The theme of this year’s Wootha Prize competition and exhibition was Against the Grain, a concept that bamboozled some as it seemed to defy one of the primary ‘don’ts’ of fine woodworking. Annually staged within the Maleny Wood Expo, the exhibition always carries a theme that entrants must interpret while also complying with a brief to use only sustainably harvested, recycled or weed timbers. Most of the 17 exhibits were sculptural, reflecting the fact the theme probably attracted a more abstract interpretation.
Donald Powell, renowned wood sculptor and revered Maleny local took out First Prize of $2500 sponsored by HQ Plantations with his sensitively carved piece titled The Wood Spirit, shown below. Don’s interpretation of the theme is explained in the caption of the same image shown in the image gallery above. However the theme took on another meaning as Don explained to me that it was one of the hardest pieces of Qld maple he had ever carved, and how he had to resort to very frequent fast blade touch-ups on his Tormek wetstone grinder. The high relief carving took around two months to complete, including 4am starts in the last week.
Second Prize of $1000 sponsored by Queensland Water And Land Carers went to another local sculptor, Jack Wilms. The Tree of Life was an artful representation of ‘life’s ups and downs’ displayed in 3D on a salvaged red cedar. Jack’s piece was also runner-up in the Popular Choice Award!
Third Prize of $750 sponsored by Timber Transitions went to Raf Nathan for his Neo table, made from recycled silky oak. The judges, Pam Maegdefrau, Robert Howard and Richard Vaughan commented that they appreciated its subtle curves and how the timbers segments in the top were arranged.
David Harriman won both Popular Choice and Craftsmanship Awards for his Noise & Sawdust chainsaw replica, a piece that featured local and salvaged species and obviously attracted a lot of attention. Accepting his award for Craftsmanship at the opening, David explained that making the piece was a challenge. He started with the bar and the chain, reasoning that if he could conquer those, the rest would flow. White beech, Qld maple, jacaranda and red cedar were the species he used.
Winner of the inaugural Environment Award was Steve Hann for Branch Out, a hollow form surfboard made from paulownia with shou sugi ban dan (Japanese burnt timber technique) detailing.
The Wootha Prize is one of the longest running themed national woodworking competitions in Australia. Next year’s theme of ‘Inside Out’ has already been set, so you have plenty of time to come up a concept!
More information about this year’s Wootha Prize entry details are at www.malenywoodexpo.com/wootha-prize
Click on an image in the gallery at the top for a larger view with captions.
Words and photos: Linda Nathan, Wood Review editor