Life’s a beach for Shaun Bowe

Entrepreneurship is about recognising opportunities. For Shaun Bowe, the Hokitika-based woodworker behind Westland Woodcraft, finding those opportunities means spending a day at the beach.

The innovative little company creates beautiful iPhone docks from the seemingly useless pieces of driftwood.

“Along the West Coast we have a huge build-up of driftwood that either just sits on the beach and rots away or continues its journey North,” Shaun wrote to us in an email. “The ocean does the hard work and creates the unique pieces that I hand pick and make a final product out of.”

The docks have been met with high demand by creatives and alternative folk, and this is changing Shaun’s hobby into a business.

“In the beginning it wasn’t my main idea,” Shaun said. “I began by making large outdoor log seats (which I still do) and just ended up incorporating electronic components in them which led to the docking stations.

“I had returned from my post study travel and had almost missed the bus on the job front, so I was stuck in a job that I wasn’t really happy with. I liked the idea of working for myself, the idea getting out what you put in as opposed to earning someone else money, so decided to create a part-time business out of it.

“It’s something I enjoy doing so figured there was nothing to lose!”

Shaun has no business experience whatsoever, but he admits that the first-hand education that he’s getting now will come in very handy for his future ventures. The degree in Physical Education that Shaun earned at the University of Otago will be used to build a career while the woodworker plans to keep Westland Woodcraft as a profitable distraction from the real world.

“The most helpful factor in the whole project would be the skills I’ve picked up from my father and grandfather,” Shaun said. “My grandfather spent most of his waking hours in his workshop where I would often end up spending a lot of my time on family visits. My father is somewhat of a perfectionist too. It’s more of a ‘slowly but surely’ process.”

It’s a peculiar paradox when perfection is being whittled out of the imperfect, but it’s Shaun’s eye for detail and creativity – his ability to notice the beauty trapped in the unsightly – that gives his pieces their uniqueness.

“I generally try to look for pieces that have a very ‘washed’ look to them, smoothed over by being battered against the beach over a period of time,” Shaun explains. “On top of that, anything that has been sun-bleached always looks really nice when the inside of the wood is exposed.

“It’s a hard one to pick because everyone has different taste, so I end up taking a bit of everything. At one stage I had about 150 pieces of wood in the shed drying. It is something that I am slowly working out and will have a better feel for what is more popular down the track a bit.”

To expand his business, Shaun aims to create docking stations for more devices like tablets and other smartphones. The electronics within the docks may get an upgrade in the near future with plans to integrate wireless speakers in the works.

“With driftwood the possibilities are endless and if it doesn’t work out, it goes on the fire and it’s another trip to the beach

“I am also making rustic styled furniture from reclaimed native timbers and also creating pallet furniture. I come from a family where nothing is thrown away that ‘might be used’ someday, which has actually come to benefit me now.”

“Basically if there is something that someone wants made, I’ll have a crack at it!”

Shaun is currently selling his docks online at westlandwoodcraft.co.nz. You can view his work there.

 

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