17 Dec 2018

Turning wine barrels into pieces of art

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:34 pm on 17 December 2018

A Picton-based social enterprise is - among other things - turning old wine barrels from nearby Marlborough vineyards into ornamental skateboards etched and painted with local artists' designs, and feeding the profits back to charity.

Paper Rain owners Indigo Greenlaw and Wills Rowe

Paper Rain owners Indigo Greenlaw and Wills Rowe Photo: Rachel Brown Photography

The Paper Rain Project sells the ornamental boards along with rideable ones and a range of t-shirts and passes a portion of their profits to charities specifically paired with each product.

Founder and co-owner Indigo Greenlaw tells Afternoons' Jesse Mulligan it's a very collaborative business.

"There’s a lot of us involved but essentially we use art in the form or skateboards and t-shifts to help raise awareness and funds for different New Zealand charities as well as using locally grown woods, recycled woods, and sourcing through fair trade organic production as well."

"Mostly we sell boards for hanging on the wall - artworks - and we’ve just released a new blackwood rideable range with three different boards for riding." 

On board for doing some good

She says the t-shirts are manufactured by charities in India which work to help women out of poverty, slavery and sex trafficking. 

"The t-shirt manufacturers that we have worked with for four years is called Freeset, that was founded by Auckland’s Hilton family years and years ago - they have 800 ladies that they employ out of the biggest red light district in Asia which is in Calcutta.

"They also have a sub company called Common Good which is part of Liminal Apparel in Christchurch. They work with ladies specifically along a 1km stretch of river slum in Calcutta.

On top of that, each design for t-shirts and skateboards are paired with specific New Zealand charities. 

"We’ve got a few for Live More Awesome which is mental health awareness, we have four or five for the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital; Conservation Kids; Food Waste Redistribution, we’ve got Project Jonah who help train people to help beached whales around the country. 

"In the production, the manufacturing helps to support women out of poverty - and then at point of sale it supports a New Zealand charity."

"It’s pretty easy to do a little good with a little bit if you do it all the time, and that’s kind of our ethos behind our business." 

Getting up to speed

She says she started painting boards when she was a fine arts student at University of Canterbury in 2009. 

"My boyfriend at the time had his longboard stolen and I thought it would make a great 21st birthday present to paint one and give it to him. I really liked painting on wood so I bought three more and painted those, and then 10 more and painted those, and that’s where it all started." 

The boyfriend is long gone. Greenlaw says she founded the Paper Rain Project in 2013 with her now-husband Wills Rowe, who makes the skateboards. 

"It was definitely just a hobby before then. He was the one that has always been determined that it’s gonna work. 
It is growing every year so that’s great. 

"His background is actually in agriculture and massage therapy so he’s self-taught in this board-making business. 

"It’s pretty bloody hard ...  he makes them, it’s been a work in progress, we’ve done a kickstarter campaign which has enabled us to get some machinery to help streamline the process. We’re actually steam-straightening wood, whereas most woodworkers are steam-bending." 

The t-shirts are also fairly traded organic cotton, she says. 

"We have a unique shape that we’ve designed but we work with about 15 different New Zealand artists."

She says they're planning to start exporting overseas at some point. 

"But next year we’re gonna do a lot of pop-up shops around the country.  We are currently in a bidding war on a ... van on Trade Me, previously we’ve been borrowing trailers and Wills' parents campervan and, you know, it’s about time we took it a little bit more seriously and get ourselves a wagon for the road. Ideally we'd have an electric van." 

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