An Auck­land maker carv­ing a ca­reer out of re­cy­cled wood tells Thomas Heaton how she does it

Cuisine - - CONTENTS -

FOR HOURS EACH WEEK, Court­ney Pet­ley can be found on her porch. Brav­ing the cold or bask­ing in the sun, she slowly whit­tles away at wooden shapes with a blade and sand­pa­per. As hours go by, the shapes emerge.

In that spot, on Auck­land’s Up­per Queen St, there’s in­evitably a cup of some­thing topped with a film of matai, rimu or tō­tara saw­dust.

“I make a lot of cups of tea and cof­fee, but I might not drink a lot,” she says, laugh­ing.

Her hands are too busy, slowly shap­ing wooden knives, spoons, spat­u­las or scoops for her name­sake busi­ness, Pet­ley. The uten­sils vary in shapes and sizes, but the ma­te­rial used is al­ways re­cy­cled na­tive tim­ber.

It’s on her stoop that the finer work hap­pens. The spoons’ or scoops’ bowl-like ends are dug out with a hook-shaped knife. They’re sanded smooth us­ing six dif­fer­ent grades of sand­pa­per. De­pend­ing on the wood and the prod­uct, it takes six or seven hours un­til the beeswax pol­ish comes out and the prod­uct is fin­ished.

For the big­ger jobs, like cut­ting out the rough shapes at the start of the process, Pet­ley makes the most of the Devon­port Com­mu­nity Work­shop across the har­bour on Auck­land’s North Shore. She uses the in­dus­trial tools there to cut up larger pieces, like tree trunks or long pieces of tim­ber, and does heav­ier sand­ing jobs. That is where she might work on her cheese boards or chop­ping boards too, mak­ing the most of the work­shop vol­un­teers’ wis­dom.

Woodworking could be said to be in the 31-year-old’s blood – her fa­ther is a builder and both her grand­fa­thers were too. But she hasn’t been do­ing it her whole life, hav­ing pre­vi­ously worked in fash­ion for just over nine years. Fol­low­ing a child­hood in Welling­ton’s western sub­urbs, the then 22-yearold Pet­ley moved to Auck­land. She worked for brands like Miss Crabb and Huf­fer and spent two years in Lon­don with menswear brand D.S. Dundee.

Over the past cou­ple of years, Pet­ley has spent her week­ends re­vi­tal­is­ing old fur­ni­ture as a “ther­a­peu­tic hobby”. But one day, she de­cided she needed a spat­ula. Be­cause she loves to cook and was al­ready work­ing with wood, she de­cided to make her own. “Then it kind of evolved from there.”

Spoons and but­ter knives, and plenty of dif­fer­ent spat­u­las, started to take shape.

“I just kind of started. I just did it. I kind of learn by do­ing. That’s how my style has evolved, just by work­ing away and mak­ing.”

Fol­low­ing a three-month hol­i­day through the United States, a lit­tle soulsearch­ing and one last job in fash­ion, she de­cided to leap into a life of wood.

“[Fash­ion] wasn’t for me any more and I wanted a new chal­lenge, so I saved up my money and left my job, and started mak­ing.”

Since launch­ing her busi­ness in March, Pet­ley has sold her prod­ucts at the monthly Cross Street Mar­ket in Auck­land’s CBD, while work­ing part time at Vul­can Lane Bagels.

Her first com­mis­sion was a heap of but­ter knives for none other than

Cui­sine three-hat­ted res­tau­rant The French Café.

Her style is clean and sym­met­ri­cal, but un­usual. “I’ve got an ob­ses­sion with ge­om­e­try and I think that kind of shows in my work. I like clean lines and I like sharp an­gles.”

A piece might come from wood from a felled tree, an old post in a friend’s back­yard or it could have been sent by her fa­ther from ren­o­va­tion work in Welling­ton. “I try to re­mem­ber where every piece comes from.”

Some lucky donors might re­ceive a spoon or spat­ula made from their homes, felled trees, posts or fences as a to­ken of thanks. “I think it’s a nice con­tin­u­a­tion of such a beau­ti­ful re­source that we are so lucky to have.”

Pet­ley has re­cently launched an on­line store, but she’s in no rush to go too big too soon, say­ing she needs time to re­fine her col­lec­tion.

“I’m happy to take it slow. I’m not putting too much pres­sure on my­self; it’s just go­ing to be nice to see where it will go.” pet­ley.store; in­sta­gram.com/pet­ley_

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