Traipsing the Victorian goldfields with his father in the 1960s, a young Ron Fitzpatrick could never have known how those gold hunting jaunts would influence an art show at Hartley, NSW, in November 2019.
The Blackheath metal artist’s show, Adorn, at Hartley Historic Site, blurs the line between jewellery and sculpture by upscaling jewellery designs into forged iron sculptural pieces incorporating semi-precious gems and opals.
Every time I go prospecting or to a gem fare I think of my dad,’’ Ron says.He had one of the first metal detectors around. He actually made himself a special tripod with a winch on it so he could lower himself down mine shafts.
“When I was young I was interested in being a gemstone dealer and a jeweller. It’s like its coming full circle and melding into my forged work.’’
Ron’s artistic journey began at school with a teacher who taught mechanics and metal skills. He left school for a fitter and turner apprenticeship at age 15.
During a trip around America when he was 20, Ron “met this guy in San Francisco who made the most amazing handmade knives, just beautiful – all etched on the blades’’.
On his return, Ron opened a shop in Caulfield, Melbourne, in the 1980s and sold the knives and Thai Chi dancing swords he made.
“It was a pretty tumultuous kind of time in my life and I probably didn’t have the discipline and the life skills and marketing skills needed, so I didn’t pursue that.’’
Ron next took up tree surgery work, travelled to India, worked as a cook, then got a job installing security grills, where he was introduced to the wrought iron work he is renowned for.
Today, in an old woolshed clinging to the side of a hill overlooking a clutch of sandstone colonial buildings, the circle meets at Talisman Gallery.
But this time, Ron has brought to the forge the experience and skills needed to understand the metal and coax it into the shapes of beauty and art from his imagination.
“It feels like the older you get, the more you gravitate towards what’s in your soul,’’ he says.
Ron’s work has changed tack several times since he opened Talisman Gallery at Hartley.
There was wrought iron pieces, polished dragons and mirrors. Then came the exploration of driftwood and large coloured glass garden sculptures.
Through it all have been recurring themes – gemstones, ammonites and nautilus shells, Fibonacci spirals and the Balinese jewellery he imports.
So the upscale jewellery concept for the Adorn range was no great stretch.
Meaning “to decorate or add beauty to, as by ornaments’’, the Adorn pieces are embellishments for the house or environment in the way that small-scale jewellery is for the body.
The new pieces show Ron’s experimentation with gemstones such as labradorite, moonstone, tiger’s eye and opal.
Their shapes reveal the feminine balance of fine jewellery design with the masculine of metal and scale – “the balance we’re all looking at in ourselves ‘’.
The new range also shows Ron’s new skills like splitting metal to make fine features such as strands of hair, feathers or claws.
“Every time I teach myself a new skill, it opens me up to a new piece in a new direction and new design possibilities,’’ Ron says.
Adorn will be held in the historic Corney’s Garage below Talisman Gallery throughout the November 30-December 1 weekend, with an official opening at 2pm on the Saturday.
Talisman Gallery at Hartley historic village, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west) is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday. Details: Ron 0407 723 722, email@example.com or the Facebook page @Talisman Gallery Hartley.
Create your own piece of art on the anvil by beating red hot steel into the shape at a guided workshop. Cost: fire poker $45, decorative wall hook $60, sculpture $65, additional element costs vary. A great family activity available to anyone aged 13 years and older on December 28 & 29. The 2-hour Creative Fire experience is also available as a couples’ workshop activity anytime at the special price of $275 per couple until February 15, 2020. Bookings essential. Gift vouchers also available.
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