Meet the Maker | Wilbur the Wombat Garners International Shoppers
Beenatree Creations was so named because every item was once – well – a tree. This month we caught up with owner and creator Jan Mikula in between stints at Pokolbin’s Handmade in the Hunter Markets to find out how he got into creating such cool stuff.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into woodworking and running a market stall?
You pronounce my name yarn (Jan), and I’m married to an amazing woman, Anna. We live in Warners Bay with two Leonbergers (Henry and Lucy). I’ve been in sales most of my working life, which is handy when running a market stall. I never thought I would make this my full-time job, as I only got into woodworking to give it a go and see if I could make some cool stuff. I make a range of different items, everything from timber earrings to bottle openers, spoons, butter knives, bowls, resin eggs and vases. I also make wombats! (Editors note: a Leonberger is a giant fluffy dog!)
What is the story behind your wombat carvings?
My mother-in-law knew I liked wombats and sent me a picture of a carving she had seen. I hadn’t started carving at that stage, so I thought I would give it a go and put my own spin on it.
The response was overwhelming, especially after I donated a couple for fundraisers to ACT Wildlife after the bushfires. They took some photos with a wombat that one of the carers was looking after, ‘Wilbur’, and I started getting orders from all over the world.
I mostly use camphor laurel as the colours and figures in the wood are amazing, and I get a lot of it from a sawmill up north that works with Landcare, clearing farmers' properties and planting native trees. It has been a fantastic learning curve, with a few visits to the ER, but it’s one I’m happy to have found, and it’s one I am sticking with!
What do you like most about the Handmade in the Hunter Markets?
I think people are moving back to buying unique, handmade products – which is precisely the purpose of these markets. I also enjoy meeting the visitors and talking about what they do.
You’ll find Jan (pronounced yarn!) at Handmade in the Hunter Markets on the grounds of Kevin Sobels Wines on Broke Rd. Upcoming market dates are Saturdays, 2, 9, 16 and Sunday, 17 December. Stay up to date at www.handmadehuntermarkets.com.au.