David Gillard of WoodgrainNZ is passionate about the manipulation of timber, creating interesting designs and revealing the natural beauty of New Zealand native and exotic timbers. In his Auckland workshop David handcrafts unique artistic and functional pieces that are predominantly created from recycled timbers sourced in New Zealand.
What do you make?
Wood art, hollow forms, wall art and kitchenware.
How did you get into your craft?
I did a building course in 2011 and loved the finishing process and fine detail work with timber. And decided that building wasn’t really me, in that it wasn’t detailed enough. I started out making furniture and then moved onto kitchenware and I’m currently working on pushing the boundaries of wood and art.
I enjoy… taking a raw piece of wood, figuring out the best way to show it off and then seeing it all come together.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No. I am self taught with regard to wood turning and have gained knowledge and skill through planning, research, and of course trial and error.
Your favourite, tools and processes?
My favourite timber is Black Maire. I enjoy the process of planning what type of piece I am making and then taking a raw piece of wood, figuring out the best way to show it off and then seeing it all come together.
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces.
Milling timber is the biggest part of my work. A tree is cut down and then the centre pith of the tree is removed and cut into slabs. I then cut to rough blank, then the timber is sealed at the ends with wax so that the timber can be stored for 6-12 months. This prevents the wood from drying out and cracking.
Then I cut it down on a bandsaw and roughly wood turn it down to its rough size and store it again for 6-12 months so that the wood can dry out to about 6% moisture content. This process reduces the piece moving and warping once made.
When I am ready to use the wood I turn it on the lathe to its finished size and apply finishing textures and colours. Finishings include a lot of sanding, gold leaf, colour dying, woodburning and applying a finishing coat of wax, stain or polyurethane. If I am creating a laminated piece, this will involve gluing and clamping different timbers together first before turning.
What inspires you?
Learning and finding new ways to do things that push me to make things that have wow factor.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Big time. Showing off our native giants that have been around for hundreds to thousands of years. They are a big part of New Zealand’s history and they shaped New Zealand’s landscape.
A little bit about my Remembrance Skull…
This skull represents our New Zealand native trees over hundreds of years being chopped down and made into things. A lot like the Mexican celebration that remembers the dead. This is my way of showing my appreciation of these old giants. I’m so lucky to be able to work and show these timbers off through my works and make them be appreciated again for many years to come.
As I mostly deal with recycled or rescued timber it’s nice to be able to take something that was or intended for floorboards for houses or, even worse, firewood and design it into a piece of wood art.
The skull has Pohutakawa and Kowhai flowers, a couple of types of our native ferns, our almighty Kauri tree leaves, and the four stars from the Southern Cross.
Lastly I’d like to say I do understand there will be people that will think the skull is a dark or negative symbol, but this was not designed as that but more of a positive symbol for remembering some of these ancient giants that were covering New Zealand and are now getting harder to find.
Special thanks to Geoffrey Kerr for taking my rough idea in my head and putting it to pen to paper – looks so awesome and I’m so proud of it. Again thanks mate.
Describe your creative process?
Jump in with two hands and don’t be scared to make some firewood along the way.
Describe your workspace
Some people say that it’s like a hobbit workshop. Lots of little spaces and wood and sawdust everywhere which is how a wood working shop should be! LOL.
Five words that describe your mind
Determined, focused, striving, inventive, experimenting.
…it’s nice to be able to take something that was… floorboards… or, even worse, firewood and design it into a piece of wood art.
Your favourite feedback from a customer
“To David/Woodgrain NZ… Please don’t ever stop making these wonderful works of art. Everyone here in Haldensleben Germany who has seen them loved the design and colours. Cheers Steffen.”
What was your favourite childhood book and why?
Badjelly the Witch. It just always cracked me up all the funny characters. We had a book and the vinyl record.
What are you reading now?
Ellsworth on Woodturning: How a Master Creates Bowls, Pots, and Vessels by David Ellsworth and Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon.
A favourite quote
“You learn something everyday if you pay attention.”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Tell us about your pets?
We have suburban chickens, brown shavers. These girls help me get rid of all the wood shavings I create in the workshop and they are pretty good at supplying us with eggs.
If you were a craft superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
What do you mean if I were a superhero! I am a superhero and my super powers are highly classified. (Of course. Sorry to put you on the spot there. -Ed.)
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Do you research into the market. Learn all you can about what it is you are wanting to do. Find people that you can bounce ideas off and test the market. Never forget the reason why you started and never stop telling your story.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A beany hat from the local market. Had it custom made by two lovely older ladies. I wear it all the time when I can find it.
What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
Taking all the ideas and techniques that I have been working on and putting them all together and getting lost in my work. Keywords: 2017, onwards, new, big, amazing, out there.
David has generously offered an awesome prize for one lucky Felt reader of a stylish Kauri pepper mill, valued at $165.00 (see above). This gorgeous blue-green dyed, hand turned mill stands a smidge over 30cm high, making it a superb dining table statement piece.
To be in to win this great prize, simply leave a comment telling us what you loved about David’s story and his creations. The draw will be made on Friday 25 August and is open to New Zealand residents only.