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By our hands tree is warmed
For you and your home


About us



It started with a screwdriver and a sheet of plywood. As a five-year-old kid, which I was at the time, I took my dad’s screwdriver, sharpened it (if my humble attempts to rub it against a sharpening stone could be defined as sharpening) and attempted some sort of a bas-relief on a sheet of plywood. Things were sharp and clear in my mind but somewhat the screwdriver, aka wannabe chisel, and the sheet of plywood would not listen to me. As if this was not enough, I was reprimanded for messing with the precious tools and materials of the trade but guess what…I still wanted to master the wood and make it speak.
My father’s work as a technology teacher at school exerted a profound influence on me. Oftentimes after school I would go to the technology workshop and get my hands dirty. My dad thought me how to work wood, sharpen a chisel or an axe. There, without his knowledge, I would melt aluminium, lead and glass…I remember making a mould in wet sand and using it to make a glass pistol. Oh boy, it was so heavy, just like the real thing! I started building furniture by the eight grade and made a shelf, a cupboard and a linen box for my room. The furniture, made of laminated wood was so primitive but it is still there!
As a child I always wanted to be a tech teacher. Just as my mom and dad. As if this was not enough, I also had a dream of having my own workshop, where I could work with wood. Back in the Soviet times a technology room at school was the closest thing one could have instead of owning one. It was just logical that having finished secondary school I entered the Faculty of Arts at Šiauliai Pedagogical Institute and was supposed to become the teacher of technology, art and technical drawing. My mom was an art teacher and my father was a technology teacher. I became neither of them. After two years of studies I changed my major, finished my third year at the Academy of Arts and then left everything. I wandered without a clear direction for some time but my work would always be wood related.
Came 1995. I started carving, making little projects. I borrowed 150 euros from my mom, added less than 100 of my own money and bought Meistras, universal wood working machine. It was good for everything. Cutting, planning, milling, grinding, you name it. And so I worked…and learned by myself and from myself. Later I bought big time metal cutting machinery, which I adapted to making special candleholders, which was a novelty in Lithuania at the time. I had my first exhibition and became a member of Lithuanian Folk Artists’ Union. When I was not creating I would carve casket decorations, which helped me to provide for my family.
Back in 1999 we started making toys and exporting them to Germany. We made a big shipment of toys and were not paid for it. It was because of the quality, we were told. I would not believe. I just thought the buyer was a conman. Then the German guy invited us to come over (and I hoped that was because he had seen our potential) and he showed to us where we had failed and what real quality looked like. I was very very ashamed. Ever since then my requirements for quality have been going upwards. We used primitive tools to build superior toys. I remember joking at the time that given these tools to complete those tasks would have made any German weep. We moved on. We got more experienced; we improved our quality and bought new equipment. I’d carve pieces for retro styled furniture and would occasionally build a table or cupboard.
In 1999 I was invited to the sculptors week, which took place in The Hill of Witches, Juodkrantė. It was at that time that I carved my first sculpture. One could find some of my works in Poland and Norway. In Lithuania they found home in Kelmė, Kražiai, Akmenė, Varėna and Juodkrantė. Everyone passes my sculpture of a witch pointing to the Hill of Witches on his way to Nida. I have not been doing sculpture for some time now but sure as hell I hope to make some one day.
In 2003 I bought a former kolkhoz kindergarten, took a loan and bought new equipment. We kept on making toys and souvenirs for another two years but then I left everything and went to Norway. And so I commuted for nearly three years. I built balconies, terraces and did interior works. It was in Norway that I built my first staircase. Later, during the wintertime, I built some more in Lithuania and found out there was a need to be fulfilled locally. It was something new but I was quick to learn the ropes. We worked hard. There were times when the three of us would make and build three staircases a month. There we seventy of them all in all. I quit again. There were two reasons for this. First, the crisis in 2009 – 2011 and second, I got really tired of doing sales. To get an order one has to be super nice and put a lot of effort in it. There were so many customers who wanted exquisite stairs too cheap. I started disliking my job but my wife and my partner talked me into keeping on. Once my happy clients gave me a bottle of expensive cognac. I put this bottle in safe and told to others and myself that when a new client phones in and I bite the bullet and tell him „Sorry, mate, we don’t do stairs”, then I would hang the phone, open the safe and start celebrating. And celebrating I did! We changed the brand name from Laiptas.lt (stairs in Lithuanian) to Kelmas.lt (stump in Lithuanian) and only do what we love doing.
Sure enough it was not an easy transition, both emotionally and financially. Now, however, we are one of the best at what we do. Our products have a good name and people love them. Equipped with top of the line machinery and twenty years experience behind the belt, we are able to produce top-notch products. We are consciously trying to make different things or at least make them in a different fashion. Every product has our brand logo on it. I like saying that if craftsman does not brand his products he is either ashamed of the quality or is selling someone else’s work. I am glad that we only sell our own work and currently have more than 150 different items to choose from. I suppose you’d agree that this is quite a lot for a team of only several people. Nonetheless, we are not stopping here, so make sure you check out website to find something new soon.
And that was the story of Kelmas as told by Aivaras Norbutas.


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