Alan I work with Canvas, Leather and Rope.

I first met Alan at the Bouddi Peninsula Arts trail which is held on the October long week-end every year. Artists and artisans open up their studios to the public showcasing their work and what inspires them. Alan had a wonderful display of canvas and leather goods - handbags, wine totes, tool belts, peg baskets and many more. I could imagine the joy of hanging the washing using one of these beautiful peg baskets. A great addition to anyone's laundry.

I get a lot of enthusiastic feedback from people who have purchased my products but it always amazes me how people express love for their peg baskets. "It's the best thing I own" is a reasonably regular comment which always makes me laugh.

Alan didn't start out making canvas and leather products. Alan originally trained as a Lithographic Printer. After years in the trade he joined TAFE to train apprentices and eventually rose to head of the department. Seeking a change he did a marketing degree and joined the Sydney Institute Business Unit. In a business development role he represented many teaching areas of the institute and created business opportunities with private and public companies.

I was in my mid 50's when I first sat at an industrial sewing machine. I had often admired the Marine and Auto trimming workshop at TAFE where I also worked. I enrolled in a night course to learn the basics and have been self taught since then.

After attending some initial night classes with TAFE, Alan got his own sewing machine. He then started his own business, Arafura Canvas.

I chose the name "Arafura Canvas", because I did not know whether to specialise in marine trimming or camping goods and the Arafura region of northern Australia incorporates both.
I have always loved making things from woodwork, stained glass and leather work at a very basic level so when I was involved with the Textile Fabrication section of TAFE my creative impulses went berserk. This is the section where apprentices from sailmaking, vehicle and marine trimming learn their skill in a room full of industrial sewing machines. I have always been a sailor interested in mostly traditional boats and have always been a camper. All of my interests can fuse together around a workshop full of canvas, leather and rope.

Alan makes attractive and functional canvas products by hand, which he finds very satisfying. He designs and creates canvas and leather goods. His products are unique and all of them are different with small intricate details.

My first items were rope bags and various bags for storing camping gear. On a holiday to Tathra we stayed in a magnificent house built by friends who combined extraordinary building and design skills to create an aesthetically stunning environment. The only let down was their peg container on the back porch which was a faded and cracked ice cream container. While enjoying the sounds of birds and the Aussie bush I designed in my head a peg basket which would fit in this beautiful environment and made it when I returned home. The original design has not changed and I have now sold hundreds to very enthusiastic market goers.
Alan uses a Seiko industrial sewing machine to make his canvas products.
I love to make things and my favoured materials are Canvas, Leather and Rope. There are so many varied items which can be made with these materials and they are always functional and durable.
Cutting leather straps. You can see the peg baskets hanging from the window frame.
In the years to follow I have sought to design functional and beautiful products with the three basic elements of quality leather, canvas and rope. I live in an area close to a bay with many boats so the chance to make covers has often been present. These days I only do boat work if the boat can fit in my driveway on a trailer otherwise there is too much time spent rowing and measuring boats on the water. I use traditional rope which is manufactured to today’s standards in Germany, most of my leather is cow hide from New Zealand and all of my canvas is manufactured here in Australia.
Alan surrounded by his handmade products
My family is very supportive of my work as they see what pleasure it gives me to design and make things and also see the joy many of my clients derive from my products. My wife and two adult daughters have other skills and talents and I do not see them following my path as an artisan.

If you want to see more of Alan's work and how it has evolved over the years make sure to visit his website www.arafuracanvas.com or his Instagram page @arafuracanvas

To find out more about my sewing photo project or to be included in the project, join my "Sewists and their space" Facebook group or contact me.


Christine Arnaldi