Artist turns firewood into works of art

01:58, Nov 21 2012
Jastand
Raising eyebrows: For New Plymouth woodwork artist Jahnu using an angle grinder was a natural progression after 30 years sanding down cars.

New Plymouth artist Jahnu uses an angle grinder to turn firewood into beautifully sculptured wooden pieces.

Jahnu, who co-manages The Raised Eyebrow Art and Coffee House, said using an angle grinder was a natural progression after 30 years sanding down cars in his previous work as a car painter.

"Peter Berger [New Plymouth artist now living in Nelson] taught me this free-style form using a chainsaw and angle grinder. He showed me what was possible and how to read wood."

The woodwork artist, who specialises in making bread boards and platters, said each piece was inspired by the wood itself.

"I just look at the grain and see what comes. I like the organic form so there are no straight edges.

"I only use macrocarpa as it has slightly antiseptic oils so is good for food use and makes my hands feel good," he said.

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Jahnu decorates some pieces with paua inlays and all have a beeswax finish which he polishes with bits of old carpet wrapped around his angle grinder disc.

The woodworker, who conveniently lives behind The Raised Eyebrow and has his workshop down below, said 70 to 80 per cent of his pieces were bought as wedding or birthday gifts and much of it was sent overseas.

"It is hugely gratifying that you can do something that people really enjoy and to know it has been sent all over the world."

The Raised Eyebrow opened two years ago after textile artist Sally Johnson thought the vacant shop opposite Mangorei School would be a good spot for her and a few friends to sell their work.

"We started with five or six artists and now we've got about 70, mainly from Taranaki, on the books and I haven't had to go looking for any of them," she said.

The idea to serve coffee and food at the gallery, Johnson said, had been a success right from the start.

"It's been a fantastic combination . . . the coffee is definitely the core business and the food supplements that, but the art is an important part - it brings the people here," she said.

And the gallery name, Johnson explains, came about when Jahnu suggested playing the bagpipes every morning to open the shop and someone said "that will raise a few eyebrows".

- Gill Evans is a Witt journalism student

Gill Evans is a Witt journalism student.

Taranaki