Faces of Tamworth: woodwork artist Jack Massey

ARTISTRY: Woodworker Jack Massey with one of his large cheese boards made from Australian locally sourced wood. Photo: Peter Hardin

ARTISTRY: Woodworker Jack Massey with one of his large cheese boards made from Australian locally sourced wood. Photo: Peter Hardin

By day he works as a town planner, after hours he tackles his specialist craft of wood carving. Here we caught up with artist Jack Massey before he opened his first exhibition at Weswal Gallery in Tamworth, which wraps up on July 22.

ON THE outskirts of Tamworth in a corrugated iron shed, a reserved wood carver quietly whittles away.

A lathe, empty tomato cans filled with varnish and woodworking tools line the walls, alongside three sets of golf clubs that stand at attention near the door.

Following in the footsteps of his father, Steve, and grandfather, John, for Jack Massey, woodworking is in his blood.

“Dad was always in the shed making something, I grew up with him in the shed making stuff and as soon as I got the knack for it I kept going with it," he said.

“My grandfather made some incredible things, and dad always made everything in the home – it’s flushed through the generations I think.”

UNIQUE: Tamworth woodworking artist Jack Massey in the shed he shares with his father, Steve. Photo: Peter Hardin

UNIQUE: Tamworth woodworking artist Jack Massey in the shed he shares with his father, Steve. Photo: Peter Hardin

The shed, a felled forest of Australian hardwood – Red Gum rests aside Silky Oak, New England Blackbutt, Iron Bark and Camphor Laurel.

His style is crisp and modern, but every piece is starkly different, bespoke from the last.

“That creativity is a pin point for me, obviously town planning can be a mundane profession so coming back, putting my mind’s creativity to work is something I highly value,” Mr Massey said.

“It’s varying each design, every coffee table, every dining table, every spoon even is never going to be the same so they’re individual.”

By day, Mr Massey works as a town planner, it’s technical, precise, strategic – everything his craft is not.

Raw edges jut out from asymmetrical tabletops, perfectly polished legs are dotted with imperfect twisted knots.

Sourcing his woods from Gunnedah and Singleton, his trained eye can always find the perfect piece.

CARVE IT UP: Jack Massey handcrafts each of his spoons individually. Photo: Peter Hardin

CARVE IT UP: Jack Massey handcrafts each of his spoons individually. Photo: Peter Hardin

“Landcape is a big inspiration, when someone looks at a tree they just see a tree, whereas if I look at a tree I can see how big the trunk is, what can be made out of that tree,” he said.

Embedded in the wood, each growth ring marks a complete cycle of seasons – a year in the tree’s life.

Much like people, major events leave their impressions, adequate moisture and a long growing season result in a wide ring, while drought-stricken trees leave a very narrow one.

With Mr Massey’s work comes a history, both his family’s and the change of seasons that bore an affect on the tree he crafts into something new. 

His grandfather, John, worked in wood management roles for Boral Timber, overseeing the buying of timber for telegraph poles among other things.

His father is a dentist and has been since university, but shares the shed with Mr Massey for his own woodworking projects.

ARTISTIC: Jack Massey individually hand carves each spoon so no two are the same, they're sold at Weswall Gallery. Photo: Peter Hardin

ARTISTIC: Jack Massey individually hand carves each spoon so no two are the same, they're sold at Weswall Gallery. Photo: Peter Hardin

Mr Massey started taking woodwork seriously at high school, when he made his own pool table for his Higher School Certificate project.

“Ever since then I fell in love with it and kept going with it,” he said.

“I was making the odd thing here and there, and then a couple of years ago my now-fiance Claudia said why don’t you sell a few things – and from there I started making things for people.

“Then Weswal Gallery and a few other places started to pick up my work.”

UNIQUE: Woodwork artist Jack Massey uses locally sourced Australian timbers for his unique tables, chairs and cheese platters. Photo: Peter Hardin

UNIQUE: Woodwork artist Jack Massey uses locally sourced Australian timbers for his unique tables, chairs and cheese platters. Photo: Peter Hardin

Compared with the days of his grandfather, who created a lot of functional, traditional marquetry, Mr Massey takes his designs to Instagram – where he has a loyal following of more than 3600 people.

“I think if my grandfather saw this he would love that I’m still doing it,” he said.

Mr Massey said it’s proof the old-fashioned way is still in-fashion.

“I think woodworking is making a resurgence,” he said.

“Obviously the cheaper manufacturers have put a dent in it, but I think nowadays people are starting to appreciate handmade local stuff and I’m really starting to get a lot more feedback in that regard.”

Mr Massey’s pieces are on display at the Weswal Gallery at the top of Brisbane Street in Tamworth opening until July 22. Entry is free.

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