Seeing piles of good wood thrown-out as unwanted building timbers, roof trusses and more on the street was possibly the missing link in the new direction that West Australian maker Karl Young found himself travelling in when he came to this country some five years ago.
Once an aircraft engineer in the British RAF, Karl went on to do contract work on helicopters, notching up 60–90 hours a week before it all got too much and he left the country.
Those jobs were good but lacked the creative aspect he was looking for. For an already practical person who knew how to problem solve with tools, becoming a furniture maker was not a quantam leap. And after all, with a father and grandfather who had been carpenters he had the right DNA as well.
Saltwood Designs, the name Karl trades under, is all about sustainability. He enjoys turning what some call waste into fine furniture, discovering the innate beauty of reclaimed wood. ‘I just love working with wood’, said Karl, ‘and I’ve always enjoyed making and fixing things’. The traditionally styled hall stand that was in progress during my visit appeared to be made from pristine sections of jarrah, however I learnt that it had once been part of a discarded futon base that Karl sawed into thin sections and laminated.
Karl’s workshop is one of several on the first floor of the MANY 6160 building in Fremantle, in the now-defunct Myer retail space. Look up as you enter and you’ll see a mezzanine that serves as an office space which now sits over an area where timber is stacked and stored.
Being within the MANY 6160 community of makers has advantages. ‘The beauty of being in this building is there’s a lot of shared knowledge. Everybody here knows something you don’t and you can learn something from everyone. It’s a brilliant community.’ Rather than being competitive, makers tend to recommend others in the building who can take on a certain job. ‘Competition is not a bad thing in here, it really works’, said Karl.
Karl enjoys designing and making to order. ‘Clients give you a brief and you go through the whole process with them and then come up with a piece that you’re both really happy with.’ When he has a break between commissions Karl will design and make furniture for the retail space on the ground floor of the building below.
After only three years Karl now has a regular stream of orders. He did he get started? ‘I just went out talking to people, the local coffee shops introducing myself, leaving business cards around.’ Getting onto Instagram and using local hashtags brought in more work as did be featured as a maker on the Handkrafted website.
See www.saltwooddesigns.com.au, Instagram @saltwooddesigns