Thursday 1 May 2014

Contact Voyaging Co Paddles

About a year ago I came across, and fell in love with a gorgeous painted paddle by Canadian artist, Alexander Jowett. The beautiful shape of the paddle makes a perfect canvas for the simple, yet strong graphic patterns Alex paints onto them. His company Contact Voyaging Co. brings city style to the outdoors, and the outdoor spirit to urban design.

I was fascinated by the paddles, the process, and their significance, so Alex kindly agreed to answer some of my questions...

Can you give me a quick rundown on your background and how you came to make your paddles?
AJ: For years I was a freelance writer/photographer who focused on travel and water sports articles for surf, windsurf, and kite magazines. Upon returning to Canada to do an art show, I became reunited with an old friend, David Barclay, and we combined our skills and love of the outdoors (canoeing, paddling, surfing etc.) to create the Contact Voyaging Co. Our focus was to bridge the gap between city and country style, bring a bit of city style to the country and vice versa.

What are the paddles made from?
AJ: The basic decorative paddles are all made from basswood, while the higher end functional paddles (also the more attractive ones) are made from cherry wood. We also offer maple paddles by custom order.

Do you craft the paddles yourself as well as painting them?
AJ: No, the paddles are made in Canada by a company with years of paddle design experience. We work closely with them to create great functioning paddles. All the designing, painting, staining and finishing is done by myself in the studio or up at my family cottage in central Ontario.

Do people buy your paddles to use in the traditional way, or purely as an art piece?
AJ: I think most people feel they are too pretty to be used, but I use them and hope others will as well. I would love to see well used Contact Voyaging Co. paddles years from now showing a great weathered patina. It's like a client once said... "you don't buy a 100 thousand dollar Porsche or Mercedes simply to leave it in the garage. You need to get them out there and use them."

via Chatelaine magazine | photo by Roberto Caruso

Some of the designs are based on the maritime signal flag system, some inspired by birds of prey, is there anything else you can tell me about the designs?
AJ: Sure, one thing I have always enjoyed is when designs have some added meaning to them, as opposed to simply a pleasing pattern. Hence why I work in series: the 'feathers' series is based on feather patterns of various birds of prey, which, I believe, is quite synonymous with quietly paddling along a river or lake. The 'semaphores' series is based upon the International Code of Signals flag system which represents letters of the alphabet as well as numbers. One guy even bought "I LOVE YOU" in semaphore paddles for his wife, while others often get their family names etc.

We recently started working with The Hudson Bay Co. to do a line of paddles for the Heritage collection. A couple of them are based directly on their world famous point blankets. The ones to come in the future will impress a lot of people, I think.

Eagle | Kestrel | Red Hawk

Alpha (A) | Bravo (B) | Charlie (C)

Pink Cross | Multi Stripe | Scarlet

Thanks Alex for taking the time out to talk to us. I think these paddles are fabulous and would look amazing hung as an artwork, I know I want one. Make sure you keep checking the website and follow Contact Voyaging Co. on Facebook, as new models are often being released. There will also be some new products introduced including hunting knives, bags and blankets. All will be produced with an eye towards great design and quality, and at very reasonable prices. You can't ask for better than that!

Earth | Air | Water | Fire

The Outlander | The Hunter


It's lovely to hear from you. Thanks for your comment. Best wishes, Vic xxx

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