Christine and Craig Stewart are carving a lifestyle after moving to Innes Park to be closer to family, as the couple continue to create quirky items with Kokonut NQ.
Christine grew up in Bundaberg North, before leaving in 1976 to join the army – where she met future husband Craig.
Now the retired couple spend their days crafting curious coconut creations, and musical instruments called cigar box guitars, out of repurposed materials.
“We are retired now and after the COVID restrictions put an end to our travelling interstate and visiting markets to sell our creations we decided to move closer to family,” Christine said.
“We moved to Innes Park in September 2020 and love the area and closeness to the beaches.”
The couple’s love for the coastline, and fetish for fresh coconuts, gave them the opportunity to start a little hobby, that soon started to flourish into Kokonut NQ which can be found at Bargara’s Paradise Markets.
“Kokonut NQ was born in 2016. We were living in Townsville where coconuts were plentiful, we did eat a lot of them,” Christine said.
“Rather than throwing the shells away I started carving them to make candle holders as gifts for friends and family.”
After Christine found her niche carving coconut shells into gifts, she continued to explore other possibilities of what a humble coconut shell could be reused for.
“Things just grew from there – coconut wee folk houses, bird houses, planters etc. I am a bit of a gatherer and collect interesting driftwood, seed pods, anything natural I stumble across. I use these to make tiny wee folk homes,” she said.
Christine said it was two years ago when Craig retired that he pursued his passion for making musical instruments.
Craig gives cigar boxes and old biscuit tins a new life as he transforms them into a much-loved instrument of joy.
“Cigar box guitars and kalimbas – thumb piano, we like to recycle old timbers people throw away,” she said.
“Craig has made guitars from old biscuit tins, cigar boxes, gourds and recycled timber – every one is unique.
“Everything we make is unique, because of their natural properties the different timbers all have their own sound.
A cigar box guitar is a simple chordophone that uses an empty cigar box as a resonator. The earliest had one or two strings; modern models typically have three or more strings.
Christine said the coconuts found in the Bundaberg Region were very different from the fruits she found in Northern Queensland.
“Each coconut is a different shape and colour, every wee folk house has its own charm. It is all created with a healthy dose of imagination,” she said.
“The coconuts I have found here are quite small and I must say are interesting shapes, which has encouraged my imagination to come up with a few new products including funky puppets. All our puppets have individually hand carved parts.
“I do have a little chuckle to myself when the pieces come together. They are such fun to create.”