“I didn’t have a coffee table,” Heather Ward-Walton says, gesturing to the space in her living room now occupied by a rectangular spotted gum table with a mid-century Danish design. “So I built one.”
The Colorado-born, Melbourne-based designer walked away from her estimating job in architecture to carve her woodworking hobby into a serious creative venture. Taking its name from the constellation also known as ‘little bear’, Ursa Minor is a nod to Ward-Walton’s love of bears, as well as her North American roots and a calming sense of home, for which her handcrafted products are intended.
Inspired by the pared-back simplicity of Scandinavian design, Ward-Walton sources reclaimed wood, organic and industrial materials, and uses both modern and traditional techniques to create functional furniture.
Sanding away in her Windsor workshop, she’s busy fulfilling orders for her foldable Tasmanian oak and saddle stitched leather tripod stools (inspired by a collapsible Mexican stool she unearthed in an op shop) and her hand-carved wooden boards (angular and fluid shapes with embedded or external handle detail) that can be used for cheese, chopping or serving.
The rest of her time is split between custom projects (most recently, a dining table that used the client’s own reclaimed oak floorboards) and personal projects (a freshly salvaged bar top from Yellowbird that is soon to be a kitchen island).
Amongst all the wood-centric pieces, Ward-Walton’s pride and joy is an untouched piece of timber – a rough plank of cocobolo that sits above the hearth in her living room.
“My dad bought it from a lumberyard in Georgia [in the 1970s]. He’s flown it in a shipping container all over the world, but never did anything with it. When I started showing interest in woodworking, he gave it to me.”
Ursa Minor stools are available at Lunar Store on Greville Street, Prahran.