By Corin Mackay
Young craftsman Mackenzie Robinson has been constructing and selling pens for three years with his business Pens By Kenz.
Mackenzie, a year 10 student at St John’s Anglican College, started Pens by Kenz during the 2020 Covid lockdown using woodworking skills he was learning from his grandfather.
“My Pop was a Manual arts teacher for about 30 years. He is a great person to show me the process of woodturning as he has a lot of patience.
“From seeing some of his woodwork, it inspired me to give it a go,” Mackenzie said.
“He’s been really supportive of my small business, and my nan and he often come to visit me at any market I am at.
Although he specialises in pens, Mackenzie has an expansive list of crafting abilities, creating anything from kitchenware to jewellery, for both personal and business purposes.
“Pens were the first project Pop taught me how to make. I have branched out into multiple things including rings with opal and stone inlays, crochet hooks, seam rippers and keyrings,” he said.
“I have also just started making cutting boards and hat racks over the last few weeks. I made a plant stand for mum out of an older timber handrail from my great grandparents house.
“Last year I made a ring for one of our neighbours with crushed emerald stones, and I carefully added their dog’s ashes to it. People love anything that is sentimental,” he said.
Mackenzie has sold and donated roughly 500 pens in his short time running the business, of which, most of the profits go back into repairing and replacing old machinery, or purchasing new materials for further projects.
Mackenzie said the crafting process itself is very sentimental, and the smells of the timber alone can evoke memories from trips taken years ago.
“Most of my timber that I have been given over the years is recycled. I choose timber that I like, or something I haven’t tried before.
“I especially love the ringed gidgee timber I got from out west in Cunnamulla,” he said, referencing an 18-hour trip he took with his father in 2021 specifically to acquire the timber he liked to make pens with.
Mackenzie said his parents had been really supportive in helping him set up and run the business.
“My parents have their own business and have taught me heaps over the years – how to market a product, sell it, advertise, stocktaking, profit and cash flow,” he said.
“Some customers are surprised I make the pens – they often think it’s my parents who make them.”
While the business is just a hobby, Mackenzie hopes to use his knowledge for other work in the future, taking up school-based programs to increase his skill. “I’m keen to start a school-based apprenticeship in carpentry next year,” he said.
Mackenzie said he would encourage anyone thinking about starting a creative hobby to go ahead and try it.
“Definitely give anything a go that you enjoy! Try selling through your own social media pages and if people are interested, you can then take it further and find a quality craft market or a store that will stock your product for you,” he said.
Mackenzie now can often be found with a stall at a local market, like the Forest Lake Community Festival, and can be contacted through Facebook, at facebook.com/pensbykenz or his website, pensbykenz.squarespace.com