Featured seller: Kanuka Glen

For John Jepson of Kanuka Glen, using upcycled timber as the canvas for his beautiful native bird art meets an urgent need to reduce our waste as a society. “For every full rubbish bin that goes to landfill, seventy full rubbish bins were made upstream to make the junk in that one rubbish bin you got rid of. So it’s no surprise that in the past three decades one third of the world’s natural resources have been consumed. Buying locally produced goods and reusing items that can serve a different use is a great way to contribute towards returning the balance.”

kanukaglen falcon

What do you make?
I create rustic renditions of New Zealand’s beautiful native birds.

How did you get into your craft?
Well to be totally honest, one evening last year I just had a sudden urge to sit down and draw. The feeling had been building up in me over some time and I just had to let it out! I’ve not really stopped since and it feels good.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I don’t have any formal qualifications, but art has always been a big part of my life. My parents must have noticed it was something I enjoyed early on as they sent me off to Saturday morning art classes from quite a young age. This helped me greatly with keeping up with my art studies at school.

kanukaglen John at work

kanukaglen tuke

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I recycle pieces of timber that are well past it for their intended purpose by using them as a unique canvas on which to base my art. The wood comes from a number of sources. Some of the wood is left over from old apple bins that are past it, some of it is from old floorboards that have cracked, and other pieces even come from old farm fences that some beast or other has leant on too many times! Chalk and charcoal or high quality coloured pencils are currently my favourite media. I love taking a piece of wood that others might simply burn or leave to rot away and then turning it in to a piece of art for people to enjoy in their home.

What inspires you?
I find inspiration in lots of different places, but mostly in the natural world. I’m lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of New Zealand’s countryside where I can find inspiration around every corner.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Absolutely! The world’s resources are finite, yet somehow we as a species keep mass producing more and more stuff cheaper and cheaper. Everything’s designed to either go out of fashion quickly or break at a pre determined moment. It’s all madness and it bothers me greatly. My art work is a reflection of the way I choose to reject the norm. If something is broken I’ll try my best to fix it, if it can’t be fixed then I’ll think of something else it could be used for. My canvases are all made from wood that can no longer be used for anything else, and I take pride in breathing new life into each one.

kanukaglen salvaged timber

kanukaglen John at work 2

kanukaglen kokako

Describe your workspace:
Haha, my workspace is currently a small space on the floor in front of my couch. I haven’t yet got to the stage where I feel the need to create a separate space. Luckily my materials don’t take up too much room!

Five words that describe your mind:
Open. Searching. Loving. Striving. Grateful.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I had my first ever market experience as a seller at the Mapua Easter Fair recently. Towards the end of the day a chap came up and said ‘I just wanted you to know that out of all the stalls, your stall has been the stand out for me today. I love what you do!’ I was so stoked to have someone just ‘feel the need’ to say this to me. :-)

What are you currently listening to?
Right this very moment I am listening to the theatrical soundtrack to Disney’s ‘Up’ via Spotify. I have an incredibly eclectic taste in music and when I’m creating I like to listen to music that takes me to a different place. As movie scores tend not to have words and can be quite dramatic they’re great for freeing the mind!

Recommend an album:
One Hot Minute by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This album and I have a lot of history together. It’s super funky, it’s sad, it’s funny, and I think I know just about every word to every song. :-)

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. It created an amazing sense of adventure in my mind. Everything that happened in the book seemed like something I could find myself doing with my mates during the holidays.

What are you reading now?
Right now I am reading The Burning Shore by Wilbur Smith. I like to find cool old books in the ‘Free Book Box’ outside the second hand bookshop in town. It’s a great way to find a good read as you never know what you will find!

kanukaglen morepork

kanukaglen portrait

Who is your hero/heroine?
My Dad. Over the years I have seen him repurpose all sorts of timber in to all sorts of things. I was with him when he rescued piles of timber off a beach after a boat went down, and I’ve watched him turn a stack of old wooden telegraph poles and ladders in to one of the most beautiful pergolas I’ve ever seen. He would often be trawling through demolition yards trying to find treasures. At one point he had most of the timber from an old church sitting under cover at the end of our garden. He has a quiet persistence about him as well as an amazing eye for detail. I definitely wouldn’t be as interested in repurposing pieces of wood had it not been for my Dad.

A favourite quote:
‘Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.’ This comes straight from the 1987 movie The Princess Bride, pure old school awesomeness! I also like ‘Minds are like parachutes, they work best when they’re open’, but I don’t know who said that first.

Do you have any pets?
As far as actual pets go, we have a dog called Mosko who’s a loveable rogue. But then we also have our chooks, two ducks called Quackers and Ducky, and four goats called Simon, Penny, Stella and Gabby. We’re very fond of our animals and they almost all seem like pets sometimes.

If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
I would be ‘The Glimpse!’ My superpower would be to have the ability to show someone in an instant the amount of good they do for the world and it’s inhabitants by purchasing something handmade over something mass produced.

kanukaglen kiwi

kanukaglen John and Mosko

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
I don’t quite feel like I’m in the position to be giving advice, but if you’ve found something you can feel passionate about, and it puts a smile on your face, then there can be no harm in giving it a crack. :-)

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
My wife and I bought a handmade mounted fox’s head. It’s not a real fox head, but a cool cartoony replica made from felt. It sits happily in our lounge.

What’s in store for 2015?
My New Year’s resolution this year was to pursue my art work further and have a go at selling it. I’m now entering what I call ‘Phase 2′. I’ve sold a lot of my original work and it’s now time to look at how I can share my work with people in different ways. I am currently experimenting with printing my work and I’m really pleased with the results. Over the next few months I will start selling some limited edition prints of select works. I also have my first exhibition coming up at The Little Beehive Co-op in Nelson.

To see more of John’s unique artworks on upcycled timber, visit his Felt shop.

John has generously offered a prize for one lucky Felt blog reader: a beautiful giclĂ©e print of one of his works on timber, pictured below. This print features a detailed portrait of a tui and is one of John’s favourite creations so far. John tells us the original was on a very rough piece of timber from an old apple bin, from one of the orchards just down the road from his home. To win this print, leave a comment telling us what you like about John’s story and his art. The draw will be made on Friday 8 May and is open to New Zealand residents only.

kanukaglen prizedraw

kanukaglen John with salvaged timber

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42 Responses to “Featured seller: Kanuka Glen”

  1. Holly Wiseman says:

    I love that John can use a material that is rough and rustic like timber and create such beauty on it. It truly is stunning.
    What an incredible way to capture New Zealand beauties on New Zealand timber.

  2. Prue Manson says:

    Beautiful work. Always loved our native birds.

  3. Esther says:

    Love your work. And the aspect of using recycled material is just awesome. Something I try to do as well as much as possible with my works.
    Keep going!! :)

  4. Monique says:

    I love John’s art as his drawings are beautiful and I LOVE native birds. I really like the recycled element too. What’s really lovely about his story is that his Dad is his hero – and he has a loveable rouge dog – I have one of those too!

  5. Michelle says:

    I love the contrast between the informal, rustic wood and the beautiful detail of John’s drawings.

  6. Cynthia says:

    The words that spring to my mind when looking at John’s art are “pure” and “honest” . I love that he just picks up a piece of wood and then “sits down and draws” ! His art is stunning, and simple in the best possible sense.

  7. Julie says:

    Native birds on rustic wood is a winning combination. Beautiful artwork I love it.

  8. Rachael says:

    I love how talented and inspirational John is – plus the fact that one of his quotes is from my favourite movie, “The Princess Bride”!! If more people made use of what already exists arounds us and turned it into something as beautiful as John’s art, the world would be a better place :)

  9. Jay Wincer says:

    I just love seeing NZ wildlife celebrated in this way. When I grew up it was rare to see New Zealand imagery anywhere – from school books to garden art!

  10. Melanie says:

    Gorgeous! I love the organic feel to his work.

  11. Coralie says:

    I would LOVE to buy the karearea one!? How can I get one of those? I worked with NZ Falcons for years. I miss them.

  12. Karen says:

    Absolutely stunning work and the eyes look alive, i would love to give this to my step mother on her 80th birthday later in may she loves native birds and supports and volunteers for our local bird sanctuary in Nelson.

  13. Viv says:

    Love the beautiful birds on the recycled timber. Well done on the fabulous art work and recycling at the same time.

  14. Rosie Oh says:

    Love your work. Very unique yet resounding with all kiwis with the native birds. love!

  15. Maree Presnall says:

    Love your work John… and ‘The Princess Bride, Up and Wilbur Smith!’ Yikes. Dogs and chickens at my place too. No ducks or goats though. You win!

  16. Nicolette says:

    What an awesome choice of animal. Birds are so precious to NZ and with the mix of wood – where birds spend their life near. Awesome!

  17. amber says:

    love that you create from home and love that nz birds are your subject matter. i love nz birds!

  18. Bronwyn says:

    love that the native birds are on timber, like they are home, very organic.

  19. Ria says:

    The passion for what you do shows in your beautiful drawings. Your kiwi looks so cheeky, superb..

  20. Sarah says:

    Awesome, love your work, very unique, creative and special.

  21. I love his honesty and creativity.

  22. Angela Malden says:

    Beautiful art, i love birds and love John’s art on the recyled wood. And i am also a fan of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers ^_^

  23. Fleur says:

    His paintings are amazing. He gives the birds such personality and they mix muted tones with stand out colours.

  24. Lou says:

    I love the effect of the coloured pencil on wood – a match you wouldn’t usually see!! These are really original, stunning pieces. It’s awesome that he’s turning ‘waste’ into something incredible. Well done, John!

  25. Alisa Muir says:

    Gosh what a talented man.
    The pictures are utterly enchanting and I love that they are drawn into wood, gives them such a organic look.

  26. Julie says:

    Love his philosophy, and his art! I am definitely keen to make better purchasing decisions that have less impact on the earth and help the people actually making the goods too.

  27. Leanne Harrop says:

    Such beautiful drawings of our lovely native birds, my daughter who is 10 loves drawing and just keeps getting better and better, will be showing her your work to inspire her. Thank you

  28. Hilary S says:

    I love Johns philosophy about reusing. It reminds me of saying I love, The earth is borrowed from our children. It’s mind boggling to think every bit of plastic ever made is still present today. And what a great way to reflect this in not only the material used, but the image of our precious birds which all are in threat of our consumptin. Thank you John for your amazing and thought provoking work.

  29. Etta says:

    Simply stunning. You capture the beautiful NZ birdlife on timber as if it was alive and flying r
    ight off the wood.

  30. linden says:

    Captivating!! And the wood creates such a wonderful effect too

  31. Amanda Smith says:

    These work capture New Zealand so perfectly – not just because of our beautiful indigenous birds, but also the ‘number 8 wire’ ingenuity and our (growing) environmental awareness through the use of recycled materials.

  32. Hana Corbett says:

    Love your work! Your passion and creativity definitely shines through in each and every piece. Love your honesty and how genuine you come across. Your work is stunning!

  33. Catherine Wilson says:

    I love the kiwiness of his work. And he is such a talented artist. Awesome stuff.

  34. Annette says:

    The combination of beautiful subject matter and wood is very unique. Beautifully done!

  35. Mel Clarkson says:

    Love that you are using recycled wood and that you’re In Nelson. Your works are amazing, just looking online they look like they come to life.

  36. Lyn Jarman says:

    I like that John comes across as a very humble guy and that his hero is his dad.

  37. I love the passion that John has for his family (dad ) and the way his dad has influenced him with his recycling (we do this ALOT) and how his childhood fav book was swallows & amazons (my 4.5 & 6 yr old have just discovered it) & his arwork is AMAZING! my mum has a absolute passion for native birds & has planted he garden to encourage & feed the birds & she has a outstanding assortment which nest and feed around he house, I would love to add to her collection of nz native birds artwork:)

  38. jonelle says:

    I love how the use of natural materials and native birds works in such a dynamic way. Oh and you gotta love anyone who quotes The Princess Bride!

  39. Lynette Gilligan says:

    WOW, what stunning work you do John. I would feel honoured and priveledged if I win to show off your art work in my home. Keep up the great work and may we all be mindful of how, as you say, our resources are finite…lets love and care for our beautiful planet…

  40. Heather says:

    John seems like such a humble and down to earth guy. Good on him for following through with his urge to just sit down and draw. His work is raw, unique and inspiring.

  41. Sarah says:

    Such amazing talent showcasing the beauty of our native birds in a unique way :) If I could have a pet tui, I would – I don’t want to make it talk, just hear it sing. I’m going to keep an eye on your shop, John…I feel birthdays and Christmases just got easier.

  42. nikki c says:

    Oh wow John I’m in tears reading this. Your work reminds me so much of the passion and drive my grandfather had when he used to do something similar in his garage. I remember spending hours with him as he painted on to old pieces of wood from his old family homestead. Well done

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