Talking to Evan Dunstone and John Madden, Wood Dust Australia

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Above: Wood Dust Australia festival founders and organisers Evan Dunstone (left) and John Madden.

John Madden and Evan Dunstone are the instigators and organisers of Wood Dust Australia, a new concept in woodworking events. Wood Review editor Linda Nathan recently asked them what Wood Dust is all about, and why we should all plan to be in Queanbeyan and Bungendore, NSW from October 17 to 21, 2018.

AWR: John and Evan, first up, congratulations on the bold move to create a new style of event for woodworkers. Checking out the website, the program sounds great. Can each of you tell me what has driven you to put your lives on hold to bring Wood Dust to us?

JM: The Australian woodworking show scene needs a new type of experience, so taking what I have learned from the American show scene – well here it is, Wood Dust.
ED: I think John and I just wanted to go to a good woodworking festival in Australia and no one else put their hand up. The only bummer is we might be too busy to enjoy it.

AWR: We know capital city wood show attendances and standholder numbers have dwindled in recent years? What do you put this down to?

JM: I think that the current shows have done little to improve or evolve their offering, so like anything, they become outdated and irrelevant and the audience loses interest. And as Evan says – Wood Dust is about the ‘why’ not about how it is.
ED: Wood shows have to be run by woodworking enthusiasts. You can’t have a wood show run by an accountant or a lawyer. Look at the Lost Trades Fair or the Hobart Boat Show. Those shows are booming because they are run by true believers. Look at Maleny; it gets bigger every year because there is a lot of love behind it.

AWR: When Wood Dust launches on October 17, 2018 it will be almost 30 years to the day when the very first wood show in Australia took place on October 21, 1988. I’m sensing a renaissance is about to happen. How will it be different?

JM: Thirty years ago the Internet did not exist, so the first woodworking shows were a rare chance to see the woodworking world all in one space, this was new – hence the reaction to that first show was massive. We are working to create an international destination event for woodworking. Travel to the countryside and have a genuine woodworking experience with guests from all over the world, with good food, craft beer and a few tunes. This is also new, we hope we have an equally good result.
ED: So much has changed in the past 30 years. Back then, there were very few specialist woodworking stores, there was no internet and people were starved for information. These days you can buy pretty much any tool imaginable online, you can watch Youtube woodworkers all day and you can email anyone you like. What people are after is a real experience. They want to talk to their woodworking heroes, see them in action and try out all those obscure tools. Wood Dust is an event, not a glorified shop.

AWR: There seems to be a focus on North American woodworkers and wood brands. Why is that?

JM: A lot of my work has been focused on North America over the past few years. I have built good relationships with people such as Wally Wilson and Vic Tesolin from Veritas, along with Matt Kenney and Andy Buck. So I suppose they all liked the idea of a trip down under to go woodworking.
ED: Well, for a start, it’s our point of difference. We can offer Thomas Lie Nielsen in person. Tom has never been to Australia before. A lot of North American wood working suppliers are intrigued by the dynamic scene here in Australia and that has drawn them downunder. It is easy too lose sight of how much is going on in Australia, because to all of us it is normal.

AWR: Bungendore is a beautiful place, and of course home to Bungendore Wood Works Gallery, the best gallery for fine woodworking in the world, but why have you chosen to stage your event in regional Australia?

JM: Bungendore and Queanbeyan are woodworking heartland in Australia. That is where the Bungendore Woodworks Gallery, the ANU Furniture School and a thriving community of woodworkers exists. Tempting to hold the festival in the big city where a large audience exists, but you have many restrictions placed upon you by venues. Where in the city can you go woodworking, maybe throw an axe and have a quiet one later in the day?
ED: My granddad used to say “everyone has to be somewhere, and I’m here”. We wanted to combine Masterclasses, Yarns, a Timber & Tool Event and a furniture venue all in one. The Dunstone Design Workshop is perfect for the Masterclasses, the Q is the right size for the Yarns and the Bungendore Showgrounds are perfect for the Timber & Tools. Even with an unlimited budget, where else could we find that trifecta? Also, we wanted a venue that took a bit of effort to go to. That might sound strange, but we wanted people to commit to the whole venture. We wanted them to plan for it, set aside time, make the journey, spend the time. If we had chosen Melbourne or Sydney, we would have lost some of the romance.

AWR: What would you like to say to people who are considering coming to Wood Dust?

JM: Book your accommodation and buy a ticket – its gunna be great.
ED: We want Wood Dust to be special. To make it special, we need the support of the woodworking community. Don’t hold yourselves back. Don’t be so afraid of disappointment that you spend all your time looking for the downside. Grab your mates, make the road trip and embrace the festival. If you are a business, take the punt and exhibit. Help us to shape the festival that you all want.

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