Meet Timothy Hellum, the founder of GripStir!
Your sustainability story and what it means to you.
Making something useful out of discarded or unwanted wood is an especially good feeling. And that feeling extends to those who might purchase what I make, knowing the pieces will last generations. The world is full of easily reproduced plastic goods, which not only takes away from their intrinsic value but actively harms the environment for decades or more to come. To hold something in your hands that you know someone made with their hands makes for a direct connection between people that cannot be replicated in any other way.
What problem does your product/service solve or contribute towards the improvement of? (i.e use upcycled materials to reduce X, donate X% of profits to X cause).
I most often purchase what is referred to as “Legacy-cut” boards from an old mill north of me – The Tyrone Mill. These boards were cut or milled decades ago and never sold, for one reason or another. They are often warped, some have insect trails (insects long gone), colouration changes and so on. While no longer useful for construction, this wood is exactly right for what I make; it’s dry, full of unexpected “flaws” or features and in thicknesses ideal for kitchen utensils. I occasionally resort to a commercial mill in Oshawa for a board or two. I also cull tree limbs that have come down naturally in wooded areas. I dry these limbs or rounds for two years before use.
Given your experiences as a business owner, what advice would you give to your younger self 5-10 years ago?
Take it slow and know that progression of style and personal taste in what you make will develop only through experimentation over time. Don’t expect to make your best work right away.
Fast forward five years—what is next for GripStir?
I’m not sure a lot will change for GripStir in five years. Maybe I’ll have updated some tools to better versions, maybe I’ll discard some designs and methods while adopting or discovering new ones. The key for me is to be careful not to have the business become a chore.
What is the best sustainable swap you have made in the last year?
Because of COVID, I have been less in touch with other makers than I would normally be. I used to do lots of outdoor/indoor craft shows and I loved meeting and talking to people. That often gave me a chance to meet other makers and swap ideas and pieces. Online is a great place to find handmade things of all sorts, and I have found several things that have enriched my daily life – such as a bamboo tea strainer and a handmade peppermill.
What is your biggest accomplishment as a brand so far?
I have settled into a confidence in what I make. I know that, when looked after, the pieces I make will last at least as long as my grandmother’s spoons in my own kitchen.
Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself or your brand?
I want the things I make to last. I so love using old, wooden utensils in my own kitchen that came down to me from my mother and grandmothers. They have colour they’ve picked up over time, and rounded grain from use. I hope that one day, far in the future, someone will still be using something I’ve made.