This is more than just a surfboard.
When the committee invited submissions for this years beneficiary, I don't think any of us could have imagined that hand crafted surfboards would become our cause. However, after a deeply democratic, points based matrix circulated around the team, Connected By was, without doubt, firmly connected to the Army Art Show.
As our relationship has grown and our understanding of their process has deepened, the more excited we have become to support this innovative activity provider for rehabilitation.
Army Art first visited the workshop in May for a tour and full brief of the program with founder, Greg Wallace. You cannot fail to fall under the spell of the old bakery that currently serves as their home.
Completely inconspicuous in the dead-end street that it sits in, the twists and turns that house the raw timber which starts the process, lead through to subtly shimmering completed projects and creations at every step waiting for their participant to return. The calm atmosphere with striking light belays the industry and pride that is nurtured here.
It is precisely this safe, calm atmosphere that enables their clients to make the journey at their own pace. The workshop is open only by appointment which enables even the most challenged participant to find a way to start their process in their own time. It also allows them to join together when they are ready to share in the experience of creating something truly unique. The fostering of shared community is a vital component of helping participants interact and integrate.
The process is deliberately structured so participants are gently challenged and supported through the process of learning, making mistakes and developing ideas. Most, although not all, participants have come from environments where making a mistake may well cost a life. It cannot be underestimated how valuable it is for them to be in an environment where, as Greg says, "every mistake is the start of a great design feature"!
It is an intimate process as decisions are made from the very first day. The base timber is hewn and the structural honeycomb of framework is computer cut ready for them, but how it comes together is driven by the participant. Some choose to seal momentoes of lost mates inside the board so they still get to surf with them, some enshrine beautiful artwork into the finish or their children's names, each producing a deeply personal, fully functional and incredibly beautiful result.
The journey the participants make in the creative process, is a beginning. The design, which was patented in Sydney in the 1920's, not only produces boards that look and feel divine, they surf beautifully. Some will be made as an heirloom, many are made to surf.
An intrinsic part of defence culture is the intertwined identity of self with team and service. Essential in their daily existence whilst in these organisations, it can create additional barriers and a profound sense of isolation from the wider community when this service is completed. Greg points out that a striking result of the program is;
"building a community of people who felt proud of the board they were riding, and a longterm part of that is that you go out onto the water on something unique and unusual, people start talking again."
"...the guys who have a wooden board - it takes them 15 to 20 minutes to get from the car park to the beach cos someone will stop them and say 'where did you get that - I made it' - a reaffirmation of pride."
As the wider community searches for understanding and ways to help reassure these committed individuals, of their value and worth outside of the uniform and professional badge, it can be hard to find organisations that offer such practical, proven processes. Connected By presents exactly this opportunity. They are a not for profit organisation that has achieved recognition with consistent referrals from rehabilitation providers for their outstanding work with the veteran, defence force and first responder communities.
In their submission to be considered as our beneficiary, their 'wish list' was quite simply equipment and tools that improve the process and the experience the participants have.
We now look to you, to help us, help them.
In addition to the money raised directly from this years exhibition, you can support them with tickets to the raffle for the stunning 8ft Mini Malibu custom built for Army Art.
Click this image for direct access to tickets. It doesn't matter where you are, you can get involved here;
For more information on Connected By, their work or how you can support them;