Table saws, lathes and routers are momentarily silenced as the anticipation builds for “Arbor”– the annual exhibition showcasing the final works of this year’s cohort of Woodwork, Design and Technology students, opening Saturday November 17th at the Bellingen Gallery and Framing Studio. “Expect to see creative, high quality furniture and works of art in a variety of forms. Fine furniture will always elicit tactile sensibilities and this show is not one to miss,” says student Tom Alexander.
The fact that Coffs Harbour TAFE is the only TAFE in NSW currently offering courses in Woodwork, Design and Technology isn’t lost on the enthusiastic and appreciative students.
“This is the last vestige of woodcraft supporting the community, available for any age, gender, background and ability!” says Tom.
“From a very young age you could find me sharpening sticks on concrete. I followed in my forebear’s footsteps and have found myself firmly planted at the base of the tree of life. Much like the diverse group of students that make up our cohort, we have all chosen to explore this tree through the timeless format of design, specialising in furniture. All students have a love of wood and designing,” says Tom.
We chat to Tom about his passion, (so keenly shared by his fellow students), and soon realise that the courses offered locally, and the calibre and enthusiasm of the tutors who share so much more than just their skills, is just another example of what is so special about our region.
Tom, what inspired you to enrol in the furniture design and tech course at TAFE?
As a carpenter I have always been drawn to timber and it was when I met Bim Morton, one of my current teachers at Coffs Harbour TAFE, that I realised this craftsman had something special going on. Whether it was his jolly outlook or the buzzing productivity of his workshop I still put my enrolment down to that man.
Do you have big dreams after graduation?
I will graduate with a Diploma of Furniture Design and Technology. I dream of building a wooden boat and would like to learn more about the art of sailing. I am moving down to Tasmania to pursue this dream. It takes skills and knowledge to build a wooden boat and while I still have a lot to learn I now feel confident that I could tackle such a huge project. I will also develop a range of children’s rocking horses that will generate an income stream.
Word on the street is that you have a group of wonderful tutors.
We have amazing tutors at TAFE. Bim Morton, Jon Kahler, and Trevor Oliver- King are all highly qualified and talented woodworkers. Peter Wade is an exhibited sculptor, life-long artist and woodworker. All are life-long businessmen in their respective fields, committed to the longevity of the local industry, whilst maintaining high standards of education and teaching.
Quite apart from their woodworking skills, they ensure that all the timber we use is locally sourced. They have also established a strong ethos within our workspace to facilitate ongoing tool and machinery maintenance, safe working practices as well as sustainable resource usage and waste management.
Can you describe an average day at TAFE?
As a Diploma student, each day varies greatly, but will consistently be filled with collaboration with our tutors. A little bit of drawing or modelling may kick the day off, followed by hands-on production of projects. Some students will be working on heavy equipment such as table saws, routers, making dovetail joints, while others may be welding, working on the lathe or sculpting.
What would you say is the greatest single thing you’ve achieved or gotten from being a student in this course?
The greatest single thing that I have gained from studying a Diploma of Furniture Design and Technology is a thorough appreciation of quality workmanship. Fine woodwork requires time, attention to detail and patience to produce work to an incredibly high standard.
As individuals we strive to design original pieces with constant internal critique and conversations surrounding our end goals, with particular attention placed on design, modelling, material selection and cost effective manufacturing.