Lara Knight – 16 April 2019
We’re always excited to watch what happens when makers meet new clients via The Junk Map. Commissions come in from all over Australia (and occasionally from overseas) and this project started with a call from Werribee Open Range Zoo to Raw Boards designer, Linton Torr.
We asked Linton to share some of the details of this mammoth, colourful installation for the zoo’s African Village.
Can you run through the brief for this project?
We didn’t really have a formal brief. Just a discussion with the zoo’s program and events producer. She wanted a big community dining table for the African Village kitchen. The reason for the colour was to tie in with the existing kitchen building decorated by another artist. The Ndebele people, which are a South African ethnic group, use a lot of colour like this on their buildings. We designed the table to tie in with this but added the totems and rope to allow for props like masks, shields and skulls. This is to help suggest an African theme because the colour on its own could be mistaken for Moroccan or Mexican. We have ordered some masks and a shield from Africa, but they haven’t arrived yet.
Amanda, my wife, had the job of painting the sides. She had to imitate the same style as the artist who did the building. Not copy as there are no repeat patterns. We researched a fair bit online. There are styles within styles, so really had to stick to the look of the original building.
For seating, the zoo wanted a mixture of heavy wooden seats. We didn’t really follow any particular style except our own. Bush furniture is kind of our thing anyway. Tyler our right hand man worked on these and he got to explore a bit trying to make them look a little bit tribal.
What materials did you use in the table and seats?
The timber for the table top came from a dead log salvaged from a broad acre farm north of Bendigo. The tree was milled up a couple of years ago and a fair bit was used to fit out club rooms for the local footy club. We kept the remaining redgum as payment. The table had to be 6.5 m and the slabs we had were 5m with a fair bit of dry rot on one side. We had to join it in the middle and add a bit on. It’s now 1 to 1.2m wide by 6.5m.
The timber for the seats came from local developers. Species include ironbark, yellow gum, grey box and redgum.
What were the challenges of working on such a large piece?
Our workshop was not big enough so it had to be made outside. We live on a busy road so this was good in a way as it attracted attention.
The other major challenge was the size of the table top. I would rather use one piece, but it wasn’t practical. We had to joint up from three big slabs. Lucky we had the stock really. I have a bad habit of selling the raw slabs before I get to do anything with them. This one had a lot of natural faults so it didn’t sell.
You have another big zoo project coming up. Can you tell us a little about that?
We were recently awarded the design and build of a grand entry to the Australian section of the Werribee Open Range Zoo, Australian Trail. We’re working on it now. It is supposed to be inviting to visitors and give a hint of what they might see in the Australian section of the zoo. So we are going to create a big timber slab sign to go over the top of the track leading into the Australian section. There will be carved animals on the posts supporting the sign, carved animals on the sign and more around the base of the structure.
It really is a great gig working for these guys. They are more about conservation than anything else. So hopefully, if this draws people to the Australian section of the zoo, it will help build awareness of animals here that need our help.