— observations from the Blue Mountains Design Bureau —

Lawson’s Creative Industry

When the Blue Mountains City Council revitalised the Lawson Industrial Estate a few years ago, professional artists were probably not high on their list of future tenants. Creative industries though have a historically strong presence in our region, so perhaps the fact that a few prominent Blue Mountains-based artists are starting to inhabit the Industrial Estate, is just a natural progression.

Like many others, ceramicist Jacqueline Spedding was attracted by the natural beauty of the Blue Mountains and the area’s relatively affordable housing. Having relocated to Lawson seven years ago, and then successfully completing a Masters in Fine Arts at Sydney College of the Arts in 2011, Jacqueline was keen to continue working in a shared creative studio as she had in the inner city.  To her disappointment, she discovered that the nearest established professional space was in Parramatta. Having already spent many years commuting to the city for work and study, Jacqueline quickly decided something a bit closer to her mountains home was infinitely more desirable.

Locating a warehouse overlooking the bush in the Lawson Industrial Estate prompted Jacqueline to place an ad in the local paper seeking ‘like-minded artists to share the space’. For furniture designer, Michael Hoffman, the prospect of a warmer working environment and stimulating creative company was more than sufficient motivation for him to make the move from Blackheath. Michael’s woodwork skills proved to be a valuable asset and within 3 months (with the assistance of a few mates) Michael & Jacqueline had repurposed recycled materials into internal walls and furniture, cost effectively transforming the industrial shed into a creative work space. Local artists Mandy Schoene-Salter and Linda Seiffert also signed up and pitched in, together creating Cascade St Studios.

Now established, the artists of Cascade St are busy producing a sophisticated body of work, as unique and diverse as each of the artists themselves. Jacqueline and Michael’s work will feature in the upcoming exhibition ‘Making Ground’ at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre from 23 August, 2013 – an exhibition focusing on local artists who use natural and locally found  materials in their work. Mandy was recently chosen as a finalist for the North Sydney Art Prize and In-Situ Mosman Arts Festival for site-specific artworks and is currently working towards her second solo exhibition at the Dubbo Regional Gallery in October, 2013. Linda recently won the Artist Peer award at 2013 Sculpture at Scenic World and is now preparing for a solo exhibition at The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre for their inaugural Expose’ Exhibition Program, in July/August 2014. The positive dynamic of a collective studio space teamed with our fresh mountain air is certainly proving to be an invigorating and industrious combination for these four local artists.

Jacqueline Spedding

Being a ceramicst, I have a strong sense of materiality. I am interested in exploring how we respond to materials physically, mentally and emotionally. I am also passionate about ideas and spend a lot of time researching my work. So the two are married together – thinking through materials. There are so many beautiful things in the world but for me art needs to engage the mind as well as the senses. Great art is an ongoing conversation, one that prompts questions and never settles on an answer. Beauty is definitely a strategy for engaging audiences but there needs to be something that drives it.

I have always been drawn to things that are old or breaking down – there is something about the nature of things that becomes clearer when they begin to fall apart. I work toward similar qualities in my work. I like it when things crack and crumble – I use a lot of organic material in my work to help build up and break down form. It fires out in the kiln and you get lovely echoes left in the clay. It’s endlessly fascinating. Ultimately, it is this ideas – of the interconnectedness of things – that drives me; the idea that we exist in a complex web of connections to other bodies, objects, spaces and environments, not as separate entities in our own autonomous worlds.

Michael Hoffman

I originally studied furniture design at Boxhill TAFE in Victoria. These days I work mainly on commissioned pieces for clients ranging from furniture through to sculpture and jewellery. Each of my pieces go to a home where they are loved and used on a daily basis. It is the bush that inspires me; weather beaten timbers, rusting metal, the wild, but also the contrast of this with clean lines, beautifully fared curves, finely finished surfaces - allowing the beauty in each to fit together harmoniously. I love the proximity to the bush in the mountains – how easy it is to get to truly wild places, place you can literally walk to from your back door.

Mandy Schoene-Salter

I am an interdisciplinary artist working in public art installation, photography and community art. I have exhibited across Australia and Germany (my home country) including The Photokina in Cologne, Sydney Fringe Festival and The ‘See’ Public Art show in Manly. I draw a lot from people and their stories. I am amazed at how profoundly individuals can affect the lives of those around them. I love going down to Lawson to my studio. It is quite an industrial building – a bit different to other artists studios I have seen in the Mountains –  but I like that about it. It is a great place to share ideas and I’ve got a feeling some interesting collaborations might  happen between the other resident artists in the future.

Linda Seiffert

I joined Cascade St last year at a point where I was desperate to commit to a serious creative space after years of no real studio situation, making do with cold flooding mouldy basements, kitchens tables, laundry benches & bedroom corners, no kiln etc. The studio collective is like another family. We motivate & support each other as much as possible.

My art making explores & reflects on the natural world, its intrigue & complexity – I strive to understand life by observing nature, reinterpreting organic forms & processes: animal, vegetable, mineral, elemental – growth, decay, death, transformation, metamorphosis… I want my art to ignite ones imagination & feed curiosity, to give people a sense of connecting the dots, remind us that everything is interwoven, we are part of nature. I aim to celebrate the dynamic & peculiar expressions of life & evolution. In working with ceramics I want to challenge conventions & audience perceptions of this art form. Though I love pots & make pots too, I’m fundamentally preoccupied with sculpture, abstraction, ambiguity & our experience of space & form. The importance of form, tactility & an organic aesthetic is always a strong concern in any of my work in any medium.

  WORDS: Libby Sullivan IMAGES: Camille Walsh

3 comments on “Lawson’s Creative Industry

  1. Emma Kelly on said:

    Great article Cascade Street… really looking forward to a visit!!

  2. Nic Mason on said:

    Look out – that’s a funky group of cool artist. Great article and I look forward to hearing about their creations and careers for years to come.

  3. Grace-Shanti Foulds on said:

    Great article – sounds ideallic [if not a tad cold?] for Inspiring Creations. Would love a visit if you have Open days? :D

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