The start of things

You might wonder why I have titled this article The Start of Things. The reason is simply that despite all my past experiences in various branches of the arts, 2015 was a momentous year for my personal artistic practice. I took long service leave from my teaching job during Term 1 and worked in my little home laundry/darkroom making Cyanotypes from December 2014 to March. I began making Cyanotypes approximately 5 years ago after attending a workshop on the process at Gold Street Studios in the tiny country town of Trentham East at the home and studio of Ellie and Alan Young. I have been teaching art for 15 years and photography for 12 years but this workshop really ignited my passion for alternative processes and in particular the ‘blue print’. Here is an article I wrote about my darkroom (and the large one I manage at my school) written for The Large Format Blog.

I booked an exhibition space at Ballarat International Foto Biennale during that term off and finished a series of prints which I called Hard Light. One of my works was selected for 'Light Sensitive' a curated exhibition of alternative photography at Art Intersection, Gilbert, Arizona, USA during March. I also had a mention in an article published in the Phoenix New Times about the exhibition. 


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By April I was teaching again full time. Things started hotting up as September approached and the launch of my first solo show of Cyanotypes at CoachHouse Ale in Ballarat. The Ballarat International Foto Biennale is a major program of exhibitions and related events throughout the city by local and international photographers.  I was showing 21 pieces in a small but excellent space at CoachHouse Ale, a boutique beer retail business operated by the Anthony Perovic (a very engaging and knowledgable beer afficionado and a wonderful supporter of my work) in an historic building near Ballarat Station. 


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Anthony commissioned me to make a cyanotype of the old coach house with references to its past history as head office for a railway cargo shipping company. This is now displayed in his shop.   


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Leading up to the exhibition I translated a digital photograph of one of my Cyanotype artworks into a design for a scarf. Finding a small scale textile printer was a challenge but after some research and a recommendation, I had a limited edition of silk crepe de chine scarves printed at The Social Studio in Collingwood. The Social Studio operates as a non-profit social enterprise providing training, experience and employment opportunities in the clothing and hospitalty trades for refugees. They did an amazing job of printing and finishing the scarves. All of my profits from sales of the scarves will be donated to McAuley Community Services for Women who provide safe housing and essential services for women and children escaping family violence. An issue very close to my heart. My mother, three brothers, sister and I were victims of the violence of my father throughout the 20 years of my parents marriage.  The scarves are now available for sale at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art giftshop and will soon be available at other art gallery giftshops. 


My very talented and supportive husband, Pete, designed beautiful flyers and a poster for my exhibition, which, opened on Sunday 23rd August to an appreciative and enthusiastic audience of friends and family. Five artworks were sold and several of the limited edition silk scarves also sold. One of my prints, Constant Upheaval, was chosen to be included in the Fringe Revolution calendar showcasing photographic  works by twelve of the Fringe Festival participants. A  suprise and an honour. 

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During the festival I had glowing feedback about my work from portfolio reviewers, other festival participants and visitors to the festival. I made many excellents contacts and came away from the whole experience feeling validated and confident about the path my work was taking. In December I entered an on-line photography competition through Lens Culture.  Lens Culture is a highly regarded on-line Photography magazine. Although I was not selected to be one of the 50 World’s Best Emerging Photographers I received positive feedback (See reviews) and was included in their gallery of shortlisted participants.


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It was a very rewarding year. As I prepare to return to work after summer holidays during which I set up a home studio with my etching press, computer, scanner, printer, benches and storage space - still trying to find plan press drawers! - I have also researched and approached retail outlets to sell my scarves and have created this website. I look forward to another year of challenges and opportunities. One challenge will be to continue to find time for my own creative works at the same time as having increased responsibilities in my new role as assistant head of my department. My creative friends on social media often discuss the dilemma of developing creative work for little money while needing to make a living. I feel very fortunate to have a great job teaching art and photography (with its own creative outlets in curriculum and lesson planning), a wonderfully inspiring voluntary job giving public tours at the beautiful contemporary australian art museum Tarrawarra Museum of Art and the energy, space and resources to make my own works, even if only part time. 

Life is good. Onwards and upwards!

© Wendy Catling