Matchstick artist’s labour of love

SKILLED: Port Alfred matchstick artist Piet Lemmer puts the final touches to the boat of his dreams. Picture: DAVID MACGREGOR

A PART-TIME truck  driver has realised  his childhood dreams  of owning a luxury catamaran – complete with trailer  and 4×4 tow truck – after  spending hundreds of hours  patiently building them out  of used matchsticks.

“Ja boet, I knew I would never have enough money to buy them so I built them out of millions of matchsticks instead,” 54-year-old Piet Lemmer chuckled yesterday,

Dozens of bottles of glue  and thousands of matchsticks later, the Port Alfred  trucker was so confident of  his craftsmanship he personally took the luxury yacht off  its custom-made trailer and  into the water for its maiden  voyage.

“I put the boat in the bath  and it floats – there are no  leaks at all,” he said proudly.

Lemmer said he first started dabbling in matchstick art  three years ago to try and  beat boredom – especially in  the evenings and over weekends.

“I am a bachelor and I had  nothing to do with my time  so I started playing around  with matchsticks, making  small items to give to my  friends.

Over the years Lemmer  has perfected his technique  and now burns all the matchsticks in the box before gluing them one at a time onto  specially made templates  that he cuts and joins into  the designs he wants.

“All my designs come from  my head,” he proudly explains. “I am so hooked now  I just cannot stop myself –  even though the glue is expensive.”

Although matchsticks  form the bulk of his artwork,  Lemmer also carves ice  cream sticks to build rails  and other features into the  boats, houses and cars he  makes.

“Luckily I have found a  place where I can buy as  many sticks as I want – at  least I don’t have to eat  dozens of ice creams anymore to use in my artworks,”  he jokes.

Lemmer’s proud mother,  Anne, says her son even  built her the house of her  dreams out of matchsticks.

“Look inside the windows,  it really does have beautiful  furniture inside.”

Inside the house there are  household items painstakingly glued together.

Not content with just  building the one-metre long  catamaran – which even  boasts windows and two outboard motors – Lemmer also  built a trailer to put it on.

“That is when I realised I  needed a 4×4 to get it to the  bath and started building a  tow truck that even has  lights and indicators.”

Inspired to go even bigger,  Lemmer has now set his  sights on building an aeroplane more than a metre  long – complete with moving  propellers. “I always wanted  my own plane,” he jokes.

Although his eyes take  strain, Lemmer says it is all  worthwhile when he sees the  finished product and hears  the comments of amazed  friends.

“Over the years I have  used hundreds of thousands  of matchsticks and dozens of  bottles of glue to build all the  things I have always  dreamed of owning.”

Although Lemmer gives  away his art to friends, he  hopes to sell his work one  day – even if only to cover  his costs. —