Tag Archives: The Makers Shed

A painter’s perseverance

“I think I always was an artist, it just took a long time for ‘it’ to flourish.”

AFTER MORE THAN twenty years living and working in the New England region, Danish-born artist Marianne la Cour shared her sense of place in an exhibition of new work at Glen Innes throughout Spring.

“I finally feel a strong connection to this area,” she says. “As with most migrants, it takes a while to feel a part of a new place, to get a sense of belonging. It wasn’t really until I moved to the countryside that I found that connection”.

“I would find it hard to live anywhere else. I love this region, its seasons, its nature and its people. They have all been a part of changing me to whom I am today. I feel so lucky to have found this place.”

Having grown up with an appreciation of abstract art, design processes and handmade principles, Marianne says she is “deeply influenced” by her cultural heritage and many northern European painters.

“I am a great fan of Danish painters Per Kirkeby, Maja Lisa Engelhardt and Mogens Andersen, to name a few,” Marianne says. She also cites Australian painters Elizabeth Cummings, Ann Thompson, Sally Gabori, Angus Nivison and Ross Laurie as sources of inspiration.

MAKER’S MARK Marianne la Cour utilises acrylic paint and pastel.

Describing her creative journey as “long and winding”, Marianne was encouraged by her mother and grandmothers. “In my younger years I wanted to be a ceramicist and an author. Later, I wanted to be an architect, but none of that happened. In Denmark, as education was paid by the government, they would only let in a certain amount of students every year to the art school and the academy of architecture”.

“I tried several times, but never got in. Instead, I ended up in a bank, which was testing for my creative mind; but later in life it proved a very beneficial education to have when running a small business. When I moved to Australia in my thirties, I decided now was the time and I immersed myself in TAFE courses and workshops, and I have never looked back.”

According to Marianne, being a practising artist in the 21st century takes hard work, time and perseverance.

“It’s a lot easier now with the internet and social media, but when I started many years ago it was almost impossible for a country artist to get a foot in the door. Rocking up with your portfolio to art galleries was tough. Sometimes you got lucky but mostly it was just a disappointment.

“Today you cannot run an art business or a creative business without a presence on social media and websites. You are essentially doing all the work the gallery owners used to do for you. More than fifty percent of my time is dedicated to having a presence on the internet, and you still have to get out there and put your work in competitions and organise exhibitions. You also have to learn to write, take good photos and constantly keep up with the technology.”

When asked about what made her stick to her dream despite the obstacles, Marianne says: “I think I always was an artist, it just took a long time for ‘it’ to flourish. When I moved to Australia, becoming an artist was my ultimate goal, and I never lost sight of that. I did a lot of other things as well to keep bread on the table, but every opportunity I had to create, I took”.

“That’s what I mean about perseverance. I keep my hands busy and my mind open. I started out small and stayed small. That just fitted best into my lifestyle, which is very important to me.”

Marianne’s 2019 exhibition ‘Landliv’ (literally ‘rural life’ in Danish) ran at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes until the end of November.

“This body of work is executed with acrylic paint,” she says. “I have also used ink, charcoal and pastel and in some of the paintings I have used fabric and paper. I have always been drawn to mixed media and collage, and quite often it finds it way into my paintings.”

Through her online business Colours on Grey, Marianne promotes regular creative workshops at her inspiring rural-set studio just outside Glen Innes.

“I love to share my skills, my way of painting and I suppose my way of looking at art,” she says. “I want it to be easy and simple for participants. When I teach, I really try to simplify things and make sure they have something to be happy about by the end of the workshop. If they leave frustrated they are never going to give it a go at home, and I am a firm believer that we all need a little bit of creativity in our lives.”

This article first appeared in New England Living magazine.

The year of independent reading

Wonderful things happen when you open a bookshop. Ours started as a single set of shelves in one corner of the studio-gallery my husband and I created, The Makers Shed at Glen Innes in the NSW New England region. A year on, we’ve expanded, and we’re about to present our first literary award.

But it didn’t just happen by accident. Our resident High Country Book Club courageously joined us on a reading project with a purpose: to decide the best book in a year’s worth of independently-published reads.

When we started out, Richard and I found ourselves explaining a lot about indie books, but these days we barely mention that these titles have not been backed by a traditional publishing/marketing team. This is mainly because what readers want out of a book is the same thing no matter where it sprang from, and that’s a well-told story.

The club kicked off with a visit from London-based author Patsy Trench, who’d come to chat about her new non-fiction title A Country To Be Reckoned With.

This title is Patsy’s search for her great-great grandfather George Matcham Pitt, one of Australia’s earliest stock and station agents. The journey of discovery sheds an engaging new light on the European heritage of Australia.

We moved onto fiction for our next read. New Zealander Jenni Ogden’s acclaimed debut novel A Drop in the Ocean is set predominantly on an island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It’s the story of an high-achieving American academic who hits rock bottom and decides to relocate to the other side of the world to work at a remote turtle sanctuary. It took me by surprise with its memorable castaways working out their lives on the edge of an ocean wilderness.

The ocean was a major theme of our next title, Nothing But Blue, by American author Diane Meyer Lowman.

The true story of her adventure while working on a German container ship as it sailed from New York to Australia and New Zealand in the late Seventies, this book bravely recreated the perspective of a 19-year-old thrust into several alien environments.

Nothing But Blue and A Drop in the Ocean were published by She Writes Press, one of the world’s biggest joint-venture publishing outfits assisting women to get their manuscripts published.

Australian author Kim Kelly paid us a visit in March to chat about her novel Lady Bird & The Fox and explained how creating the Indigenous protagonist of her book – Annie Bird – also encouraged her to courageously self-publish. After having her first few works published traditionally, Kim sensed her Gold Rush heroine might have languished while waiting for a publisher with enough courage in this #OwnVoices world.

The true story of a beloved dog who endured a spinal stroke was our next read. Nobody Told Me My Legs Don’t Work is a memoir with a difference by American writer Travis C. Yates.

A short but emotional ride, this publication sparked plenty of debate about animal rights and the ethics of domestic animal ownership.

Infants of the Brush by A. M. Watson is an historical fiction that recreates a real-life Eighteenth Century legal case and the gritty, challenging world of the boy chimney sweeps of London.

Amy kindly made us a video outlining the broad research she conducted which underpins the historical accuracy in her novel.

Euan Mitchell’s Feral Tracks brought us all back home with an Australian story about a teenager who leaves homes with a few dollars and some big issues to sort out on the road, as he hitchhikes across the country in search of purpose.

One of Australia’s most enduring self-published titles, this work was a confronting study of manhood in some tough Aussie environments.

English author William Blyghton provided plenty of contrast in his debut novel The House By The Marsh, which is also a study of manhood, but in a very different environment.

A story of grief late in life, this tale of human connection is set in several corners of evocative East Anglia, a county that we discovered was the birthplace of many novels, from works by Patricia Highsmith to Janet Frame.

We stayed in England for our read of Virginia Moffatt’s Echo Hall, a work of historical fiction set across multiple time periods in and around the same imposing home in another remote county of the United Kingdom.

With its ruminations on war and pacifism, Virginia’s intriguing, layered work explores the motivations of several families and their experiences of conflict, both domestic and between nations.

One of our country’s great marriage equality campaigners penned our next read, a very Australian read about human rights.

Shelley Argent’s memoir Just A Mum tells the story of her Brisbane upbringing and explores how this suburban wife and mother became an equality activist in the wake of one son’s coming out, and pushed this necessary social reform all the way to the gripping finale in Australia’s Parliament House.

We ended the year reading The Moor by English author Sam Haysom, a mystery story replete with characters facing enormous moral choices in and around a deceivingly simple wilderness walk.

Another intriguing debut novel, Sam’s book was created during 2015’s NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month), and published through Unbound. This crowdfunding publisher assists writers in bringing their ideas into life in book form, and is also the stable that Echo Hall sprang from.

All High Country Book Club titles are available for purchase from The Makers Shed, and can be posted to readers within Australia. Browse our online bookshop.

Congratulations to all the finalists in 2019… we’ve been thrilled, frightened, inspired, moved, angered, entertained and encouraged to keep reading by your engaging works of fiction and non-fiction.

Trophy handmade by Richard Moon.

The winner of the High Country Indie Book Award 2019 will be announced during the High Country Writers Festival on Saturday November 30, from 4 to 6pm at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes, NSW, Australia. All welcome!

North Star artist set to shine

“It was such a relief to finally be able to devote most of my time to painting.”

ART lovers at Inverell’s town gallery noticed a vibrant new palette in two popular 2018 group shows: the colourful, highly organic work of Kate Owen.

One of her bold abstract canvases took home an Inverell Art Prize award, and another was acquired by the gallery during its contemporary exhibition. Yet despite this flush of attention it’s been a long journey back to the canvas for this North Star artist.

And now, she’s about to open her first solo exhibition at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes, as the centrepiece of the High Country Handmade Showcase.

“I have always been ‘arty’ as have my two sisters,” Kate said.

“We all created art from a young age and I did art all the way through high school, earning the art prize in my senior year in 1988.

“I went on to do fashion design at college in Sydney and work in the industry for quite a few years before opening my own business in Moree designing and making bridal gowns and special occasion clothing.”

Not long after the turn of the millennium, Kate embarked on large-scale oil paintings, but admits to putting the brushes down when she “got busy with children”.

Her creative outlet as a young mother was through running gift, homewares and café businesses at Goondiwindi.

“I have always done something with a creative bent, however, I knew one day I would get back to my art,” she said.

“Along the way I did a few workshops here and there, mostly in acrylics in order to teach myself how to use them as the practical side of me liked the fact that they dry fast and are easy to clean up!

“A few years ago I made a promise to myself that I would get back to painting when my youngest son went away to boarding school and I no longer had children at home.”

That was at the start of 2017, and ever since Kate has devoted as much time to her art as possible in order to improve and evolve her work.

“It was such a relief to finally be able to devote most of my time to painting, if only to free my mind of all the stored up ideas and express them on the canvas,” she said. 

Life of its own

When asked about her painting technique, Kate said she leaves a lot to happenstance.

“I try hard not to concern myself with the final outcome before starting, because ultimately it is the process in getting there that creates the outcome which is never apparent to me from the start,” she said.

“Some paintings have many layers beneath which gives the final work more complexity, especially when glimpses of previous layers are left.

“I also love collage, I never throw away any bit of painted paper that could just be perfect at some stage for a particular work.”

Kate admits to being inspired by French painter Henri Matisse, a master at fluid form and bold use of highly-saturated colour. She’s also long been a fan of American illustrator Eric Carle’s The Hungry Caterpillar.

“When I want to create a body of work that has a particular theme I print pictures of photos I have taken and choose images that have particularly strong shapes,” she said.

“I look at these then put them away and then go to work on the canvas with just the memory of what I’ve seen.

“This is a technique I learned from Catherine Cassidy who I greatly admire. I was lucky enough to do a workshop with her in Sydney last August.”

COLLAGE COLOUR ‘Oasis’ (detail) by Kate Owen.

A particular inspiration for Kate is Elisabeth Cummings, the multi award-winning and highly collectible Australian artist.

“Her use of colour, line, texture and scratching back creates incredibly in-depth work,” Kate said.

“She states: ‘When I get going the painting has its own life and starts demanding certain things of itself’.”

“This resonates with me completely as often I feel that the painting controls me and not the other way around.”

Kate Owen’s solo exhibition The Happenings opens at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes, at the High Country Handmade Showcase, March 3.

Feature image by Grace Cobb.