Illawarra Festival of Wood at Bulli Showground showcases artisans, has DIY workshops and more

Gareth Smith of GWS Surfboards is exhibiting at the inaugural Illawarra Festival of Wood this weekend at Bulli Showgrounds. He often recycled pallets into boards - making shortboards, old style single fin boards and mals. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Gareth Smith of GWS Surfboards is exhibiting at the inaugural Illawarra Festival of Wood this weekend at Bulli Showgrounds. He often recycled pallets into boards - making shortboards, old style single fin boards and mals. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Coledale art teacher Suzanne Montague has been to plenty of wood festivals with her furniture-making husband, but they were boring “tool fests”.

So she set about to create something different.

Surfboards made out of wooden pallets, DIY chopstick workshops, female wood chopping and chainsaw carving are some of the eclectic things on show at Bulli Showground for the inaugural Illawarra Wood Festival.

Mrs Montague is hoping for around 5,000 people through the gates on Friday and Saturday, with the aim of putting in a five year development application to Wollongong City Council to keep it going.

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Gareth Smith of Kembla Grange is one of the many exhibitors with handmade wooden surfboards.

What started as a “weird little hobby” has seen his surfable art being sent all around the world, the latest piece snapped up by a buyer in Latvia.

“I’m not a wood worker, I struggle to do anything else with wood, but for some reason I can make a surfboard with it,” he said.

“I saw a picture [about eight years ago] of a wooden surfboard online and wondered if I could make one myself. I ended up cutting up the kids’ old bunk-bed and turning it into a surfboard.” 

Mr Smith often uses broken up pallets and scrap wood to create his boards of various sizes, which typically take around three weeks to complete – and another three to draw the artwork.

It’s all he rides in the ocean now, completely ditching the fibreglass counterparts, so he knows they ride well.

Another exhibitor is Leon Sadubin from Gerringong whose works are included in the collections of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, Parliament House, as well as numerous private collections such as Britain’s Royal Family.

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A writing desk by Mr Sadubin was commissioned by the Australian Armed Forces and presented to Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer as a wedding present.

The festival will showcase wood artisans from the South Coast and further afield.

A piece of furniture by Leon Sadubin in 2003. Picture: Fairfax File

A piece of furniture by Leon Sadubin in 2003. Picture: Fairfax File

Expect to see spoon carving, knife making, traditional tool making, timber surfboard making, wood turning, floristry, basket weaving, jewellery and timber milling.

Mrs Montague – who also runs a woodworking school in Woonona – said wood crafts were making a resurgence helping the already “strong, vibrant and innovative” artisan community in the Illawarra.

Illawarra Festival of Wood, Bulli Showground, October 6 and 7.

Tickets $15 for adults, FREE for children. www.illawarrafestivalofwood.com 

This story Got wood? There’s plenty of it at this new Bulli festival first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.