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Meet the Marlborough-based company that makes longboards out of recycled wine casks

Wine and longboards isn't usually a combination that’s recommended, unless you want to end up as part of the asphalt. However, a company called The Paper Rain Project has combined the two to create a beautiful product that is helping promote sustainability in the process. 

Indigo and Wills Rowe are the brains behind The Paper Rain Project, an art and design driven social enterprise based out of Marlborough.

The seeds were first sown for the business when Indigo was painting skateboards as a hobby. All sorts of items, such as recycled water skis, were getting upcycled into art.

This skateboard-painting hobby blossomed into a business idea that combined art, quality and sustainability, and The Paper Rain Project was born.

“We want to be a high-quality brand which makes art accessible to people from all walks of life, for people to see that it can be used as a vehicle for good and that fair trade doesn't have to be the aesthetic that people usually associate with it,” Indigo Rowe says.

When ex-arborist Wills came on board, he suggested that they start playing around with wine-barrel oak to make the boards.

“Being from Marlborough, it was a natural next step for us,” she says.

“Making longboards out of wine barrels isn't an original idea, but we have spent the last few years refining and bettering the concept to become art. Although we've seen boards created from barrels before - both whiskey and wine barrels - we believe we have developed a super-unique end product paired with laser-etched artworks and our own spin on it.”


Indigo and Will

The Paper Rain Project ran a Kickstarter campaign in April 2016 for the boards and it was a hit, raising $53,000 – well above its $10,000 goal. The campaign was so popular that it only finished production for the boards sold through it in March of this year.

Like all good things in life, the barrel boards take time to create and are quite labour intensive. The design process began with some good old-fashioned sketching, and then some trial-and-error experimentation with the wood.

The boards have had so many iterations and improvements made to them over the past couple of years, Wills Rowe says, but they’ve finally reached a point design-wise that she’s proud of.

For their look and feel, he says they aim for a clean, simple aesthetic.

“We love the different marks left by the barrels' previous life holding the wine and let wine stains and the wood grain shine through,” Indigo Rowe says.

“The boards are smooth and curved giving a nod to their previous structure but are shaped into the recognisable form of a classic old-school board. We like our barrel board artworks to let a large portion of the wood remain visible and to work with the 'canvas' rather than covering it.”

The Paper Rain Project also partners with around 25 artists to produce some of the artwork featured on their other boards and products. The wine-barrel board artworks, however, is mostly done in-house through being drawn by hand on a Wacom tablet and laser-etched into oak, although they sometimes  ship the board out to where an artist is based for them to work their magic in the collaboration.

 “Some are then worked back into with liquid gold and silver leaf,” she says. “We are doing a few more collaborations on our barrel boards now and this has seen new artworks by guest artists either etched or hand burned or painted.”

So, the burning question on the mind of boarders out there: Are the boards actually rideable?

Not exactly. The Paper Rain Project did develop a rideable barrel longboard last year, but now they’re being sold mainly as artworks.

“We are currently developing locally grown eucalyptus rideable longboards and continue to sell barrel board artwork for people to hang in every corner of their homes, offices, wineries or restaurants,” Indigo Rowe says.

The main ethos The Paper Rain Project abides by in its work is to create things that don’t cost people or the environment. This means working with ethical suppliers for the clothing it produces, and using organic and natural processes where possible.

The barrel boards are even finished off with a plant-based varnish.

Going forward, Indigo Rowe says the pair wants to develop a fleet of boards from locally grown, sustainable and recycled woods, and use them to create conservation exhibitions that raise funds for environmental and social causes.

“We want to use these wooden canvases to drive awareness and share stories through working with others and generating conversation,” she says. "We would love to see these works go all over the world. In conjunction with this, we want to create a minimalist style rideable eucalyptus drop-through board which people can use to cruise and commute. Watch this space.”