Peter Calabria – Artisans Expo

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Artisans Retreat is set on five acres of verdant dairy country in Mondrook (near Tinonee). The weekend retreat and artisans’ haven provides a myriad of specialist workshop experiences, including woodturning, fabric painting, jewellery making, plus children’s workshops.

In February, Artisans Retreat is hosting a three-day Expo, which includes world-class demonstrations with highly skilled artisans, plus providing an opportunity to engage with suppliers and learn about working with wood and many other materials.

The exceptional calibre of artisans participating in the Expo include Doug Moseley (blacksmith), Peter Minson (glass blower), Warren Targett (luthier), Anne Mitchell (fabric designer) and Alan Williams (sculptural wooden boxes)…

FOCUS caught up with Peter Calabria, who with his wife, Christine, created Artisans Retreat, to find out about the Expo.

Artisans Expo is in its second year – why was the Expo established?

The first Artisans Expo was established last year to fill a void left by the demise of the long running February Newcastle Woodworking Show.

Artisans Expo gives North Coast and New England residents the chance to chat to talented artisans, see how they work and hopefully become inspired to challenge themselves to give these crafts a try.

We also wanted to create an Expo that would appeal to a wide audience – the whole family can find something of interest going on.

There will even be some opportunity to be ‘hands on’ with some of the exhibitors and demonstrators.

What can people expect to experience at the three-day Expo?

Artisans Expo will be 3 days of mind-boggling displays of skills and crafts, many of which are being lost in this technological age.

At the Expo, there will also be suppliers of specialty craft equipment and consumables, BBQ tent, coffee lounge, and of course, Artisans Retreat’s amazing Gallery will also be open.

Tell us about some of the demonstrations taking place:

Many of the exhibitors will be demonstrating their crafts.

Doug Moseley, the blacksmith, will be operating his forge, creating functional and decorative pieces, including tools.

Furniture maker extraordinaire, Howard Archbold, will be creating an English Windsor chair from a new fallen log, using only hand tools (some of which he created himself) and a pole lathe.

Peter Minson, third-generation glass blower, will be turning rods of glass into magnificent pieces, from glasses to oil lamps or flowers to candelabrum.

Colen Clenton will be there with his hand crafted precision-made woodworking tools. His tools are in high demand worldwide.

Anne Mitchell, co-owner and inventor of Genesis Creations fabric paints and a teacher of fabric design for over forty years, will be demonstrating the multiple uses of these incredible paints.

Alan Williams, the best band-sawn boxmaker in Australia, will be showing us how to create an amazing sculpted example from one piece of timber.

Warren Targett is an amazing luthier and musician. He will bring some of his creations with him and also show how he builds and plays these great guitars.

We must not forget my wife, Christine, who will be demonstrating the magic of Precious Metal Clay – creating pure silver pieces of jewellery from a lump of ‘clay’!

Several of these artisans will not only demonstrate at the Expo, but will stay on and teach ‘hands on’ classes in the week following.

Anne Mitchell will be running a beginners’ and an advanced fabric design workshop over two days.

Alan Williams will divulge his secrets in a 2-day workshop.

Peter Minson will have students playing with molten glass.

Define what an artisan does:

An Artisan is defined as ‘a skilled person who makes things with his or her hands’.

Artisans have traditionally made practical pieces – bridges and buildings from stone, home wares and houses from wood, dresses and furnishings from fabric, bottles and windows from glass.

Thankfully we still require many artisans – making food, buildings, tools, and keeping industry functioning and developing.

With less demand for the purely practical due to technology, many artisans today are able to experiment and create ‘functional art’ – things of beauty which still serve a practical purpose.

This ‘functional art’ is the prime focus at Artisans Retreat. We run a range of craft workshops all year round that allow participants to ‘have a go’ at a new craft and then develop their skills to a level of their choosing. The craft classes include Woodturning, Precious Metal Clay, Fabric Painting, Kiln-formed Glass, and Candle Making.

When someone wants to do one of these, we book them ‘on demand’! As well, our Artisans Gallery contains the ‘functional’ and decorative artisan pieces of over 40 different artisans.

What precisely is woodturning, and what are the qualities of a great woodworker?

Woodturning is a form of woodworking that is used to create wooden objects on a lathe and differs from most other forms of woodworking in that the wood is moving while a stationary tool is used to cut and shape it.

I love teaching woodturning, because anyone can do it and finished pieces can be created in a very short time. New students in my beginners’ class will make a bowl in their first day!

A great woodworker will let the wood tell them what should be done. A wonderful, organic material, no two pieces of wood are exactly the same. A great woodworker will exploit those differences, resulting in exquisite, unique pieces. They will also have patience and superb attention to detail.

On a personal level, you create ‘functional art’. What does this mean?

I like the pieces I make to be used, not just displayed on a shelf or in a cupboard. For example, my glass platters are made dishwasher safe, combining pleasing design with functional properties. My wooden bowls, pens, earring stands etc. all have a functional purpose. Even the silver jewellery and silk scarves made by Christine serve a practical purpose.

Is the Artisans Expo suitable for people studying art or industrial technology, and can school students attend?

The reason Artisans Expo is held over three days, including a Friday, is to give schools an opportunity to bring students studying those subjects to gain first hand knowledge and ideas from some of the best artisans in Australia.

Because we want students to attend, entry to the Expo this year is free for everyone, and we have made special consideration for bus and coach access. (It helps a lot if these groups can book an arrival time with us).

If students cannot come as a school group on the Friday, we would encourage them to attend as a family on the weekend. To our knowledge, there has never been such a diverse collection of talent and suppliers willing to pass on their secrets in this area.

Thanks Peter.

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