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From Tree Surgery to Crafting Home Goods

Not everything from Heaven in Earth is the product of refined sensibilities. Some of it is the result of brute force.

This is where Heaven in Earth founder Jocelyn Van Hoven’s partner in almost every way comes in. That’s Joe Van Hoven, her husband, partner, father to her children, packer, chief sales rep at trade shows and plenty more. He’s also the one who produces several of Heaven in Earth’s most popular items — slate products and metal S-hooks.

Joe’s journey, like Jocelyn’s, to Heaven in Earth was somewhat circuitous. He grew up in Double Bay in Sydney, on a “working class street,” he’s quick to emphasize, lest anyone think his working class airs are inauthentic. Instead, Joe has always had dirt under his nails. He studied horticulture and worked in a retail plant nursery and as a tree surgeon before starting his own business, Justin Trees (a play on his actual given name, Justin).

Justin Trees ended about four years ago, when the physical beating of the work forced him to get one hip replaced. Heaven in Earth was growing and he could help there. 

“Jocelyn’s business started doing really well,” Joe said. “I was really glad to give it all up. It was much better for me cutting slate and packing boxes. The whole creation process is something I enjoy.”

He also doesn’t mind that it’s less dangerous.

Joe makes the hooks out of iron, copper or brass rods. He uses a bolt cutter to cut them to the proper length and then grinds the tips until they’re smooth.

“Then I beat them on an anvil,” he said. “Customer love the flare on the ends.”

Cutting slate coasters by hand Smashing metal Bending metal

The next stop is to put the rods in a jig built by a neighbor, Ray Cox, a mechanical engineer. Joe uses the jig to bend the rods into hooks.

Making the larger hooks can be hard on the hands, but Joe said it beats the physicality of tree work.

Joe paused when he was asked what it’s like working with his wife.

“Well, we’re married — so it’s terrible,” he said, laughing. More seriously, he said they work together well because she values his and others’ views, “and then she does what she wants.'

He also sees his role as putting on the brakes at times.

“She has a much better work ethic than me,” he said, but sometimes he said she needs to be reminded to take time for herself. “It’s hard. It’s always there, having a business. Work is always there.”

There are unexpected advantage, he’s found.

“I do enjoy going to the hardware store and knowing that most things I buy will be a tax deduction,” he said, laughing again.

The Partners at work in the showroom

Jocelyn said his help is crucial— not only with the business, but with the couple’s two sons and elderly Jack Russell terrier. Joe’s garrulous personality is valuable at trade shows, where he finds it easier to chat with potential customers.

“I couldn’t do it without him,” she said.

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