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Timber given kiss of life

News, Events, Feature, ArtsJoanne Eisemann
Launceston’s Simon Ancher will be demonstrating the use of hydrowood at this year’s Craft Fair.

Launceston’s Simon Ancher will be demonstrating the use of hydrowood at this year’s Craft Fair.

October 2018 | David Claridge

THERE IS an intriguing display set for the Deloraine Craft Fair this November - expertly crafted wooden furniture and other items - and it’s intriguing because the wood comes from underwater.

Hydrowood has been salvaged from below Lake Pieman from the wild west coast of Tasmania and given to the creative hands of four selected craftsmen to present and answer questions at the fair.

Around 25 years ago, Lake Pieman was dammed to generate hydro-electricity and many rare trees were submerged and forgotten. They were rediscovered in 2012 and, with some ingenuity, they were harvested, brought to the surface and used. Deloraine Craft Fair Director Lesley Dare is looking forward to showcasing Hydrowood to Craft Fair visitors.

“Hydrowood is not about cutting down trees, it’s about rediscovered trees lost at the bottom of Lake Pieman.”

“Through the ingenuity of Tasmanians, they’ve invented this system where they can retrieve the timber.

“We’re showing the whole process from harvesting to crafting at the fair. Four of the top craftspeople in Tasmania have been selected to use the wood, show what they made from it, and host master classes. Craftsman Geoff Marshall has used Hydrowood to make a variety of furniture including a light, a chair and an ottoman.

“I was at university when they were first doing studies on the wood. That is when I first learned about it” he said. “I think it’s a great story of how the wood has been rediscovered and made available for us to use. It’s an amazing product.”

Another Craftsman, Toby Muir-Wilson, is working on nine illustrated panels.

“It will take about 4-5 weeks to complete them. I’m aiming to show a variety of ways in which you can texture and colour the wood,” he said. “It’s an interesting project to be involved in.”

One of the chosen artists, Simon Ancher, has been working with Hydrowood since the beginning. He will be looking for feedback on some benches he has worked hard on.  “I love the fact that we have a second chance to make good use of an amazing resource, a precious resource that was thought to be lost.

“I feel very fortunate to have visited the operation on Lake Pieman. It’s an inspiring part of Tasmania and for me as a designer/maker I feel the connection to place and material is strong.” Huon pine, Sassafras, Eucalypt, Celery Top and Western Beech are some of the special kinds of wood that have been discovered.

A brochure describes the quality like this: “Hydrowood has a purity. No rusty nails or bolts from a previous life. Instead, untouched grain. Not salvaged timber, long dead on a musty floor but rare timber Master Builders dream of.”

Photo | Mike Moores