Canterbury maker Craig Divers of Starting from Zero is a firm believer in working with the materials you’ve got. Strongly influenced by his farm upbringing and a decade living in Asia, he produces original and innovative art and homewares by recycling those great Kiwi icons, corrugated iron, fencing wire, and the good old swappa crate.
How did you get into your craft?
I’ve always liked pottering around in a workshop, even as a kid on the farm, trying to repair things or use discarded objects to make something new.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No formal training or qualifications, in fact most of my working career has been office bound in front of a screen.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love using recycled materials like corrugated iron or disregarded hardwoods/timber. My favourite tools would have to be my two work benches, one is a large, very heavy wooden bench which had been made from recycled timber. The second bench is made of steel with an iron plate work surface and is on wheels, allowing me to manoeuvre inside or outside depending on the season or how much of a mess I’m about to make.
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
For the Swappa Seats there’s quite a bit of work involved in bringing the wooden beer crates up to where they can be used, this includes sanding all surfaces and edges. If you’ve ever handled a beer crate you’ll appreciate there are a few edges to prepare! After adding wooden legs the crates are oiled using a secret blend (sort of like the Colonel’s secret blend of herbs and spices) of oil and stain and then left to dry ideally for a few weeks.
What inspires you?
After living over a decade in Asia, I was impressed with how skilled craftspeople were in upcycling items that other people considered waste or junk. Taking inspiration from these artisans, I have recycled and incorporated items such as old wooden roof tiles, fencing wire and corrugated iron into my work.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Try and use what you’ve got, it can get incredibly frustrating using items that weren’t designed for what you have in mind but sometimes it comes together and you go “Yep that’s the one!” Starting from Zero is not just a name but also a philosophy.
What has been a highlight of your maker journey so far?
When someone bought my first item I had listed for sale.
Describe your creative process:
Sometimes I’ll just place an object I want to use on my bench and just leave it there for a while so I can look at it from different angles to get ideas of what it could be repurposed to. I also sketch ideas but as I learnt in school technical drawing and being precise was never my forté.
Describe your workspace:
The Nerve Centre.
Five words that describe your mind:
The little voices are clever.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“I’ll be back to purchase more.”
What are you currently listening to?
At this precise time, “Where do I begin” by The Chemical Brothers.
Recommend an album:
The great thing about using the likes of Spotify is playing a whole album from start to finish at the spur of the moment. One I have recently listened to, and had forgotten how many great songs were on it, is “Automatic for the People” by REM.
What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
When I was a child Mum and Dad subscribed for me to a weekly DIY magazine called The Knack, there must have been over 100 issues that you put in binders, I still have them now. There’s some great workmanship in them and some terribly outdated projects. Moveable landline telephone console anyone?
What are you reading now?
Christopher Moore’s “Shakesphere for Squirrels”.
Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
My Granddad, I never got to meet him but he served in the 1st World War and anyone who volunteers to serve their country gets a big thumbs up in my opinion.
A favourite quote:
Tis a good day to be alive.
Tell us about your pets:
Three hens, two cats and one sheep, all part of our family.
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
Not sure of a name but to be able to bend and cut things where you intended would be my ideal superpower.
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Don’t give up your day job first (if you can). Starting it as a hobby is a good way to hone your skills first before taking the leap of faith into making a living from your passion.
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
I actually believe that there’s a place for mass produced items, if they’re well made, but being able to purchase something from a small vendor locally not only helps that vendor, but also their family and the local area in general.
What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?
It gives your self esteem a boost for sure and empowers you to keep exploring new ideas.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought and old hand file that someone had handcrafted an antler as the handle. I just liked the idea that someone had repurposed something to use as the handle that functioned well.
What’s in store for the rest of 2021?
Head down, stay healthy and keep listening to the little voices in my head as they sometimes come up with some great ideas.