Sunday, March 3, 2024

New life in old college timber

Ceres Demolition recently knocked down the Wellington Girls’ College auditorium and was faced with the prospect of trashing great quality timber.

Instead of throwing it out, they turned to a local framing business, JW Framing, to salvage it – a move that diverted eight tonnes of wood from landfill.

Run by Jo Williams, JW Framing is a small business that started three years ago in an old industrial factory building in Newtown. It’s one of Wellington City Council’s grant recipients of the Organics Diversion Fund.

Jo, who in her early days trained as a sculptor in Dunedin and worked as a technician in the arts, was working in a museum when she found herself helping out in the framing room. She says she was immediately intrigued by the art and was interested in the way she could use materials, and this inspired her to start her own business.

“It’s an interesting and difficult craft. Everything requires maximum precision and that can be incredibly frustrating. I had some great teachers to learn from. But the end results feel good though and there’s always a demand for it!”

While Jo normally sources her wood from a supplier, she says that she’s been looking at new ways of getting quality timber and ended up discussing this with a contact from Ceres Demolition who was about to begin demolishing the auditorium at Wellington Girls’ College.

Piles of wood in a shed.
Jo’s workshop shed filled with timber!

“I met Matt Thornton from Ceres Demolition through a customer, and when I mentioned that I use recycled timber, they immediately said they could get me some and showed up a couple of days later with a pile of wood on the back of their ute! Wellington Girls’ is huge so you can imagine how much showed up – my entire shed is full now.”

The fund from Wellington City Council enabled the project to happen. 

The big challenge now is to sell it and establish a viable ongoing timber recycling business alongside the framing work.

“I’m helping them in a small way by taking it all but they’re helping me out a lot, I can probably make a few hundred frames from this over the next year. This is going to help me make some beautiful frames. We can breathe new life into old crusty wood and make them great pieces again.”

Finished wooden frame.
A finished frame from JW Framing.

While this may be a one-off for Jo, she believes this is the start of a new way of working.

“My goal is to change the industry so less timber needs to be imported. We can reduce our massive carbon footprint and source things from our own backyard. I think we can cut less forests down and still make good high-quality products.” 

The waste minimisation team at Wellington City Council are really excited to see how well this project is progressing, says manager Jenny Elliott. 

“To really reduce waste and transition towards a circular economy we need to think differently and challenge the status quo. There’s so much creativity in the arts and this project, seeing demolition timber as a resource, and turning it into something beautiful and practical, is a great example of the opportunities that exist and the kind of thinking we need.”

The project was able to happen with funding from the Waste Minimisation Seed Fund – Organics Diversion fund. Find out more on our website.

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