A MALLOW man is carving out his own path down under, founding an exciting creative enterprise.
Wayne Walsh, a quantity surveyer by trade, moved to New Zealand during the recession. Leaving the building trade behind, he has turned his hand to more creative pursuits, designing custom blade handles with wood made from locally sourced skateboards.
The novel products he creates, under the name CW Works, are gaining plenty of local attention, and are particularly popular with chefs and butchers looking to add some colourful flair to their kitchens.
With exciting plans in store for 2020, Wayne reflects on his journey to self-employment, since taking the leap and emigrating.
“I’m the youngest of five kids, three boys and two girls, born and raised in the hills outside Mallow in a teeny tiny little place called Rahan. It’s the kind of place where your closest neighbour is definitely related to you,” he says.
“We moved into the big smoke of Mallow when I was 12 and after school I did a Quantity Surveying degree in Limerick IT. I worked there for six or seven years until the economy collapsed. Then I went to Belfast to do my Masters at Queens in Project Management.”
As the crash continued, Wayne found that jobs in construction were difficult to come by, and, like many others, made the move abroad.
“When I finished my MSc I had about 20 to 30 interviews without success for jobs in the south and north of Ireland.
“Eventually I was offered a QS position with a cruise ship fit-out specialist based in Northern Ireland for £18,000 a year and I thought, no way. I’d been to New Zealand in 2004 when I spent a year travelling around the globe and I didn’t feel overly homesick there.
“If you’ve never been ,it has striking similarities to Ireland, so I said, yup, let’s go there until things pick back up at home.”
Now settled in Christchurch with two young daughters, Brooke and Harper-Lee, Wayne credits his wife as his inspiration for making a career move and following his passions.
“When I met my Cheryl (the C of ‘CW’) my life changed. She saw that I loved doing stuff with my hands, like making bits and pieces for the house while we were doing it up, and that I didn’t enjoy either the desk job or the construction industry. She pushed me to do more creative stuff.”
The inspiration to repurpose skateboards came from seeing artwork by Japanese sculptor Haroshi. “I followed him on Instagram and thought, wow, how does he do that?
“There isn’t an instruction manual, so I just started tinkering and eventually figured it out. I’m still figuring it out, but it’s fun.”
Wayne says that New Zealand is a great economy for small creative businesses and he has built relationships with a couple of local skateboard shops who are happy to see old products get a second lease of life.
“Creativity and entrepreneurial attitudes soar in this country,” he says.
“I’m not sure what it is about New Zealand, but people like an underdog I think.
“Whatever it is, small guys do well here, and I hope more than anything that this is the case for us.”
Wayne’s designs have been well received locally and internationally, with social media helping spread the word. His customers range in age from 17 to 70, from all walks of life.
“I set my sights on getting some local attention last year and we smashed that,” he says. “We’ve over 2,500 likes on Facebook and the amount of positive encouragement we’ve got is awesome.”
Wayne’s plans for 2020 include perfecting his craft and pursuing further collaborations.
“I believe in the 10,000 hours rule,” he says. “If you want to be good at anything in life you have to put in the time. Because I’ve got the most supportive partner in the world, I can do this. She complains about being stuck with the kids during the witching hours, but she loves seeing me grow in what I’m doing.
“I would like to make my own blades out of recycled materials, and want to become known for the knives, but I also want to branch into making other more bespoke stuff.”
Wayne is optimistic about the future.
“I’ve got some cool collaborations coming up with local and national companies over here next year, so fingers crossed this continues to go in the right direction.
“It’ll all happen — it all just takes time!”
Thinking back to Ireland, Wayne says that there are things that he misses, but that New Zealand has become home.
“I miss my parents most,” he muses. “They’re the coolest duo in history and raising my kids so far from them sucks.
“They’ve been out a couple of times, but it’s a long way and I know they’d love to have more to do with their grandkids, but they also know how much better a life I have over here.”
“New Zealand is an awesome country,” he continues.
“It’s so safe, friendly, and probably the most beautiful place you’ll ever see. The different parts of both islands are bite the back of your hand beautiful and every time I travel south or north I thank my lucky stars the arse fell out of the economy, because I never wanted to leave Ireland — I was forced. I never thought I’d say it, but New Zealand is home.”
CW Works ships internationally. See www.cwworks.co.nz for more.