Enter Paul Ryle’s workshop and suddenly you are transported back centuries to a slower-paced time, of muscle powered tools and the ethos that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Welcome to the world of the woodsmith.
Franklin D Roosevelt once said that “happiness lied in the joy of achievements and the thrill of creative effort”. It’s a line that Paul likes to quote when asked about his passion.
With a head for science, Paul was destined to enter medicine but his heart was for the stuff that grew from the ground. In fact, at the early age of 10, Paul was already trying his hand at crafting a guitar. It was the start of a love that would endure to this day.
“There is a mindfulness, a being in the moment, that happens when you create something with your hands,” Paul told us. “As for the repetition, it’s therapeutic, a form of meditation.” This could explain why there is an easiness in Paul’s company, a feeling of wanting to just stand around, shuffle the sawdust at your feet and maybe even have a crack at crafting something yourself. No wonder Paul is in demand as a teacher and it’s a role he relishes.
“There is a mindfulness, a being in the moment, that happens when you create something with your hands” – Paul Ryle, Green Woodsmith
“Yes, Melbourne’s hipsters love the woodwork classes I run and it’s just great to see their enthusiasm. New students may produce the ugliest spoon the very first time they try. But they take their handiwork home, so proud that here is something they actually made themselves.”
Paul specialises in unseasoned wood, cut green, then worked using age old skills. The wood is hewn, carved or turned, with little more than a saw, chisel, a shaving horse and a pole lathe that Paul powers with a foot pedal.
The result of course is a range of wares that are so beautifully made they could grace the pages of any glossy home magazine. Cooking utensils, bowls, garden rakes, stools and chairs are just some of the bespoke objects he patiently perfects.
Paul runs spoon carving and other green woodworking courses throughout the year in Buninyong, just outside of Ballarat. Students work with freshly cut timber and a few simple hand tools. Classes are conducted in Paul’s carefree outdoor workshop, or in the shed with its wood fired stove during the colder seasons.
It’s a chance to slow down and escape our Instagram feeds, if only for a second, and actually do something productive with our hands, to create, to make something. It’s the type of mindful pursuit that can be a rarity in overscheduled city life, but something that is cherished in and around the regional areas of Ballarat.