Award winning furniture maker and designer

Peter van Herk

Me? Well, read on....

I started making furniture as a hobby in my backyard shed when I was a Ranger for the Barrington Tops National Park in NSW, 1988. I found making things of beauty with my hands so much more enjoyable than working in a bureaucracy.  I naively quit my secure and hard won government job and started my own insecure small business furniture design and making in the 2,000 strong town of Gloucester, NSW all while supporting my family of three young children...OMG... did I really do that??

A few years on and I was visiting a timber yard which had some undersize Tallowood it was trying to offload cheap.  Thinking I had a great bargain and not knowing what a difficult furniture timber Tallowood is, my first furniture forcefully demonstrated the problems with glue adhesion and timber movement in such dense and extractive rich timbers.

This launched the determination to find out how we can use the Australian hardwoods in furniture, the conservationist in me hated seeing beautiful timbers relegated to fencing, decking and - at best - flooring.

A grant from the timber industry in 1994 allowed me to devote time to research the jointing techniques and design methodology of using Australian hardwoods in furniture and this launched a design identity and career in furniture making for the next 10 years.

Being highly energetic and ambitious I was awarded a NSW small business award for Enterprise in 1994, best design at the Australian Furniture Fair 1996, most innovative design at Interior Designex 1996. Exporting to Japan, designing and making for Australian embassies, five star hotels, major architects and the consultant for the supply of ecologically sustainable timbers for the Olympic Athletes village, up to 9 employees and timber drying kilns to ensure timber quality,  I thought the only way forwards was upwards. Sadly, not to be.

I was passionate about my product but was relatively unskilled at the fundamentals of business, I compensated by working up to 100 hours per week exhausting everyone in the process. In 2000 I closed the furniture operations and continued on in the timber industry and eventually ended up as a successful 'life experienced' business consultant for 18 years wishing I had the business knowledge at the beginning instead of in later years.

Regardless of mistakes and heartaches - that make us human and who we are -  life is wonderful and I can now return to the passion I have for making things of beauty out of our magnificent Australian timbers.

If you read all this I am impressed at your attention and a bit worried you may be a stalker!