Story & photo Melissa Butters
Lawrence Clain is the face behind Valley of Craftsmen, pioneers in locally made sustainable, finely handcrafted timber boards. Lawrence turns pesky Camphor Laurel trees (noxious weeds) into stunning pieces of art. Made in the Byron hinterland the boards are not only aesthetically appealing with their unique smooth resin finish, they are eco-friendly and a healthier alternative owing to their antibacterial properties.
Camphor Laurel is an introduced south east Asian native that has overrun large areas of land in the Northern Rivers and inhibits potential land uses. It is often cleared for reforestation, which helps the birds and wildlife being confined to shrinking rainforest. Over 10 years ago, working as a carpenter’s apprentice, Lawrence realised the value of the wood with it’s unique rich honey colour and timeless appeal of swirling grain. Instead of the trees going to waste he began to turn them into something useful and beautiful – boards for chopping and display.
Passionate about his craft, Lawrence is constantly experimenting with techniques and extending his knowledge about the relevant processes – cutting, milling, drying and crafting. Inspired by the patterns in the timber and the natural surroundings, he carves the knots in the grain and pours vibrant resin into the holes, recreating the blue and green waves of the ocean, flowing rivers and trees.
With a vision to create something sustainable, functional and plastic-free, Lawrence makes sure that each board is made to last – and they smell good too! The oil in camphor laurel timber is wonderfully scented owing to a number of naturally occurring enzymes which repel insects and also boast high antibacterial properties. Originally used to make chests and cupboards for storing clothes and fabric in, the timber has also become popular in the kitchen and for cabinet making.
When he’s not in the workshop you’ll find Lawrence seeking solitude in nature, exploring the national parks and waterfalls, or carving it up on a wave.
Find Valley of the Craftsmen at the Mullumbimby Farmers Market 7–11am, every Friday.