Atelier Nauwau


Atelier Nauwau originated in 2013 from a co-op that naturally evolved between Rayah Wauters who is a wood sculptor and her husband Niels Arnauts who works as an arborist. The initial idea grew from the fact that Niels brought back a lot of rest wood from beautiful trees who had to be felled due to sickness or spatial problems. They both share a deep-rooted love for trees and wood. A natural material, to beautiful to waste and so they teamed up to recuperate and preserve it. Saving as much trees as possible from ending up in peoples stoves as firewood.

Nowadays Niels is merely the wood supplier and Rayah focusses on what she does best: creating and sculpting. Her sister Shana Wauters came into the picture helping Rayah’s growing business in terms of marketing, social media and targeting the market.

Atelier Nauwau solely works with local wood. Basically after a long drying proces they reuse the wood in an ecological way giving the tree a second life by turning it into sustainable, durable objects.

How Rayah became a wood sculptor

Rayah, was originally trained as an interior architect but quickly felt in need of something more then working behind the computer. She decided to do an extra year in furniture design in Mechelen. While doing her internship with a designer/sculptor of church organs, she found her love and appreciation for handcrafting. When she completed her study she worked in a carpentry to sharpen her skills and because she loved woodworking. Slowly she felt that her husband and she shared the passion for wood. And while Niels was ‘caring for trees’ as an arborist, and bringing back more and more wood, they joined forces and Nauwau was born.

Going from full time independent to semi independent and back Rayah feels the struggle of making a living out of doing what she loves the most, and caring for her lovely family in the meantime. Yet she keeps on going, creating beautiful things out of a wonderfull material, and that I think is courage!


Who is Rayah Wauters

She is so passionate about the material she works with, she treats each tree with so much love! While other people fell the tree because of its sickness, Rayah sees the beauty and the uniqueness of it. She uses the flaws of the material and the story it tells in her pieces. Trying to change as little as possible on the forms/designs of nature itself.

Being a female wood sculptor, she stands her ground! She is an example for all women in a mens world. She shows that if you want something badly enough you can do it! There are no limits!

And even though being interviewed and being in front of the camera lens instead of behind it is a bit out of Rayah’s comfort zone. She welcomed us into her home and atelier with so much hospitality and friendliness! I was really eager to show what this genuine and kind power woman is all about!

After chitchatting over a cup of coffee, I told her that as a goldsmith I was fascinated by the beautiful little pieces of wood I saw everywhere in their home… On the kitchen counter, the door nobs, objects on the wall..
She told me all about it, she even tried to explain to me that a “tree fart” is actually a thing ;)!
Without hesitating she gave me a few of her samples to work with, from one fellow creative to another.. I can’t wait to use them!!

An object to remember

Personally this is my favourite object from Nauwau!

It is far from only a memorial urn for the remains of loved ones. It is a beautiful wall sculpture out of an extraordinary raw material.
And so just like life comes and goes it is so sincere and fragile.

I couldn’t think of anything more beautiful to remember my dearest!

For more of Nauwau’s beautiful creations stay tuned on https://www.nauwau.be

Current Project: Vitae

On 11 november exactly 2 years ago Rayah became a mother. Their beautiful daughter Soo presented herself 2 months to early and was taken into premature care. Rayah looks back on this difficult period, grateful for how quickly she recovered, being home for Christmas at the time. Nonetheless it was a very struggling time as parents!

Now 2 years later, Soo is doing great and Rayah wanted to do something for the vzw Kleine held which supports premature babies and their parents. Rayah sees this project as closure for a difficult period in their life.

You can purchase Vitae for only 95 euro, 50 euro’s is going to vzw kleine held. https://kleineheld.be
Not only are you investing in a wonderful vzw, raising awareness for premature newborns and their parents, you are getting a beautiful hand crafted sustainable object for your fruits or your appetizers.

I didn’t hesitate to support this amazing project, and I couldn’t be more happy with my Vitae! We are thrilled to have a Nauwau in the house!

​So If you like wood, beautiful objects, if you like supporting your locals, if you find the idea of our local wood being saved and preserved in an extraordinary way? 2 addresses: https://www.nauwau.be/

Thanks for sharing all your knowledge, your craftsmanship and love Rayah!

Photography: Benny Conings
Feature image and * by Tasja Van Rymenant

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