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Passion project . . . Anna Miles and Michael Simpson inside the old Kakanui Church. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

Anna Miles and Michael Simpson are “absolutely loving” resurrecting Kakanui Church and sharing their journey with the public.

The Waimate couple bought the almost 150-year-old church at the end of 2019 and have been spending most weekends at the beachfront site, working from the ground up, Ms Miles said.

They were happy with the progress they were making.

Not a lot had changed from the outside looking in, but the underneath “shoring up” work, carried out by Mr Simpson was a necessity, Ms Miles said. They hoped over the next week or so that the base boards would be around the outside and painting in progress.

“That’s been really exciting to get those back on, covering up the old lady’s ankles again,” she said.

The pair were dedicated to restoring and preserving as much of the original building, using wood hardeners where possible rather than introducing new timber.

The two top windows on either side of the building were removed just before the country went into Alert Level 4 lockdown, which proved serendipitous, providing Mr Simpson with the perfect lockdown project.

The windows were in poor condition, “basically just falling apart”, but after the use of wood hardener and work to preserve as much of the wood as possible, only a minimal amount of new timber was required, she said.

“We managed to retain all the original glass, which was good.”

An application to have the building heritage-listed had been made about four weeks ago, and the couple was “pretty hopeful”.

“We have been working really closely with Heritage New Zealand anyway, so that will be an exciting milestone, if we hit the list with that.”

Ms Miles said they did not have a time limit for the project and were taking it “a weekend at a time”, hoping to make good progress on the weatherboards over summer.

“It’s just a project that we are absolutely loving. We feel very privileged to have the opportunity to return her back to how she was, and we just really, really enjoy sharing her with people.

“We always open the main doors when we’re there, and just love having people come in and look around and tell us their stories as well.”

Ms Miles and Mr Simpson were still planning what to do with the building when the renovation was complete.

They were not looking at dividing up the space, preferring to keep it “as is”.

It could be a wedding venue and house “little travelling exhibitions” and artists.

“It’s just such a beautiful space with beautiful light,” Ms Miles said.

The church will be part of this weekend’s Meet the Maker event, with Mr Simpson launching his handmade Christmas decorations he had made from the church waste wood.

“There’s a stack of what most people would look at as wood that needs to be burnt, out behind one of the sheds, but that’s what we’re using to make these Christmas decorations.”

He began with Christmas stars and then came up with the idea of church outlines,

“So he’s cutting those out and he sits at night and hand paints them all, so each one’s different,” Ms Miles said.

“It’s the original paint off either the weather boards or the base boards, and he’s putting the different colour schemes on them.”

The decorations would reduce waste and give people an opportunity to buy a piece of history for their Christmas tree, she said. All proceeds would go towards the costs of restoring the church.

Creation . . . A replica Kakanui Church Christmas decoration, which will be on sale at this weekend’s Meet the Maker event.

As part of the Meet the Maker event, Ms Miles would also be demonstrating how she made horsehair jewellery.

Her business Equine Mementos began after she studied a Victorian technique of making horsehair rosettes in 2019.

She had wanted something to remember two much-loved horses she had to have put down.

“People saw those and loved those .. I’m still doing the rosettes, but I’ve branched into working with a jeweller in Timaru and we’re doing silver and horsehair, basically memorial jewellery.

“But, the biggest buzz I get, is when someone says, ‘oh no, my horse is still in the paddock, but I want this made’, which is really cool.”

The business was on Instagram and Facebook and Ms Miles said negotiating the world of digital marketing had been as time-consuming as creating the jewellery itself.

Mr Simpson would also have products from his business, Side-Project.

He made side tables, seats and other wooden products from mainly recycled and reclaimed macrocarpa.

“He just hates seeing any sort of timber going to waste,” Ms Miles said.

Waimate art teacher Nicole Solomon, with her business Muramura, would also be at the church this weekend displaying her flax earrings and weaving a korowai cloak.

The church would be open “loosely” between 11am and 3pm, both Saturday and Sunday, for the Meet the Maker event.