I used to love drawing…I can remember in grade 5 doing a really detailed fight scene of little viking figures covering a hillside…not realistic but absorbing for at least a week.
At Preston Tech, I enjoyed art and was good at drawing cars and planes but art was not seen as an actual career. I did Civil engineering and sciences.
I went to RMIT to repeat a year of Civil Engineering and decided to take architecture at night. This involved architectural history, life drawing and building construction and rendering.
This was much more fun but didn’t seem to lead to a future I wanted.
My friend Stephen Hamilton was doing a course at Melbourne State College which was art and craft teaching where you did lots of different arts and crafts and were on a studentship and had to teach for 3 years at the end of it.
I ended up doing this course and it was very interesting with subjects such as
Drawing, Painting, Printmaking,Wood craft, Metal craft, Graphic Design, Textiles, Sculpture, Pottery,Psychology, Sociology, Art History, classroom practice.The aim of the course was to give such a diverse grounding that you became a very flexible teacher able to adapt to a range of conditions and limitations.We had a range of good and bad lecturers such as Alan Day, Ken Wach, Vic Wood, Howard Tozer, Clive Murray-White, John Teschendorf, Wal Seybold, Iris Clarke and stephen Spurrier, Ron Upton,Val Valentine, and many others.
I was married in second year and I was concious that we didnt have much money. Many of my works were created using secondhand or recycled materials. I have continued with that as a basis for my work ever since. I do love the challenge of creating something from material that has been disgarded.
I taught at Mortlake High school for about 6 years mainly doing woodwork, setting up metalwork and doing photography and the odd bit of graphics.I also started a family and we had 3 kids by the time we left Mortlake.
.I also started to Practice my crafts as well as at that time teachers were regarded as second class who couldn’t do, only teach so I looked for avenues to apply what I had learned. As we were a young family we didn’t have much money so I looked to use lots of recycled or under appreciated materials such as branches, sleeper offcuts and scrounged timber. I did mainly woodcraft as I was the woodwork teacher there, and I made Natural edged mirrors, Turned Boxes and Pedestals from Redgum stumps and offcuts, small hinged boxes which I sold to places in Melbourne like Ishka and Rosies, Donvale Craft Cottage, Outhouse and Fitzworks..
When we moved to live at Warragul and teach at Drouin Secondary College. I did a welding course through Warragul Tafe.( I only did a year as this was all the basics and I didn’t actually want to learn industrial techniques). As I was the metalwork teacher, I wanted to see what I could use these techniques for and I started making metal table frames for wood slabs and hence tables and seats with metal pictures done in 10mm rod on or in them.
As a teacher I was continually doing creative work with my students and they always came up with different ideas and things that challenged me to think how to help them create what they were aiming for. I also worked with creative people such as Sue Osborn, Melinda McHutchison, Di Croft and Shelley Watson Davies as well as some amazing creative students.
I also made a more concerted effort to draw consistently and bought a plain paper sketchbook (A4) which I used in staff meetings and other occasions to sketch people and things.
At one stage I thought to tidy up my junk pile by welding it “all” together and I made a large Insect form coat rack.
Someone saw it and wanted to buy it so I made some more and then started exploring what else I could make using my junk pile.
I made dogs and birds and all manner of things which I sold through the craft shops and our local market Rokeby.
Local artist Kerrie Warren, was putting together an artgroup to make work about Gippsland, tour through Victoria and go to our sister city in China with an exhibition. She asked me whether I would make work for and be part of this exhibition. I had not really considered myself an artist and her push was what I needed to step up to that role. It was interesting that I had pigeon holed myself as a teacher and craft market muddler even though I was telling my students that they could be anything they wanted. Once someone else saw that I was being creative it opened up all sorts of vistas for me and I readily embraced the title artist. That show lead to shows when we came back from China and from there on I did solo and paired shows with Sue Osborn and Helen Timbury among others.
Since then I have looked for exhibition opportunities often through Art Almanac, Rotary shows and shows in places that give me a reason to go somewhere I haven’t been. I do like a theme as it gets me thinking along different lines.
I have since retired from teaching ( at 55) so I could spend a few years working full time at this art practice. I have found lots to do initially in the form of exhibitions and was able to balance my work between the bread and butter lines of dogs and birds at markets and making orders for people and also doing my own work aiming to get an order done each week as well as a piece of my new work and maintain my market stall to a reasonable level. I did Gembrook, Rokeby , Jindivick and Warragul markets but have now ceased these all together.
One new process that has come my way is the plasma cutter and this has allowed me to draw fluid lines in metal and make shapes which I previously couldn't do.
We have done a number of trips overseas ( China, Thailand, New Zealand, Canada, and Vietnam ) and in each I have looked for inspiration for an exhibition reflecting on the culture and experience.
I keep a sketch book/scrap book of ideas inspiration, things than interest me and sketches and this is just an A4 visual diary which I fill up in about 3 months. This usually has so many possible ideas I can not get around to doing them all
As we live on a 2 acre property the work area of the shed has expanded and now I am doing bigger sculptures I have taken over the paddock beside the house block as a sculpture garden. This is almost a permanently changing exhibition and at present has around 80 sculptures in it ( of which 10 are sold and waiting for an exhibition or for people to do things to their house to set them in).
We have also built a gallery space ( Red Tree Gallery) for the smaller work . This will not only shows my work but also has small exhibitions of other peoples work and is booked up for nearly two years in advance.
I always have things to do and although I don't do much drawing and painting I do draw on occasions where I have to sit for a while, concerts, meetings and suchlike. I do the odd bit of individual tuition in welding and allow others to use my facilities in my shed and there are always people coming through or people visiting the sculpture garden and gallery. I look at instagram nearly every day for some stimulation and follow a range of illustrators, jewellers, paperworkers and ceramic artists as well as a few metal sculptors. Ideas are put down in a rough sketch in the book and when it gets full I photograph the book before getting rid of it.
Its a great life.