It began with a love for wood and a dream to teach

Hi there. My name is Sophie. I am the founder and director of ​Shedding Community Workshop Inc. ​I established ​Shedding​ as a not-for-profit organisation in May 2018, through my own passion for carpentry and building… But most of all a passion for people and wellbeing!

So why ​Shedding? Our aim is to provide a unique, supportive and hands-on environment for all members of the community to come together and develop sustainable skills in carpentry, building and everything in between. It is a place to shed your fears and build with curiosity. I would love to share my personal journey with you to give you some context to our space, our values and what we do here.

My Shedding journey began when I was studying Architecture at the University of South Australia.

In the third year of my degree I had the opportunity to join the Design Construct Program co-ordinated by architect-builder David Morris.

With around thirty students and eight facilitators and buses and trucks and troopies we headed out to a small town in the deserts of the APY lands of SA to construct a number of buildings that we had designed and prefabricated at the university workshop.

We camped in the desert for two weeks at a time, working in the sweltering sun with a diverse collection of students and gazing upon the stars at night telling stories amidst the crackles of the campfire.

It was only years later that I truly came to understand how valuable this experience was.

I started the program as a student – enrolling every time it was available and eventually volunteering to assist David and the other program coordinators. We were a colourful mix of ages, genders, cultures and religions. It was the beginning of a discovery and love for building and a passion for team building.

Upon the completion of my five year degree I was already working with David and a team of architect-builders and endeavoured to fulfil my own dreams to travel around Australia. I had received Uni SA’s Nicholas Opie Travelling Award of $2000.00 for my contributions to the Design Build Program and took this as inspiration to get on the road.

I bought myself a campervan and delighted in transforming it into my little house on wheels.

I ventured off mid-2012 and began my exciting trip up the coast. Not far from the Byron Shire my engine had a major tantrum and I ended up on the side of the road in Mullumbimby.

I wondered what I should do? I was almost out of money having fixed my engine, and I wasn’t sure if I should return to Adelaide or continue my travels or perhaps stay in Mullumbimby – a place I was swiftly falling in love with. I had a dream to start my own little carpentry business but I had just a square, a handsaw, a drill and a block of sandpaper.

I discovered the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme and established my own business, Upcycled by Sophie.

I began to upcycle furniture from reclaimed and recycled timbers expanding my knowledge, my income and my tool-set.

Over the next ten years I learnt carpentry, building and joinery on-site and in the workshop. During this time I often scratched my head wondering why I was the only woman on site. Don’t get me wrong – I ​loved working with the lads. I have memories of hard work, physical challenges and many lessons learnt, with a great sense of achievement and camaraderie with my colleagues.

I branched into fit-outs, extensions, renovations and eventually tiny homes.

This on-site building environment gave me so many hands-on opportunities to learn from real-life situations. However I remember it as a tough environment with a necessity for speed, efficiency and accuracy… Sometimes a tricky place to feel okay about making mistakes and trying again.

I have been fortunate to experience mentors who have taken the time to ensure that my understanding was a priority on the job-site, as part of a collective whole. My experience was that clear communication is critical and supportive work relationships are essential, not only to support my positive learning but also the whole project.

Shortly after I arrived in Mullumbimby in 2012 I met Patt Gregory from Woodwork for Women.

Patt has taught woodworking since 1985. Over the years I fell in love with her holistic approach to using the mind and body with a strong emphasis on developing confidence.

I watched Patt’s students discover their own capabilities and walk away feeling empowered and excited by their own potential. This sparked my own desire to teach others.

Patt now facilitates workshops with us at Shedding and I am honoured to have her as our Vice-President since the launch of Shedding.

During these years I have also learnt a lot from my dear friend and mentor Steffen Mueller.

Steffen is an expert in joinery and together we spent over a year working in his father’s bespoke joinery workshop in Germany, as well as several years working together in Australia.

Steffen is also now a facilitator at Shedding – we love Steffen’s humble patience, gentleness and kindness.

In 2017 I discovered Woodford Folk Festival – over the last three years Woodford has been a place that has fostered my passion and ability to teach others.

It was at Woodford that I met Robin Gibbons - an inventive and talented carpenter and designer, and a dedicated and compassionate mentor.

Robin coordinated the Fire Event Build Crew – this crew would come together for 3 weeks each year to build a creative structure as part of Woodford’s spectacular Closing Ceremony.

Like Patt, Robin taught me to teach – he taught me to connect with people and create strong teams and relationships based on trust and authenticity. Since 2017 I have worked with Robin each year at Woodford and at a number of other festivals, coordinating crews, teaching carpentry and building – forging friendships we will never forget! Robin is now a facilitator at Shedding and like Steffen and Patt, he comes with a wealth of knowledge and kindness.

When I look back on my years and remember the time I have spent working with teams of people, learning together and building together - it is clear to me why I created Shedding.

Shedding is about community and connection. It is a place where we celebrate a passion for tools and building, but also a passion for self-discovery and curiosity. Our facilitators have training in Compassionate Communication and Mental Health First Aid and care deeply for the well-being of our ‘Shedders’,

Since we first dreamed up our community workshop in 2018 we have supported over five hundred students – we love what we do and we love the community that has come together to support our organisation because they too share the same dream. To find out more about all of the things we have created since the beginning, check out our Shedding Story.