“Have you heard the good news?” This was the message I received from Mikey Laing at Firemasters. I had won the hamper draw.
I didn’t realise how much upliftment this hamper would prove to bring. A couple of days later my 4 year-old dog, Sam, was sadly killed by a car in a freak accident.
I guess growing up in South Africa dogs are a very common addition to the family but I didn’t fully realise just how much of a void, Sam would leave behind.
I left a full-time employment in 2017, as a chartered accountant of nearly 20 years, as I had this desire to work as a storyteller in schools.
“Chartered Accountant to Storyteller?” you ask. Yep, it was a pretty whacky change in career. That was back in 2017 and when Sam came to live with us.
He was 1 year old and from June 2017 was with me most days, aside from those when I was visiting schools.
I should also say that I was and still am, very involved in Cubs and Scouts and my love of camping and being outdoors was restored.
So, between camping in fabulous forests in South East England and taking Sam out for regular walks in the woods, my access to wood was in ample supply.
The year 2018 was also a start of working with wood and making creative art pieces. The thing is, I had this desire to keep it rustic as possible and probably why my favourite part of the process is preparing the wood with a chainsaw, axe or band saw.
A friend of mine Tony, did most of the lathe work and made some amazing bowls and goblets. As lovely as these pieces are, we have found that demand has been quite low.
It has taken me a while to work out what might appeal to the market and it was only when I bought a bag of Camelthorn firewood from Firemasters that I realised there was something hidden those lumps of firewood.
I had recently purchased some knife blades and needed some solid wood for the handles. What better than African ‘Kameeldoring’ (Camel Thorn).
Making the handle was fun, drilling the holes to insert the tang of the knife was tricky but I now have a fabulous small carving knife that I plan on using for a wooden marionette puppet project.
South Africa has such an incredible history of folklore and I’m working on some ideas to tell the story with shadow and string puppets.
I still work as a storyteller and also as a communication trainer for adults through a company I co-founded, My London Voice.
Covid has however made things rather challenging, as it has for many, and so I now look at potential opportunities that now present themselves.
So back to the subject of wood craft. I made some fantastic wooden pen blanks which I intend to turn into fountain pens. With the weight of Camel Thorn wood I’m sure the pen in hand will feel rather comfortable.
The fact that it comes from Africa should hopefully make it extra special.
As much as 2020 continues to frustrate and challenge us, I remain in hope that all this change will present new ideas and opportunities. We just have to be brave to embrace them.
I try to live by the Zulu words ‘Yebo kulelanga!’ (‘Say yes to the day!’)
Sincere thanks to Mikey Laing and the Firemasters team for their efforts in supporting other South African businesses and bringing a-little-bit-of-home into our lives, as well as a massive thanks to those companies that supported the Firemasters hamper.
I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the prizes which included a t-shirt from SuperBraai, a fabulous bottle of wine from Perold Wine Cellar, biltong and boerewors from North Downs Real Food, earrings and key chains from Green Print Gecko and of course a bag of Sicklebush Wood from Firemasters UK themselves. Thank you all so much!!!
Written by: Andrew Coppin (stage name Andy Copps)