During his nine months in the fine woodworking program at Selkirk College, Jarrah Turpin decided to build a table for his sister Michelle’s upcoming nuptials. What he envisioned wasn’t your typical Ikea-style square dinner table; he wanted to do something special.
Turpin, 31, eventually decided that he wanted to experiment with steam-bending, a process that involves heating strips of wood in a steambox until they become pliable enough to manipulate into whatever shape you want.
In Turpin’s case, he wanted to build a lower level that could serve as a feline perch.
“I thought it could be a nice little spot for a cat,” he told the Star on Monday, motioning to where the nearly finished piece was standing against the wall of his living room. He was sitting on the couch in his bare feet, with sawdust clumped on his pants.
Turpin said when he’s working on a project, he spends six hours a day in the workshop at minimum. The table took him two months to complete.
“This is the first table I’ve ever made, so I’m pretty happy about it.”
The shelf is supported by four legs that descend past it, then arch back up again in a swanlike curve.
“I think my sister’s really going to like it,” Turpin said.
Before the table ends up in Toronto as a wedding present, though, it will be displayed in the annual showcase of student work along with the work of his classmates. The event will be held on Friday, May 23 at the Nelson Trading Company on 402 Baker Street.
The show opens with a celebration evening at 7 p.m., where students will be in attendance, prepared to discuss their projects. The show continues through the week, from 9 a.m. to 6 on Saturday, and until 4 p.m. on Sunday.
“It’s going to be nice to get all the pieces together in one place,” said Turpin. “You get so involved in one project and it’s like you don’t see it anymore. Now we can step back and look at everything we’ve done over the past year.”
Turpin considered a number of different programs in his home country of New Zealand and the United States before settling on the fine woodworking course in Nelson.
“What attracted me to this program, besides getting to live in Nelson, was that we started with hand tools and worked our way up. There’s room for creative thinking and a high standard of quality to maintain,” he said.
“I will leave this program having gained skills that will last a lifetime.”
The program has been running in Nelson for 34 years and is based out of the Silver King Campus. Turpin worked with instructors Michael Grace and David Fraser, who he describes as having different approaches to the craft. According to Turpin, Fraser has more of a trades background while Grace is more focused on the artistic details.
“You’re always going to get two sides there,” Turpin said. “They have different opinions on how to do the same thing, and I think that’s key.”
Turpin is planning to returning to tree planting once he graduates, but said he has both commercial and artistic ambitions with his woodworking. He said sometimes it’s hard to sell a piece he’s worked particularly hard on, unless he knows it’s going to be well-utilized or that it’s going to end up in a good home.
“But I’m pretty sure I’d get over it pretty quick once I got paid,” he said.