John Matthews

John Matthews

John Matthews is a retired research scientist (paleontology) who moved to Nova Scotia with his wife, Beth, an artist, about 20 years ago. John has long been a woodworker, learning the craft by watching both his grandfather and father as they worked with wood.


Shortly after their arrival in Nova Scotia, John and Beth learned about the little town of Advocate Harbour at the entrance of the Minas Basin. It is famous for its fabulous accumulation of driftwood. That unlimited supply of has been the source of most of John’s raw materials ever since.

The Advocate Harbour driftwood also contains an abundance of small trees from which John makes whimsical walking sticks.


My Work

Though John has made furniture such as live-edge cherry tables, sculpted chairs and such, his chief interest of late has become the construction of small driftwood boxes. Gift shops in museums and other sites usually display beautiful boxes crafted from fine wood, with decorative and complex joinery. John’s boxes are not of that type. Instead they are made from driftwood, usually worm-eaten, greyed and rounded planks from ships, most likely ships that have foundered in the Bay of Fundy or were left to rot after being swept ashore in a storm.

The sea-worn and greyed planks he chooses usually contain rusted nails and spikes, the rust stains often forming interesting patterns on the wood surface. The best material for boxes is often the most fragile, due to the work of marine “worms”, prevalence of cracks, loose knots etc.

While the boxes are rough and primitive on the outside they are lined with polished cherry, walnut or bird’s-eye maple. John’s goal for each box is to make something useful and beautiful while allowing the imperfections and history of the material to be evident. Every one of his boxes represents a story, though it is a story we will never know. They are a link to another time, another place, and other lives.

John Matthews: driftwood artist
John Matthews: shopudio@gmail.com or 902-876-1012