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Weeds To Woodcraft

SOWN Timber Expo 2013


Weeds to Woodcraft Expo 9 June 2013

The inaugural SOWN Timber Expo 'Weeds to Woodcaft' was held on Sunday 9 June at Yoorala Street Parklands. After a night of rain, the drizzle stopped just as the last marquee went up. Soon the sausages were sizzling, the music playing and a few hundred locals and visitors flowed in to join the fun, smell the camphor and watch Rob Whyte launch his new book.


This Community event was the culmination of an Energex sponsored 12 month project to research the hobby and commercial use of weed tree timbers. SOWN worked with various community groups to find out what kind of 'weed' timbers and vines might be useful and salvageable.


Libby showing off  camphor products crafted by SAMS
Libby showing off Camphor products crafted by the Samford Men's Shed for SOWN. Photo by Mark Crocker

The gorgeously scented and insect repellent Camphor Laurel is an invasive weed with tremendous possibilities. The Samford Men's Shed (SAMS) teamed up with SOWN to make use of salvaged camphor slabs and offcuts. These were used to produce insect repellent coathangers, mothballs and delicate bags of shavings for drawers.


Graham Macklin of SAMS
Macka turns on the SAMS charm while waiting to see if he won anything in the Camphor Challenge. Photo by Mark Crocker

Artisan demonstrations

Rob McKee of the Woodturners Society of Queensland demonstrated turning on a lathe while woodcarver Sandra Skodnik showed expo-goers how to hand carve sculptures out of salvaged timbers.

Rob McKee demonstrating turning on the lathe

The SOWN Camphor Challenge


Sponsored by local businesses, the SOWN Camphor Challenge allowed local woodturners and carvers to showcase their skills using Camphor Laurel and tell stories behind the timber which they had bought or salvaged.

The winners were Phil Harris (1st prize) for his large, turned Camphor platter, Clive Botting (2nd prize for his carved 'Surfing Dolphin') and Graham Mackin (3rd prize for his trinket box). Clive Botting's second entry (a carved Bilby) won the People's Choice Award.

Checking out a Camphor Chest made for the Challenge
Photo by Mark Crocker

Weaving with weeds


Invasive weeds commonly found around our waterways that are useful for weaving include Cats Claw Creeper, Morning Glory and Elephant Grass.

Rene Bahloo from 'Weavery' showed eight workshop participants basketry techniques to turn weedy Cocos palm inflorescences into functional works of art.

Rene Bahloo teaches weaving with palm inflorescences
Photo by Mark Crocker


Fibrecraft artist Floss Wainwright demonstrated weaving with the much maligned Cats Claw Creeper.

Floss Wainwright weaving with Cats Claw Creeper
Photo by Mark Crocker

Community Music

The Reclaimers Street Orchestra played throughout the day. With guitars, cellos and violins made in workshops from tin cans, fishing line, salvaged timbers and bamboo they were a hit. The perfect entertainment for a festival all about making the most out of things.

Kids Craft


The kids marquee was perhaps the busiest of the day. A wishing tree made from a weedy branch of Chinese Elm (Celtis sinensis) was brought from a restoration and decorated with wishes on paper scraps. Little hands turned pre-cut and sanded jacaranda rounds into decorated pendants. When these ran out they experimented with bamboo and cotton creations.

The Gap State High School also displayed student art inspired by walks along the creek behind the school.

Children's activities at the Expo
From right to left: activities at the kids tent, wishes and doll house furniture made from bamboo, jacaranda and reclaimed materials. Photo to left: Mark Crocker

Book Launch


Rob Whyte's new, expanded edition of 'The creek in our backyard: a practical guide to habitat restoration' was launched with a speech by Anna Harisson. Her sense of humour won over the crowd and by the end of the Expo all 480 copies of the book brought for the day had been snapped up. A further 80 were distributed the following Tuesday with more boxes being made available to local groups and individuals after a copy.

Creek in Our Backyard launch
Launching the latest edition of 'The creek in our backyard. From left to right: Mark Paton from Energex, Anna Harisson, Robert Whyte, Councilor for the Gap Geraldine Knapp and Rob & Dawn Whyte. Photos: Mark Crocker

The SOWN nursery stall displayed some of the various native plants grown for restorations and mentioned in 'the creek in our backyard'. Plenty of inspiration for replacing those weeds which are better off becoming woodcraft.

Lynn Swan at the SOWN Nursery stall
Lynn Swan with some of the native plants grown at the SOWN nursery. Photo: Mark Crocker