Stuart Paterson: Doing it all by hand

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Design Outline

Cronulla shaper Stuart Paterson recently hosted an exhibition of surfboards at his factory, the name of which was self-explanatory - 'All By Hand'. Despite the literal nomenclature the purpose of the exhibition was to encourage people to delve a little deeper into the figurative meaning of their surfboards and the process of creating them.

Swellnet: Why do it 'all by hand'? 
Pato: To shape by hand is much more directly related to intuition. There is plenty of thought going on through the process, like taking measurements and using the practical theory of what's needed. When you are concentrating on lines and forms there is a zone that you enter. The shaping zone requires little thought and a lot of feel. 

To express yourself in this way there is only one path as an artist, so without question the whole concept was born from the title, All By Hand, meaning the most basic expression of creating this form of sculpture that is ridable.

1_7.jpgAre you making a statement about the plight of the surfboard industry? 
No. I am more making a statement about myself, attempting to put forward the idea that it is possible to view your surfboard as an esteemed piece. If you are willing to see things this way it would be fair to say that it is like any other artistic endevour. There's more to savour than merely a surfboard: the form, the colour, concept of the shape, the theory of the colours. There's more to the application process than meets the eye. This is the way I like to see these boards, this is what I wished to share.

Will a surfer be able to tell the difference between machined craft and these?
I don't think that matters so much. The important point is in knowing that these pieces were conceived with the idea of working by hand, working intuitively. The holistic approach is more the point of view, if it was machined cut it would not be handshaped, that is the difference. To compare might be missing the point of the experience.

Many of the boards in the exhibition are retro shapes. Have you blended modern features - rockers etcetera - into them or are they truly faithful to the age?
I like to call these modern retro designs. None of the boards are copies of any one board. Take the Simmons for example. My version of the Simmons was put together a few years ago, through numbers only. The rest of the shape came from what I felt would or might work, that has continued in the Simmons shapes represented in the exhibition. Some other designs were completely off the top of my head, like the Balance designs. 

There are theories that you learn as a shaper. These theories come through in your holistic expression of shaping, whatever it may be. I would like to add that I did not measure one rocker in any of the boards in the exhibition, it was all done by eye, feel, trust.


You shaped 11 boards yet only one of them sported your logo - why?
The first board had a logo, the rest did not. The first was a hand cut version of a very popular shape that I have made hundreds of variations from with the CAD cutting machine. The board had a logo as I was going to own it, later I decided to put it into the show.

All the other boards have no logos, keeping with the statement of the exhibition. The artist placing signage over the piece did not sit well with me. I did feel it was a risk, at the same time what would of happened if I was not prepared to take any risks? Now I have done a number of boards after the fact with no logos or a little obscure hand painted moniker. 

Putting your work out there without signage is making a statement, asking you to notice or recognise the tone of what has been done. I like the idea of my work being recognisable without having a name to see. There are many, many beautiful visuals in the world that need no introduction. We don't see a seagull with "seagull" written on its wing, we just
know it is John the Seagull.

Some hand shapers talk of the virtuous mistake; the shaping error that leads to a new breakthrough. Is that something you subscribe to or are they just covering for fuck ups?
Hmmm... If the shaper thought it was a fuck up that makes it confusing...but only for the person involved. As all that is, can only be that, nothing else. Call it what you will when it's done. We can all learn from this philosophy.

Postscript: Pato doesn't spend all his time at the cerebral end of the shaping bay, he also knocks out some mighty fine working class creations.


heals's picture
heals's picture
heals Monday, 11 Nov 2013 at 1:51pm

If John the Seagull is a reference to Ricard Bach then it's a very nice touch. If not, it's a nice coincidence - a 'virtuous mistake' even.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Monday, 11 Nov 2013 at 2:38pm

Good pick up, Heals. And yeah, deliberate.

tbasstreble11's picture
tbasstreble11's picture
tbasstreble11 Tuesday, 12 Nov 2013 at 4:05pm

I'm surprised there are so few comments on this piece! I love this bloke's (Stuart Patterson - sorry, I didn't know of him before this article) articulation of the value of a handcrafted thing - it is something that seems to be overlooked and unappreciated in the digital age of mass production/saturation. I was born in 84 by the way, so this isn't coming from an old hippy - it's just always gratifying to someone putting their most human elements into their art. Way to go Pato, and to Stuart Nettle for sharing this.

jabel7's picture
jabel7's picture
jabel7 Saturday, 8 Feb 2014 at 11:25am

love this from stu, he is a deep thinker with a very interesting mind questions everything, he has been shaping my boards and more recently my husbands for years, never had a bad one. As someone who treasures objects d' art that are created by people using their minds hands and talent it is something to admire. In years to come when many aspects of our lives will be machines even more so than now handcrafted will be a rarity and highly sought after maybe even investment pieces. Good on the artistic among us keeping it real and always interesting. love ya stu