Featured seller: Trees Set Free

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!

treessetfree small cherry wood platter

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.

treessetfree rimu tea light holder


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.

treessetfree detailing

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.

treessetfree prepared blocks

treessetfree group 1

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.

treessetfree walnut pen prize draw

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23 Responses to “Featured seller: Trees Set Free”

  1. Christine JOHNSTON says:

    Peter’s work inspires me by his honesty and smooth lines. He’s used his hobby to help in hard times and performed things of great beauty.

  2. Louisa Rull says:

    I have been admiring Peter’s work for a long time. It is wonderful craftsmanship as well good taste which makes his wooden items so beautiful.
    Nice to know that your work was chosen for Makers Exhibition in Wellington not long ago.
    All the best,
    Louisa Rull

  3. JJ says:

    It’s great to see you work and read your story.
    My granddad got into wood turning when he retired, I still remember the smell of his work shop, good memories :)
    Love your bowls, they’re gorgeous!

  4. Nikki S says:

    My mum is a huge wood worker. I loved this blog so much I sent it to her and she passed it on to her woodworking group. Great work Peter

  5. Erin says:

    Beautiful work, Peter! Stunning!

  6. Anne says:

    Absolutely beautiful craftsmanship. So talented.

  7. Jillian says:

    I’m inspired by Peter’s answer to the ‘formal training’ question. Shows you don’t need a fancy degree to make great work. There’s hope for us tinkerers!

  8. Hannah says:

    What inspires me most is the this perspective of a person with a passion for taking a humble think such as a piece of wood and turning it into a magnificent work of art, that’s practical as well as beautiful! <3

  9. Erilyn says:

    Peter’s work is finished so beautifully and his passion shows through in each piece. I love how wood can draw you in to touch and admire it’s depth and quality, no matter what shape it’s in. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Helen says:

    Peter takes the natural beauty of the wood and hones it and polishes it to make a new creation that is tempting to own, hold and appreciate for ever.
    Thank you for sharing your talents.

  11. Samara says:

    beautiful craftsmanship :) always appreciate craftsmanship

  12. Dee Gordon says:

    It is heart warming to hear of that this skill has arisen form a simple 12 week WIntec course..I am inspired by stories of people like Peter who continue to grow and develop new skills and interests throughout their lives. Peter’s work is just beautiful.

  13. Amanda says:

    Tree Set Free sums up Peters’ obvious passion for finding the treasures hidden within a simple piece of wood, then bringing them out for us to enjoy and cherish.

  14. Crystal says:

    Truly inspired by your work “simply beautiful” I can truly relate to hoping that one of your children will grasp onto and share your passion, me too. But then i think maybe its an experience thing that only comes with time and that our siblings will carry on the legacy but maybe not in our time.
    Maybe as one gets older its nature and the simple beauty of it that means so much more. Its looking at things with new and different lens.Thank you for sharing your creations amazing.

  15. Kim Coleman says:

    Beautiful work. What a feeling to know your work is world wide. The pen would make a great gift for my father, reminds me of times gone by, a tribute to the true gentleman business man he was.

  16. Christine says:

    I think it’s wonderful that people are still making wooden items. Seems like a lost art form sometimes.

  17. Ingrid says:

    A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever.
    John Keats, 1795- 1821
    This still holds true today!
    True craftsmanship does not need complicated shapes, sometimes a smooth finish or an interesting texture for us to feel and enjoy is enough.
    And in Peter’s work one can perceive the passion he has for the work with his chosen medium.
    I wish modern education would enable our children to learn all about it, to perceive beauty, with eyes and more importantly with the hands, to really experience what it means to create something from beginning to finish with the utmost attention.
    Thank you for sharing!

  18. Anne P says:

    From one crafter to another>>
    It is so heart warming to view another person’s craft. Peter has a light and practised hand at his craft, a truly rewarding and therapeutic past time. Keep up the fabulous work Peter :-)

  19. Julia says:

    Absolutely beautiful work! My grandfather used to do a lot of woodturning, so I really appreciate this wonderful craft. Reading this interview, I realized that I am already the proud owner of one of Peter’s works, bought at a market. It is a tiny little, precious birdhouse, so smooth and perfect! It has pride of place in my livingroom! *:-)

  20. Jo Curry says:

    peter is inspiring by doing something he loves. He has passion, appreciation and attention to details, all wonderful qualities, awesome work!

  21. Juliet says:

    Ah there is nothing more inspiring than the feel of beautifully worked wood.

  22. Jillian says:

    Lovely to see a single piece of wood become an object of beauty.
    Always appreciate the work that a craftsman puts in!

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