Hand made Original Works of Art
Two alpine enthusiasts in Merville are carving a niche for themselves with their custom wooden snowboard business.
Angie Farquharson and Evan Fair are the talent behind Kindred Snowboards, a small custom marquetry snowboard business they run out of a shop located behind their home. Kindred’s snowboards can be found around the world.
Farquharson was Special Events Coordinator for four years at Mount Washington Alpine Resort at the same time Fair was working there. Four years ago, wanting a change of scenery, the couple left their Resort jobs and travelled across Canada for 10 months in a camper, trying to decide on someplace to live.
They returned to the Island for a visit and were leaving a friend’s house in Campbell River “and Evan expressed curiosity on how a snowboard was built.”
Fair has been snowboarding for 16 years, and is a coach with VI Riders. Farquharson, on the other hand, had only been snowboarding for three years after an instructor friend taught her the skill.
“Other than my experience at Mount Washington, I didn’t grow up skiing and snowboarding,” she said “I grew up in Ontario. I had been going up Mount Washington my whole life in the summertime to see my grandparents.”
After figuring out what it would take to build a snowboard, Farquharson and Fair parked their camper at a friend’s place and set about figuring out how to go from concept to product. They saw a snowboard press for sale on craigslist.com, went to Vancouver to talk to the man selling it, and bought it on the spot.
“It came with enough materials to build maybe 10 boards; top sheets, cores, resin. It came with enough materials for us to practice,” said Farquharson. “It was a lot of focused, obsessive practice.”
They rode their final product and labeled it a success. “We thought, if we can make one awesome snowboard, maybe we can make more.”
They decided not to move off the Island, and established their business in the Comox Valley. “We decided this is where our snow community is,” Farquharson said.
For the first couple of years they both kept other jobs in addition to developing Kindred Snowboards. Now, they have enough work to keep them busy full time, while leaving space for volunteering, and of course, for getting up the mountain for some snowboarding enjoyment.
Kindred’s boards are unique because of the custom-made wood marquetry topsheets. Farquharson liaises with each customer to determine what they’re looking for, and translates their vision into artwork.
Intricate work is hand-cut, while they also use a CNC router to cut larger pieces. She uses different types of wood depending on colour and grain direction.
“A lot of the work is informed by the natural beauty around us,” she explained. “That’s my comfort zone.”
She’s not afraid to step out of that zone, though, and proves it with a recent project featuring stylized skulls with detail work.
The couple splits the workload when building a board: Fair does component construction, working on the technical specs and operating the press, as well as finishing work and resin spraying. Farquharson can step in at any step, and Fair can also create topsheet artwork.
Since the boards are custom made, Kindred works with one customer at a time. The process can take anywhere from four weeks to four months to create a custom board depending on the time of year and how communicative the customer is. They do a lot of custom wedding boards for brides and grooms.
They have four models of skis, snowboards and split boards, all named for local significance: Ramblers, Black Creek, Tsolum, and the split tail snowboard shape is the Cumberland Gap.
Kindred also creates a limited edition run every year with one design created for the four different types of boards. They press between 25 and 50 boards of different sizes and shapes, and sell them in retail stores in Courtenay, Nanaimo and Smithers.
The company is slowly growing, and Fair built a new snowboard press in November. Farquharson envisions them hiring another person someday to help with the workload.
“We’ve always talked about measured growth. Every part of our work is centred around integrity; we want to be careful we never let go of that part,” she said.
DID YOU KNOW: Angie Farquharson has always been artistic. She used to paint on the backs of cardboard takeout lids, the ones with silver on one side and plain white cardboard on the other. “My Mom has stacks of them,” she says.