Love of craft leads to award

By Erika Venter

The Stratford Woodturners Association gave its first life membership, to founding members Heather and Ross Vivian, last week.

President Keith Eccleshall says the Stratford couple has been the driving force behind the association for the past 19 years, having given their time, property and energy.

They are always involved. The club has had its ups and downs, but Ross and Heather had kept it together.

The couple was not told of the award, handed out at the club's annual general meeting on Thursday. Alas, Ross (70) was in hospital following a knee operation and only heard the good news from his wife the next day on arriving home.

I wanted to keep it as a surprise. He saw the award and congratulated me, and only then saw his name also engraved, says Heather.

Highly impressed. Very surprised. It is the last thing I would have expected. I have been involved, but I am not a woodturner. I am just a boy playing around, was Ross' reply.

He has been woodturners and carvers' go-to man for wood for a number of years, the couple having owed a 620ha bush block at Omoana. Ross was behind felling and bulldozing while Heather milled the mostly native timber on her days off from work as an engineering operator for Ballance at Kapuni. She retired six years ago and the couple sold the block at the end of last year, a move that gives them time to pursue projects shelved for just such a time as well as a possible new venture they are keeping mum, except to say it is wood-related.

Last year Ross bought several fallow deer antlers, which he is crafting into light chandeliers, sconces and lamp stands. It is something I have wanted to do for 20 years.

His affair with wood started with the basic projects of building bookcases, tree huts, sledges but progressed into carving when he joined Heather at woodturner events.

Ron says what he enjoys most is his wife's company and the people they meet.

Heather is a dab hand at transforming a lifeless piece of wood into a vibrant work of art, having won numerous awards. But for her it is not necessarily about winning. It is who you beat that matters.

She got her first woodturning lathe 28 years ago a second-hand homemade model she tolerated for almost two years before buying a proper lathe. She learnt by watching others at the numerous events they attended across NZ and Australia. At 70 she still has a steady hand, which is necessary when you turn wood to 2mm and then punch it with a 400,000rpm drill.

The challenge of fine turning and carving, that is what I love.

- Stratford Press

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