Napier might be the Art Deco capital, but the tiny town of Tirau, in New Zealand’s North Island, is the self-proclaimed ‘corrugated iron capital of the world’. It’s a big claim for a little town – population 700 – but for this once blink-and-you-might-miss-it town on State Highway One, between Hamilton and Rotorua, it’s reason to stop and take in this quirky country village with great shopping.
I’ve always loved corrugated iron, the relatively inexpensive building material used, and reused, for farm sheds and shanty towns. From shiny, shimmering virgin silver to rust-ridden russet tones, its undulating surface catches light and shadow for dramatic effect.
But in Tirau, it’s been given a new lease of life, sculptured into quirky shop signs, unusual statues and animal-shaped buildings.
It all started in 1998 with a wool shop built from corrugated iron in the shape of a sheep. When the town needed a new building for a visitor information centre, the community decided to build it in the shape of a sheepdog, adjacent to the sheep, and the rest, they say, is history.
Tirau means ‘the place of many cabbage trees’ and the town logo looks gorgeous rendered in corrugated iron.
This has meant plenty of work for local corrugated artist, Stephen Clothier, of Corrugated Creations, which is located just outside Tirau. The ‘mechanic-turned-handyman’ was initially reluctant to take on the sheepdog project, but once finished he was inundated with orders for signs, garden features and letter boxes.
Each artwork is individually designed for the location and handmade, including the frame.
With galleries, art and craft stores, coffee shops and more, Tirau makes a great place for picking up some unique NZ gifts or souvenirs. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to check them all out, or buy my own corrugated souvenir. But I’ll be sure to stop off next time I’m in New Zealand.