Woodworker Peter Kenney was born and bred in Hamilton. He lived in seaside Raglan for eighteen years, during which time he took up woodturning. His Felt shop, Trees Set Free, is inspired by the idea of releasing the beauty hidden beneath the bark – the colours of the timber and patterns in the grain – and crafting it into lasting items to be used and enjoyed. His two daughters haven’t caught the woodturning bug yet, but he’s working on it!
What do you make?
I like to make wooden items that have a practical use, that become a part of everyday life, but that also bring some of nature’s beauty into people’s homes. I enjoy making bowls, honey dippers, rolling pins and platters. Small lidded bowls that make great jewellery boxes are a lot of fun to do. The potpourri bowls that I make have been very popular, and as I often tell people, they’re far more attractive in your house than a cheap plastic air freshener or a spray can.
How did you get into your craft?
I’m a trade qualified fitter/turner, so I guess that it made sense to take up a hobby that was similar in many ways to what I was doing as a job, so about seventeen years ago I signed up for an evening class at Wintec in Hamilton and completed a twelve week course in woodturning under the guidance of Fred Irvine. Fred’s an amazing teacher and quite a legend in woodturning circles, and the inspiration I got doing that short course with him has made woodturning one of my biggest passions.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
The closest thing to formal training I have is the twelve week course I completed at Wintec. I’m currently the President of the Waikato Guild of Woodworkers and I find that the opportunity to learn from other members of the club who have amazing skills and passion for woodwork is wonderful. The sharing of knowledge and ideas within the club has been an important part of my development as a woodturner.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love working with native New Zealand timbers, but almost any timber can have amazing beauty hidden inside that just needs to be set free.
Describe your workspace:
Chaos! The busier I get, the messier my benches get, until eventually I can’t put a finished item down safely without it getting damaged, so I have no choice but to clean up, and then start the whole cycle again.
What inspires you?
I get a lot of inspiration from seeing what other turners have made. Some of the work that is consistently done by several of New Zealand’s best turners is mind blowing, and often seems to be so far beyond what is achievable by a normal turner. That just challenges me to try and get better at what I’m doing. I’m also inspired by the look on someone’s face when I present them with a special, one-off, unique gift that I’ve made for them personally.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
For me, the best feedback I can get is when someone wants to take a piece of my work home with them. It’s especially fulfilling for me to know that there are many pieces of mine in cities and countries around the world. The idea that someone would take one of my simple woodturned items home with them to London, Chicago, Boston, Canada or Australia is just the best compliment I could get.
What are you reading now?
I’m currently reading a pile of woodturning magazines from the last few years. These are great for ideas and inspiration. If I wasn’t reading these I would probably be reading an action/adventure novel by someone like Lee Child, Clive Cussler, Jack Higgins or James Patterson.
Do you have any pets?
Yes. Have a cat that thinks that our sole purpose in life is to serve her and make her comfortable.
Who is your hero/heroine?
This would have to be my wonderful wife, Lara. She has been so totally supportive of my woodturning. Never objects or complains when I show her the latest and greatest in tooling that I “just have to have”. She has spent many a freezing cold, frosty or wet Waikato morning at local markets with me selling my woodturning without a murmur of discontent.
Peter has generously offered a prize to one lucky Felt blog reader of this beautiful hand-turned walnut pen with gold plated fittings. You can see more of his lovely turned wood pens here, and his full range of work on Felt here. If you’d like to be in the prize draw, just leave a comment below telling us what inspires you about Peter’s story and his work. The draw will be made on Friday 20 June and is open to New Zealand residents only.