New future woven for old ropes
A former Abrolhos Islands crayfisherman is weaving a living from ropes used to haul in the bounty of the sea.
Marine scientist Neddy Van Dyck crafts beautiful mats and baskets from ropes that once tethered rock lobster pots off the rugged West Australian coast.
Profits from the fledgling business are putting the 29-year-old through university in the Eastern States, where he is enrolled in a program for student entrepreneurs.
“I don’t have the profile to do something like Leonardo DiCaprio and try to change the world but, if I can do my part, it’s going to be to put this rope to better use,” Mr Van Dyck said.
“The rope tells a story of the fishermen who once handled it and now it gets to live on in people’s homes.”
Mr Van Dyck grew up surfing and spearfishing on North Stradbroke Island off Brisbane, where his grandfather was a commercial fisherman and entrepreneur.
He moved to WA five years ago while his wife was studying medicine in Fremantle.
While there, he indulged his other love, the ocean.
“I was working crayfishing in the Abrolhos Islands off Geraldton and abalone diving off Esperance in between marine science jobs for mining companies on and offshore,” he said.
“I came across this (rope art) during my time at sea and living on a remote coral island in the Abrolhos.
“Fishermen have been weaving rope mats since the dawn of rope.
“At sea there’s not much else to do. They’d fill their time doing these beautiful mats, knots and incredible rope work.”
Mr Van Dyck said there was a plethora of leftover marine rope from each fishing season that had the potential to cause pollution.
“The haul and the pot is worth so much money to the fishermen and the weakest link in the chain is the rope, so it gets turned over quickly,” he said. Mr Van Dyck makes regular trips to WA to buy rope from rock lobster fishermen and forage it from beaches.
He then transports it back east to do all the weaving himself at his home on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
The products are marketed on Instagram and the designs have been refined so they can be rolled and folded for postage.
“The mats are my best sellers,” Mr Van Dyck said.
“It’s art as well as being a functional product that stands the test of time.
“The rope’s tough. It’s UV-stabilised, it’s mould-resistant, water- resistant. It’s designed to live in the harshest environments you can think of. It’ll outlive me.”
Mr Van Dyck said encouragement from university mentors gave him the confidence to take his hobby to the next level.
“Initially I did it for fun and to give to my friends as presents, but I’m beginning to see it’s bigger than that now,” he said.
Mr Van Dyck said he had been inspired by his hardy island family.
“My grandfather had a resourcefulness that was common in his generation,” he said.
“He has beautiful nautical things that have always inspired me. His dining room chair was salvaged off a shipwreck.
“That same resourcefulness was instilled in me from a young age.”
Mr Van Dyck is studying for a Masters of Occupational Therapy at Bond University and is enrolled in an entrepreneurship program called Transformer.
He hopes to have a website up and running soon.
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