August 17, 2015
Speciality whipmaker Trent Mewett considers every whip he turns out to be a self-portrait.
The tightness and style of the plait, the binding pattern, the way the keepers are put on and the unique turks head are all a reflection of his relentless pursuit of perfection in the art of whip making.
Trent, of Uranquinty, produces around two to three work whips a day and can barely keep up with demand.
He took 70 whips to the 2015 Man From Snowy River Festival at Corryong, coming home with just two and four months worth of orders.
Trent grew up in the Western Australian town of Northam and decided in Year 12 that university was not for him.
He undertook a pre-apprentice course in fine furniture making, followed by a three-year apprenticeship with a Yorke furniture business.
Trent had always enjoyed making things with his hands right from a young age.
“On my seventh birthday, Dad gave me a hammer, nails and saw, and access to the woodheap and workshop,’’ he said.
“My dad and grandfather had always been good at metalwork – they lived by the slogan of why buy it when you can make it.’’
After completing his apprenticeship, Trent shifted his career path into the shearing industry, working in sheds around Western Australia for eight years.
“I did enjoy the stress free atmosphere and comraderie of the shed – after that I worked as a station hand in the Northern Territory for a year,’’ he said.
“I then headed back to shear in WA – through all those years leatherwork was my hobby.
“Another hobby is hunting so I learnt how to tan skins.
“One day a mate said he was surprised I hadn’t made a whip yet.’’
Trent studied books on the subject and made his first whip but took six months to learn how to crack one.
The travel bug took hold once more and Trent was on the road to Queensland, shearing and selling the odd whip on the side for fuel money.
After meeting his future wife, Peta, he moved to the Riverina to settle at Uranquinty.
“I was working two days a week in a local saddler, shearing and taking orders for whips,’’ Trent said.
“I was doing that much whip making work I decided to make a go of it and started the business in 2012.’’
He uses red hide and kangaroo leather for its strength and thickness.
The combination of patterns, colours and strand numbers are almost limitless, making each whip an individual piece.
One of the most popular is the robust, four strand red hide work whip, and the four foot long kids whips.
Aside from specialising in whips, Trent also makes belts and bridle reins.
“The first question I ask people is do they want the whip for work or play, and do they work stock on horseback or foot,’’ he said.
“This tells me the length required, and if the client is better suited to a kangaroo or tougher work whip.
“Every whip I make is a self portrait – it’s also a science with the balance and the way it falls.’’
The whips range from the kids whips up to finely crafted whips with intricate 20-strand handles, each taking several days to make.
“I have done up to a 24-strand whip and some master whipmakers can plait up to 64 strands,’’ Trent said.
He exhibited his whips for the first time at the Henty Machinery Field Days last year and will be back this year.
“I was absolutely blown away by the response – I was sold out by the second night and had to restock,’’ he said.
“I thought I would be answering broad questions but people came in, and walked out with whips and belts.’’
Trent now tans his own hides using an old traditional recipe.
“I aim for medium to heavy hides of 4-5mm thickness as at the end of the day it gives me a quality product,’’ he said.