“Ashes started with an idea; that fragments from one’s past could be crafted into something unique, not at all like the original but evoking it in its complete essence … I would capture and transform things on their way to being lost; memory and artifact would be forged into a new form of narrative.”
That was the beginning. Today, Ashes has developed a comprehensive line of Solo Canoes, a selection of Tandem Day and Tripping Boats, as well as the All Water Kayak, available in 13, 15, and 17 foot lengths. The plans are primarily intended for cedar strip construction, however we continue to prototype innovate ways of building, including for skin-on-frame construction and simple panel built boats. We have customers in more than 30 countries
In addition to the plans themselves, we’ve developed what I consider to be two of the most useful digital tools available to amateur boat builders who are in the planning stages of their project. The Weight Calculator provides an accurate assessment of final boat weights based on materials and construction choices, whilst the Materials Calculator will accurately determine the amount of materials required to complete a project.
A Word From the Designer
Storytelling happens first in the head; before it can be passed along it has to be dreamt … it can be a long process and rarely does it have a clear ending. Progress day to day isn’t always seen, much less felt … and if a client changes his/her mind sometimes there’s nothing left but a sheaf of papers.
As a counterpoint to the hours spent at my desk, I would often turn to the physical at the end of a day; mountain biking, climbing, paddling. I would create things that could be touched and felt by the physical senses.
The rewards of the mind would be countered by the rewards of the flesh … the rub of sandpaper against the thumb’s nub; aromatic cedar rising to the nostrils in the heat of a summer evening; a splinter in the palm a welcome counterpoint to the sluggish blood flow at the desk.
First formed in the crucible of the boutique long-board brand Ashes, the idea for this venture has been sitting ready for birthing, unformed and unknown for years.
In the Spring of 2014, two of the four kids were out of the house … evenings and weekends felt more free than they had since my days as a young writer and I set out to test the idea that physical objects could tell a story every bit as compelling as words on a page or images on screen. The form I settled on was a canoe.
After countless hours of experimentation, modelling, consultation, skinned knuckles and dusty beard I settled on a design and materials schedule: the resulting canoes were constructed largely of recovered materials and were as stiff and responsive as any commercial design with a fraction of the weight and a complete story behind them.
This project is the synthesis of the things I love and know best; storytelling, design, and the transformation of wood into beautiful, useful objects.
The Ashes journey has lead me to an old barn in the country surrounded by field birds, coyotes and groundhogs. There wasn’t a large body of water within miles. There were wetlands though, and meandering creeks and drainages. I designed my boats to explore these environs. And I’ve set about exploring the connections between human and boat more deeply. In addition to designing and building boats, it’s led me down a road I’d never have expected.
Each of my boats is a reflection on the materials I’ve been given – local hardwoods and recovered softwoods. My designs are influenced by the many generations that have come before; they are contemporary designs, intended to encompass all that’s been learned over the multiple decades. But they’re also influenced by what I see everyday, the connections between animal, landscape, and the built form.
Watch Ashes’ Founder talk about his path; the rewards and the challenges, and what’s next.