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Shining Sails

One of the pleasures of studying a yacht in motion is the changing fluidity of its curves. Even a line that seemed straight and taut at rest, develops an arc as the wind exerts forces and the power is translated to the hull.Then you have the voluptuousness of the hull itself, designed to meet and conquer the curves of the waves. Finally the dramatic swell of the sails stretched almost to bursting … the most beautiful compound curves of all.

Shining SailsOne man is still doing it the hard way, using decades of experience to craft by hand magical moments in sail.

John Woulfe has never been far from the sea. As an artisan shipwright around Sydney’s Harbour and Hawkesbury River he learned the skills required to bend and carve marine timbers to his clients designs. After 35 years at his trade, a serious illness brought him to his crossroad.

With timber he knew he had confidence, but his artistic vision included steel and stone.

Shining Sails“If I get off this bed” he thought “I will master them and live off my art.”

After recovery, he spent the next 18 months putting together 20 pieces, some 3 metres high, a total of 6 tons for his first exhibition.

People banged the door down.

In 2005 he won the $50,000 Cromwell Art Prize for a wall-mounted piece depicting the start of the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race.

Shining SailsHe now invites clients to have a hand in the designs, whether their own yachts or boats of their imagination, choosing from local timbers and stone. His most majestic sculptures are his boats, but he also borrows from nature fashioning fish and leaf shapes in gleaming metal and wood.

A large piece could take 3 months to complete.

John lives and has his studio, naturally overlooking the water, with his wife Chris, who handles client and gallery liaison. Backing onto national parkland, the native bush surrounding their home is being steadily transformed into a marine sculpture garden, with viewing platforms among the eucalypts built like the prows of ships.

Shining SailsHave a look at John’s work, with the ripples in the hand-smoothed sandstone, the deep gloss of the polished woods, the curves in the gleaming stainless steel sails

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Ian MacTavish

Mr MacTavish is a celebrated writer and one of Australia's more respected Wine reviewers, appearing regularly in national magazines, in print and on line. So far, he has never been heard to say 'no' to a wee dram.

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We acknowledge the Turrbal people, as well as the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, as the Traditional Owners of the land on which we live and work. We respectfully recognise Elders, past, present, and emerging, and that Indigenous Sovereignty was never ceded.

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