Will Matthysen: Keeping Time with a Master Clockmaker
Will Matthysen is a South African woodworker and artisan living and working in Australia and specializing in custom-made wooden clocks. He arrived in Australia in 1986 and soon set up shop in Warrandyte, a small suburb of Melbourne. Each clock is a unique design, often down to the individual components and mechanisms. His works range from free-form sculptural clocks to more traditional mantelpiece or wall-mounted clocks, but each displays Matthysen’s signature style of creativity and innovation.
Matthysen’s father was a woodworker and carpenter, instilling in his son an early curiosity for how things worked. Will soon became fond of constructing models, tinkering with clocks, and woodcarving.
Beyond his father’s influence, Matthysen is inspired by various design traditions. He is a trained architect (B.Arch., University of Witwatersrand, 1977), and in fact practiced as one when he first arrived in Australia. Setting up his woodworking shop in 1989, Matthysen began to draw inspiration from the great timber clockmakers of the world, including those of Switzerland, Germany, and Connecticut. Perhaps Matthysen’s single most influential figure is John Harrison, who invented the marine chronometer in the 1730s and, like Matthysen, was a woodworker turned clockmaker.
Today, Matthysen’s skills allow him to build every clock from start to finish. He sometimes uses CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) technology to craft individual wheels and gears from templates, however on certain concept or sculptural projects, he may construct gears from dozens of pieces of timber, carefully fitted together so that the grain flows out of the gear in every direction. This ensures that all the teeth of the gear are equally strong. In this meticulous fashion, Matthysen takes his designs from concept, to prototype, to completion; the end result is stunning.
Matthysen frequently uses salvaged woods, doing what he can to make his practice more sustainable. In some cases, he may find and reuse a piece of timber hundreds of years old. Other materials may include brass, steel, phenolic resin, and glass.
Matthysen is drawn to the precision of his craft, but also to the creativity it affords. He believes that “there’s no wrong way to do something.” While a “better” way might exist, it is the artistry that keeps his craft exciting year after year.
Matthysen’s work can be found in the following Australian galleries:
Bungendore NSW 2621
130 The Mall
Leura NSW 2780
108 William Street
About the Author: David Ackley is a blogger for the Australian design site DesignLocal. On a quest to promote the Australian creative scene to a global audience, DesignLocal serves daily design inspiration ranging from the internationally acclaimed Marc Newson to raw indigenous aboriginal talent. When not writing, David enjoys a cold beer and a good view.