Woodworking might be hard on the nails and hands, but Esme Gallatly cannot wait to roll up her sleeves, grab a piece of timber and start creating her next piece of furniture.
The GemLife Highfields’ resident and mother of two is currently attracting the admiring glances of passers-by for her latest woodwork creation, a beautiful nail-free bench seat made from Oregon timber on display on her front verandah.
Not bad after just five weeks of learning the trade, a fact that has many neighbours, both male and female, in awe.
“I got interested in woodworking when I was at school but, once I left and joined the Army where I got my qualifications as a chef, I never had an opportunity to pursue it again, until now,” said Esme.
“Rediscovering my passion for it was all thanks to GemLife and their residents’ workshop.”
Esme is proud of her bench seat. It is the pièce de résistance of three fabulous timber items she has created since she joined the residents’ workshop where she received expert guidance from Bob Commens whose intricate inlay jewellery boxes were piquing interest throughout the resort.
“My first challenge was to make a rolling pin from a beautiful piece of silky oak. Bob watched me every step of the way and guided me while I worked the lathe. Within about three hours I had a fabulous new rolling pin which I used to make apple pies as a `thank you’ to Bob.”
While having the skills to create something out of wood provides Esme with great delight and a sense of accomplishment, she says the story behind items such as her new bench was equally exciting.
“The Oregon wood came from a home that was demolished in South Australia and was sent to Bob by a friend. He kept it in his garage for many years before gifting it to me. It has history and I love that about it,” said Esme.
Esme might be in the minority when it comes to women who regularly attend the resort’s residents’ workshop, but that is something she hopes will change.
“I’d love to see some other women taking an interest in woodworking. It is so much fun and just watching a block of wood changing shape and taking a completely different form, is truly amazing … and something everyone, including women, can do. I’m a good example of that,” said Esme.
“It took me 10 to 12 days to make my bench and the best thing about it was the satisfaction of being able to say `I did this’. This bench seat is a lovely piece of furniture that will be around for years to come and because I made it, I am sure my girls will want it handed down to them.”
Since moving to GemLife Highfields with her husband Steven, who works full time, Esme has found time to revisit past passions such as woodworking.
She attributes her latest achievements in the workshop to her instructor Bob and encourages other women to have a go.
“If Bob hadn’t shared his knowledge, skills and training, I would not have been able to do it so well and so quickly, although he hates to take any credit,” said Esme, who has added a plaque to her new bench which reads `Made by Esme. Thanks to Bob’.
Her next project is a sundowner table with a place for a wine glass, and legs that fold up underneath to make it compact and portable.
Esme said the activity not only teaches people new skills but keeps them active and gives them plenty of food for thought.
“I love that my bench seat has been so well received by everyone. Did I get perfection? No I did not. Do I care? No I do not. What’s important is that it made me so very happy.”