After I retired from the showbiz life I returned to the studio.
I entered every show, every competition, said yes to everything!
I applied to the Australia Council for a professional development grant to make life-sized ceramic furniture.
I was awarded the grant – I had asked for $1,600.
When the Meat Market Craft Centre began in North Melbourne I held the first solo exhibition there in the Blackwood Street Gallery.
I learnt about making the show, publicizing a show, setting up a show. The opening, manning the exhibition and selling the work.
It was hard work and I resolved never to do that again!
I made the ceramic furniture – the Chest of Drawers was acquired by the Shepparton Art Museum to join their collection of Australian Ceramics.
Ken Scarlett, the director of the Gryphon Gallery, Melbourne State College, bought “Stemmed Creature” for the Victorian State Craft Collection, and offered me a show with Pamela Irving at the Gryphon Gallery.
Works were bought for the Ballarat Art gallery and the Geelong Art Gallery.
After that show, Christine Abrahams offered me a show of paintings at her gallery in Richmond.
I made the paintings and also “snuck” in a few large ceramic sculptures. “Long Tall Sally” was bought by the NGV, and “Person with Pink Torso” was bought by the ANG. Of course I was thrilled!
In 1985, I applied for and was awarded a travel grant from the Australia Council. I travelled to Europe where I studied Outsider Artists and art.
I spent 9 months in Italy, Holland, France and Spain.
And while I was travelling, a letter came to me from Geoffrey Edwards, Curator of Sculpture and Glass at the NGV, asking if I’d be interested in making a sculpture for the South Moat on St Kilda Road of the National Gallery of Victoria.
I thought they’d made a mistake! I was very surprised. And I wasn’t sure if I had what was required to fulfill such an opportunity.
I came home, still unsure. My friend, Charles Green, recommended a course – called the Forum at that time – as a way to consider all possibilities. Which would then allow me to choose powerfully either way.
I considered that I could say “no”, and to let another more experienced person have the opportunity. I would then return to my already successful life.
Then I considered saying “yes”. If I said yes I would have to go where I had never been before.
The opportunity was to profoundly impact the experience of people passing by the NGV building and their experience of art, and of people visiting the NGV and their experience of the work inside. Children visiting would be impacted by whatever I provided for them.
I considered that the sculpture would have to blow people’s minds!
It would have to be engaging, inviting, accessible, approachable, inspiring, and be able to be interpreted by different people in different ways.
It would be a guardian piece for the gallery and for the City of Melbourne.
A guardian angel. “Angel”.
And I would have to give 100% and to not know what that would look like.
So I said “YES”. And 3 years of straight-up learning curve began.
Work began in 1987 in a shed in the customs area on the Melbourne docks – before Docklands was created.
In 1989 Angel was installed in the moat on a misty Sunday morning. It took 6 weeks to complete the installation of the work in the moat.
At the Spoleto Festival the work was unveiled – ie. the lights were turned on.