Your Margaret River Region Magazine Editorial – Gary Bennett
The stunning Margaret River Region is well known for it’s wineries, forests, surf, art galleries, artisans and day spas. The area is inspirational to artists, with ist’s clean air, ocean and forests all in the one area, and therefor many artists of different genres choose to settle in the diverse Margaret River Region. Gary Bennett of JahRoc Furniture is one of these artisans who chose to make Margaret River his home for lifestyle reasons in 2000, and was fortunate that the area also supported his craft of furniture making.
In the below Q & A published in the Your Margaret River Region Magazine 2016 Summer edition, you will find out more about Gary Bennett’s inspiration behind the award winning designer furniture that he creates.
Please tell me about the kind of wood you love to work with. What makes it special?
I love working with our native hardwoods. We are very lucky to have timbers such as Jarrah, Marri, Sheoak, Black Butt and Karri at our finger tips here in Marg’s. The durability of these timbers is very high but what is really special are the thoroughly unique grain patterns that they yield. I think it’s because of the the harsh conditions they have to survive in this ancient land of extremes where we live. From fire and heat waves, to floods and gale force winds they have to endure the trees must twist, turn and recover, which creates a myriad of spectacular grain patterns and shapes ideal for the creation of artistic furniture.
What techniques do you use to bring out the special properties of the wood?
I use design as a key tool to make the most of the special shapes and grain patterns. I either work with the shape and grain of the timber as a lead for the design or when I have a specific design in mind I search our stock pile pile to find a suitable piece to compliment the design. When working in my home studio I like to use oil finishes to bring out the spectacular colour and grain by hand sanding to grits as fine as 4000. This technique is a lot of work but it produces a really beautiful lustre that is difficult to obtain with lacquers and gives the finished piece a wonderful natural feel.
What makes the wood of the Margaret River region particularly beautiful for your type of work?
As I said in my answer to the first question I think it’s the environment in which the timbers grow. Margaret River and the region between the Capes is such a diverse area from the rich Karri loam soils of the heavily wooded forests to the sandy, limestone soil of the coastal heath that the range of colours and shapes available to us are astounding.
What are you working on at the moment and what has been the most memorable piece you’ve worked on to date?
I am currently working on a groovy bar that I am making from a spectacular Jarrah burl that we cut from a heavily burnt “dead” log. It incorporates some stainless steel on a geometric fiddle back Jarrah base which will juxtapose against the organic shape of the burl. When complete it will become contemporary feature piece to sit around and enjoy some of the big beautiful Red’s that our Margaret River wine makers create down here. The most memorable piece is a tough one…… Over 28 years we have made so many great pieces of furniture from such amazing pieces of timber that I don’t think I could pin it down to one. I love the Surf inspired pieces, the West Kimberly/ Abrolhos projects were also great as were Silhouettes and the Cape to Cape Margaret River project (see our “JahRoc Collaborations” book). We have also designed and made some fantastic commissions such as the Sue’s Chaise, the Roo Silhouette rocker and I recently finished some really great commissions for a very special bar area that included A 9ft Malibu style timber Surf board light over a pool table, bar stools and some funky surf inspired Guitar stands and racks. Commissions can be very challenging but also hugely rewarding!
How would you describe a typical Gary Bennett piece?
I’m not really sure how to describe my work except to say I love simple clean lines that flow and balance to compliment the timbers I’m working with. I don’t like to interrupt the grain patterns and shapes to much by over doing inlay work as I prefer to let nature do most of the talking. I also like to mix materials such as Stone, Wood, Steel and Glass.
Have you ever found the perfect piece of wood?
I find the perfect piece of pretty much every time I design and make something. Nature never ceases to amaze me in what it can produce. Sometimes it takes a bit longer to find the right piece but that’s one of the challenges that makes being a furniture designer/ maker so rewarding. When I get it right it sends a chill up my spine and that’s what keeps me going. I love that chill/ thrill and I’m always chasing it!