Wills Rowe and Indigo Greenlaw craft used wine barrels into unique longboards, but it’s not just a business. It’s a passion for creativity, sustainability and quality. Katrina Robinson chats with the dynamic Marlborough-based couple behind The Paper Rain Project.
Words By Katrina Robinson. Photography Anthony Nosek
Wills: Living in Wellington for a few years, longboarding was my main mode of transport. I love longboarding (although we don’t do enough of it) and Indigo was already painting them.
What inspired you to make longboards out of barrels?
It initially began with me painting a friend’s waterski skateboards and evolved into the custom design of many other decks. When Wills and I decided to put our all into this business, we wanted it to have the least impact on our environment, so we chose to make our own boards instead of importing them. It’s not the first time people have done it. In the U.S people have made them from whiskey barrels, but as far as we know, we’re the first NZ business to produce them commercially.
What was the production process like initially?
Wanting to shape my own boards, being from Marlborough and having an interest in recycling, it was instinctive to try wine barrels as a possible material. There was a lot of trial and error but we finally have a finished product that we’re proud to make and sell. We have gained unprecedented support from locals including Seresin, Mahi and Giesen to whom we owe a lot of our growth (thanks!).
How do you incorporate sustainability in business?
Other than recycling wine barrels, all our display boxes are made from recycled beer crates, we use brown paper in our packaging, hemp and recycled card swing tags on our organic/ fair trade t-shirts and we seek to work with local businesses. It’s impossible to be a 100 percent green but it’s important to us that we keep sustainability as a core value in our business.
Do the wine barrels give your boards any unique traits?
The boards themselves are hand-shaped so they each have character as well as remnants of wine in the top surface. The oak is durable and strong. The way they are shaped gives our boards a low centre of gravity with a particular riding style. The wine-barrels also have a life far before they reach us and we think this story gives the boards character and value.
Why ‘The Paper Rain Project’?
‘Paper Rain’ is almost a juxtaposition so it makes you question the image, which is what creativity is about. All our concepts start on paper and rain symbolises growth and nature, but it’s essentially an umbrella name that means we can do anything under it, such as my graphic design projects.
Where has your passion for sustainability come from?
I grew up on a remote peninsular in Scotland and moved to New Zealand in 2001 with my parents after having grown up with wells for water and windmills for electricity. Wills and I both grew up among trees with Wills, an arborist by trade, being raised on a cherry orchard. Wine is such a symbol of Marlborough so it’s great to be able to be involved in an innovative way.
What are your aims with this venture and what’s next?
We aim to continue making these boards, collaborating with several artists while continuing to produce our own art and develop a brand known for creativity, quality and sustainability. Next is our trip to Europe with samples and a possible growing partnership with Giesen Wines who have exported some of our boards to Australia.