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'Fun hobby' becomes career for Fraser Coast man

WHAT started out as a fun craft idea to keep Peter Thorndike's students occupied at an outdoor education centre, has turned into a full-time career and passion for the Point Vernon man.

Peter has been named Australian Champion Whip Plaiter five times over, and has sold his work for thousands of dollars.

A master of his craft - 2017 Australian Champion Plaiter Peter Thorndike has won the Doohan McMaster Trophy for the past five years.
A master of his craft - 2017 Australian Champion Plaiter Peter Thorndike has won the Doohan McMaster Trophy for the past five years. Valerie Horton

The 41-year-old has always had a strong eye for detail, and after making leather bracelets with his students, he fell in love with the art of leather work.

"At the education centre where I worked in Toowoomba, we had vocation care programs where we had to do crafts with the children, we'd do all sorts of things like woodwork, and someone suggested leatherwork," Mr Thorndike said.

"We started with simple little bracelets, it was only a project to do during the holiday but I just loved it. I went from bracelets and started making whips, I got bitten by the bug."

After almost 20 years in education, Mr Thorndike resigned from his job as a PE teacher in Toowoomba at the end of last year, to sell his leatherwork full-time.

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The champion said being able to stop teaching allowed him to take care of his wife Sharon, who lives with chronic fatigue.

"It went from being a hobby to being a distinct part-time job while I was teaching full-time," he said.

"My wife's got chronic fatigue, she can't work anymore, that's part of why we moved to Hervey Bay so I could take care of her and do the whips full-time."

Mr Thorndike also makes belts, hat-bands and other leatherwork, but he is most known for his fine-detailed whips.

2017 Australian Champion Plaiter Peter Thorndike.
2017 Australian Champion Plaiter Peter Thorndike. Valerie Horton

To make a simple whip, with about eight strands of leather in it, it takes Mr Thorndike a day, but last year he made an exact replica of a whip from The Man from Snowy River, which was a much bigger task. "I based it off paintings and illustrations," he said.

"It had 72 strands in the handle, that took about 300 hours to make." The snowy river whip was sold to a buyer in the United States for about $10,000.

The whip plaiter doesn't sell his work in stores, but creates custom-made pieces based on orders.

Mr Thorndike already has a waiting list up until September.

Want to place an order? Go to peterthorndike.com.au.

Topics:  fcbusiness fccommunity rural



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