There’s nothing Julian Ward and his brother Tristan like more than to receive a call from a landowner to say a large tree has come down in a storm. That’s when the adventure begins. They head out in the ute to retrieve fallen branches and spend the next few hours companionably chopping them into useable logs. “The people you meet are really nice; there’s such camaraderie. One couple in Helensville sent us home with some amazing scones. Tristan and I have lots of laughs, plus it’s great exercise and stress relief as we split it all by hand,” says Julian.
As well as playing around in the woods, Julian is one half of Mr & Mrs Ward, a bespoke furniture and cabinetry business that he runs with his wife, interior architect and designer, Janice Kumar-Ward. During the course of 10 years of running their business, friends have become collaborators and business colleagues have become friends. To highlight this homegrown talent and to celebrate a decade in a challenging industry, Mr & Mrs Ward decided to release 10 new homeware products – a showcase of what such partnerships can achieve. From bedlinen to breadboards, and art to a fire pit, the designs are all based on their favourite things, items the Ward family use and love in their everyday lives.
Julian knows that whether it’s wood for the fireplace in winter or kindling for the barbecue, a good axe is an asset. So, when Mr and Mrs Ward heard about blacksmith Rob Pinkney at Kowhai Forge and his commitment to keeping the dying art of traditional hand-forged axe-making alive, they knew they had their man.
Based in Te Awamutu, Rob created a kindling axe with a short handle for the 10 favourite things project. “A kindling axe has to have reasonable heft so there’s enough momentum, but be light enough to use with one hand,” says Rob.
The body of the axe is formed out of a flat bar of mild steel that is folded and welded in a coal fire. During this process, a high-carbon steel blade is inserted which is what gives the cutting edge – called ‘the bit’ – its sharpness.
The handle is made from locally milled robinia – a strong, durable wood – which Rob sources from a small family business in Otorohanga. He takes the raw material to a Men’s Shed in Tauranga where a bunch of woodworking enthusiasts craft it into shape. “Then I fit the handle to the eye nice and tight so it works well,” says Rob.