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Creating peace through upcycling


While most Hunter residents are sleeping at 2am, Wallsend’s Jeff Carr is creating wooden art pieces, hoping to bring a smile to the face of at least one stranger.

Finding inspiration in the curves of 100-year-old table legs and the bends in the back of armchairs, the shy, unemployed father-of-four uses nothing but his hands, a hammer and a saw to create unique, life-sized creatures.

Jeff has made more than a dozen pieces in the past 12 months, including an eagle with a two-metre wing span, a five-foot woman drinking coffee, a motorbike complete with a COVID-19 number plate, and a giant squid with tentacles that stretch more than three feet in length.

His creative outlet, he says, is the result of his ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), which he has battled with for most of his 51 years.

While it has frustrated him for years, he now spends his sleepless nights finding inspiration.

“I just don’t sleep,” he said. “I’d be lucky to get four hours a night.

“I get up at 2am and sit with my cuppa and stare at them (the pieces of furniture). I get lost in it.

“I see the curves and I ponder for hours and it sort of evolves itself.

“Then I can’t walk away from it.”

Jeff’s background is in steel, working as a boiler maker for more than 35 years.

“I’ve never built anything out of wood before in my life,” he said.

“Steel can bond and squish, but timber’s beauty is as it is.

“When I see a piece of furniture that’s 120-years-old I think: ‘I shouldn’t be doing this – it’s too beautiful’, it breaks my heart, but everyone says they’ve got nowhere to put it anymore.

“We’ve all got smaller homes nowadays I suppose.”

Jeff is a self-confessed drifter, having had 54 addresses in 51 years, including many spent working in the mines of Mt Isa.

“I’ve always lived in open spaces and I can breathe there, now I’m in a shed.

“I get frustrated in the city and this helps calm me.”

This newest venture began after Jeff placed a newspaper advertisement offering to help locals transport heavy items for a “bit of extra cash”.

He was out of work and on a disability pension at the time.

After delivering the items, many would ask Jeff to remove old furniture to make way for the new.

“It kind of exploded from there,” he said. “I get a lot of parts out of chairs and table legs.

“I like the scrolls, the curves, the shapes, just nothing flat.”

His creations, like his processes and planning, are unique.

“It depends on what timber I find,” he said.

“My first motorbike came to me after I pulled apart a chair and the edges looked like handlebars.”

“There’s no grinder or power saw, no machinery, it’s all very primitive.

“And it’s as frustrating as it is rewarding.”

His hopes for his new hobby remain simple.

“There’s not much point in having a shed and keeping them all in it,” he said.

“I’d rather see them around the place, having kids climb all over them and making people stop and talk about them.

“I’m not in it for the money.”

Not one for setting future goals, Jeff does harbour one small dream.

“I’d like to get kids with autism involved,” Jeff said.

“They’re so clever, they have such amazing minds, it’s incredible the way they see the world.

“They don’t have a disability, they have a super ability, and I’d love to see what they come up with using wood.”

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