience.

Graeme Henry

Graeme Henry is a boat builder by trade and has lived in Nelson for 12 years, after years at sea running private yachts.

The 54-year-old's last sailing project was in 2010, when he took clients into the far north of the Atlantic.

Henry says he had always known about The Centre for Fine Woodworking, and Shaw's connections to woodworking legend James Krenov, and this year he had the time to go there.

While he already had some technical woodworking skills from boatbuilding, "it takes time to get back into gear again".

"This is much more refined work, where you can really focus on the detail."

A sea chest in the end-of-year show, made using sycamore from the Brook Valley Motor Camp, hints at his seafaring past.

"I'm planning to set up a workshop in Nelson. It's good to have my feet on solid land again," he says.

The Centre for Fine Woodworking 2012 Annual Exhibition, opens 5.30pm tomorrow, runs until January 19.