Andrew MacDonald works on a handmade three-legged stool. Picture: Cobb+Co
Andrew MacDonald works on a handmade three-legged stool. Picture: Cobb+Co

Life is work in progress

ANDREW MacDonald still jumps out of bed each day eager to discover what lies ahead.

He is aware it's not something too many people can say about their job, especially at 60.

But Andrew said every day at Toowoomba's
Cobb+Co Museum is different, interesting and challenging.

A wood and metal artisan, Andrew is Cobb+Co factory supervisor, responsible for creating a wide range of objects for the Queensland Museum, from display cabinets to wheels for a Boer War cannon to a 1.5m praying mantis sculpture constructed using pots and pans.

He also designed Cobb+Co's distinctive boardroom table using recycled hardwood and showcasing the skills of the artisans by having each create a gumleaf in their chosen craft - from metalwork to weaving - which he featured under the table's glass top.

In March, Andrew is again sharing his skills, hosting his popular two-day Rustic Furniture Workshop, at which he introduces participants to the timbers, tools and techniques required to make a basic stool, coffee table or hat rack.

The workshop uses pest or "invader" timbers such as privet and camphor laurel, which Andrew said have the bonus of not being expensive to replace in the case of mistakes, but also being strong and easy to work with.

Unlike a lot of art-based classes where everyone walks away at the end with the same creation, he encourages participants to "let the branches talk to you", and come up with a unique piece based on basic design principles.

"People get a real thrill out of being able to say 'I made that'," he said.

Andrew said most participants will have little to no woodwork experience, and both women and men of all ages have successfully taken part.

The hand tools he uses - some of which he has forged himself - are traditional and "a pleasure to use", unlike today's power tools.

Andrew said while his four-year Bachelor of Arts at USQ had allowed him "to do nothing but think creatively for four years and look for opportunities and possibilities", none of his working background had gone to waste.

As an aircraft engine fitter in the RAAF he gained his first blacksmithing and sheet metal experience, before leaving the defence force and working as a diesel fitter, where he learned troubleshooting skills and to think outside the box.

After that he found himself making furniture in Murwillumbah, cutting fallen trees into slabs, honing his skills with solid timber, and setting his course towards university, ready to become USQ's Visual Arts Department manager and later production manager.

It seems it has all set Andrew on the path to being able to turn his hand to anything and everything, making him exactly the man for the Cobb+Co Museum job, which he reckons is "one of the best around".

The two-day Rustic Furniture Workshop runs from 9am-4pm over the weekend of March 21-22 and costs $355 including expert instruction in a maximum class size of six, all materials, morning teas and lunches.

To book, go to cobbandco.qm.qld.gov.au or phone 4659 4900.


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