Bill Blair Print
Written by Nathalie Brown   

Photography: Derek Golding

Modern man, ancient craft

It's a radiant blue winter's day. The frigid wind is sifting through the match lining in Bill Blair's shed at the edge of the Oamaru Harbour while the coppice craftsman puts together a plate for his afternoon smoko. He eats half a mutton bird and two slices of sour dough bread, wipes his lips and settles down to talk.

Asked why he has spent the best part of 20 years producing garden trugs, besom brooms, bentwood log carriers, wooden pitch forks and rakes, he says he's always had an inbuilt love of wood, of trees and the desire to work with his hands.

“I was brought up on a farm in North Otago and in the Moeraki village. My parents valued things like gardening, sewing and cooking and being self-sufficient. And those values were inculcated in me. In those days woodwork was still valued as a school subject although it was an activity for what they called ‘less academically gifted’ students.

“But they still have craft colleges in Germany and France where traditional crafts are given more status and it seems pretty obvious to me that it's important that people are able to make things with their own hands.

“I think most crafts are an art in themselves. I like hand-making useful and good-looking items out of products which are locally available and might otherwise go to waste.”

Read more in the latest issue of The Shed