LJ Kilian is a maverick, rebel, rule breaker – all traits that led him to open his own makerspace called Roes Boer, where he creates bespoke pieces in a variety of materials. Here he shares his story with Get It…
The opening of Roes Boer stemmed from different places – my rebellious nature of not wanting to work for ‘The Man’, aka a boss, or to conform in any way to standards set out by society. I also had an unbearable urge to create, but was stuck in a nine to five job. I was working as a sales rep in Johannesburg at the time and sitting in traffic destroyed me. I was squandering my time and talent; just there I decided that I was going to move back to my hometown of Bloemfontein to start a business where I get to make amazing things. Within a week, I had quit my corporate job.
Basically, I started with nothing. I moved what tools and stock I had into a single garage-sized space behind our family guesthouse for a makeshift workshop. It wasn’t completely covered and over a weekend some of my steel got wet in a rainstorm. So just starting the business, where I had envisioned myself as an artist and creator, I came upon a pile of rusting steel, and I felt more like a Roes Boer than anything else.
I love the way different textures and mediums complement each other. So, instead of listening to most advice given by people in the trade, which was to stick to one thing, we mix it up. We basically make furniture from wood, steel, resin and concrete. We make once-off pieces to our clients’ specifications with a Roes Boer twist. We do basic cabinetry, shop fitting, restoration and signage. We supply restaurants with pizza boards, shooter paddles, condiment holders, and burger or steak boards with laser engraved branding. We also make huge personalized charcuterie and platter boards. Plus, we sell our products online at www.roesboer.co.za – chopping boards, biltong cutters, snuff bombs and drinking games. If it’s on Pinterest, I’m sure we can make it!
The lessons I’ve learnt thus far is to follow your gut and heart. If you have something you’re passionate about, pursue it with every cell of your being. If it fails, at least you can say you gave it your all; and fail as often as possible. It’s not about the outcome but about how you handled failure and the lessons you learnt. Everything has a solution; your problem is not unique to you. Many have come across it and there is a solution; you just need to find it.
I call myself a maker and where I work I call a makerspace. The idea is to enter each day with an idea and leave with a completed project. I consider my makerspace a learning and teaching environment where I can create, teach my people about the things I know, and learn as much as possible about my trade. Training and development is a big part of Roes Boer and I hope that anyone who comes to the workshop leaves with something – be it something physical or spiritual.
At this stage of my life I’m truly going with the flow to see where it takes me. If there is one thing Covid taught me it is that nothing is certain. Although we’re prepared for what lies ahead, I’m open to the idea of travelling overseas to further my trade and expand my horizons.
I wish there was more support and interest from the older generation of woodworkers in South Africa. The online platforms here are filled with condescending old fossils who comment on your PPE, instead of mentoring the youth and breathing fresh air into a dying trade. I’m willing to share all my knowledge with whoever is willing to listen. I encourage young woodworkers to keep creating. We live in a time where all the knowledge you could ever want is available on your cellphone. At the touch of a button you can learn how to do a dovetail joint or how to cast a concrete top. So go out there and be your own role model!