Spring 2014 newsletter - Feature Story

Wednesday, September 24 2014

Many of you will be aware that South Coast year 12 highschool student Stephen Thresher recently used our Clearwater Chair as the inspiration for his HSC Major Work. For the full story, go to “Crafting a Life” episode 7- Love over Gold.

Clearwater Chair Interpretation
by Stephen Thresher
Clearwater Chair
by Dunstone Design

Stephen is clearly no slouch. He plays National representative Hockey (for my North American readers, this is the sensible game played on grass, not the slippery version) and is a State representative swimmer. He is planning to study Engineering at Uni next year, so I’m guessing Stephen’s grades are ok as well.

For all these commendable achievements, it appears that Stephen’s woodwork has really struck a chord with his peers and elders. Our humble Facebook page had over 2000 hits within 48 hours when we posted his story. “Boy Makes Nice Chair” shouldn’t be a world-beating headline, yet people have been at least as excited about this achievement as they have about Stephen’s many other accomplishments. My theory is this; all of Stephen’s other achievements have been made within supportive structures. His sporting and academic success has been supported by “the system”.

What support or structures are there for an aspiring chairmaker in Australia? Not many, as it turns out. Stephen enjoyed the great good fortune to have a knowledgeable and enthusiastic teacher in Luke Ryan, but there is no avenue to represent Australia in furniture making. Students don’t vie with each other to make it on to the chairmaking team. Making beautiful things from wood is hardly “cool”.

Stephen had to find the drive and motivation from within himself to take on this project. He had to patiently explain to those around him what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it. Lots of people rose to the occasion to help him, but there were no clubs or coaches to call on. There will never be a gold medal or a scholarship at the end of it.

With so little structural support, why was there such a strong reaction from the public to Stephen’s efforts? Perhaps we were collectively displaying our realisation of how important it is for young Australians to be able to make things. We regularly have people walk into our showroom and loudly say “I am so please someone can still make this stuff” and then head straight for IKEA. Luckily for me, if you are receiving this newsletter, you aren’t one of them!

Here’s a thought; if craft didn’t matter, it wouldn’t have made us all feel so good to see Stephen embrace it.