Barbara stayed down an extra day on her recent trip to co-ordinate a house visit with the two Mercury staffers who created the article. Set up by Handmark Gallery to support our recent ‘Launch into Tasmania’, this is the continuation of the press and media coverage achieved for the jewellery show. Running to 5 pages – wow! We were up installing our show in Noosa last Friday when Tim Martain called to alert us to the publication, we kept it up our sleeve to see who called. Warwick noticed it in the shop at coffee time
and promptly secured two issues and has posted them up to us. Lil texted us the photos snapped and texted up from her friends, (and our clients) Emma & Ray who are living in Hobart now. Joe Leary telephoned after scanning these pages and emailed them up to us. David Kernke from Shene called to chat about ‘who said what’ and finally we talked to our project managers, Allan & Linda Cooper about the excellent coverage. I’ll post the text in its entirety when I manage to OCR the article as the Mercury only goes digital with the news headlines.
UPDATE: 12-5-2011 Annie sent us up the magazine also, it arrived in the post today, thanks!
UPDATE: 13-5-2011 Warwick’s x2 parcels arrived the same day as rescued images from Barbara’s Overland Track walk, thanks to Chris Escott and Warwick Oakman.
Project built with love - They bought it on a whim. Now it's a long-
distance renovation and it doesn't matter how long it takes.
TIM MARTAIN reports
BRISBANE jeweller Barbara Heath admitted there was not an ounce of logic involved in her decision to buy and renovate a historic sandstone property in Tasmania's Midlands.
She said it was a motivation that came straight from the heart.
"My sister and I did the Freycinet Friendly Beaches walk about six years ago and my husband, Mal, stayed with a friend of his and picked us up after the walk," she said.
"He was so excited, saying there were so many nice places here. A friend of ours in Campbell Town said we should go and have a look at this place in Tunbridge and he set it all up for us".
"As soon as I saw it I knew I loved it." But, of course, love can be blind.
"There were all these birds flying around and it looked so beautiful- later on we realised they were starlings that were nesting in the roof."
That was 2005.
Heath and her husband, graphic designer Malcolm Enright, are still living in Brisbane where they work from a home studio. But they have spent about four months of every year at their property at Tunbridge, restoring and renovating it in bite-sized pieces each time they visit. 'They plan to eventually move in full time, converting the old stables out back into their now studio.
The former Tunbridge general store, built in the 1850s, is still a long way from fully restored but it is habitable. Heath and Enright love visiting the town so much that they are happy to potter away on their pet project for as long as it takes.
"I just love the light here, it's wonderful, and such a beautiful landscape - we sort of drop in as outsiders and see it in that abstract way," Heath said.
"I'd say it's an inspiring landscape for me, visually, I just enjoy the light and the hills and the sky here in the Midlands, it's got these cloud patterns that are so dramatic and unfamiliar to us.
"And that extreme contrast to Brisbane, which is so lush and green and vegetation everywhere, and this is completely different."
The general store ceased operating in 2O00 but the building, with its long front verandah, still bears the markings of its former trade such as chewing gum and cigarette ads on the windows and faded lettering above the awning. In times past it would have been a busy trading post for trappers selling possum pelts and bushmen buying supplies of tea and flour, as well as catering to the travellers who stopped for a rest at the halfway point between Launceston and Hobart.
One of the front rooms - which is now a sitting room furnished in period style - once served as a waiting room for patients visiting the doctor during his occasional visits to the country town.
The last couple to operate the general store still live next door and Heath said they had been a rich source of knowledge about the building's history.
"I think the locals might have been hoping for a buyer to open a shop and keep that tradition going but people tend to go to Oatlands or Campbell Town now so I don't know if it would have been a sustainable business," Heath said.
"But we're certainly very conscious that we've bought a building that a lot of the town has an emotional investment in still.
"We've had so much information from the locals about the history of the place just within living memory.
"It was built by a fellow named Solomon who built a number of stone buildings around the 1850s, commercial properties that he then leased or sold.
"The Rothwell family owned it for quite a while and sometimes relatives of the old families will knock on the door and tell us about their ancestors when they had something to do with the shop."
And occasionally the oral history can be a little surprising. "One of the guys who used to live here, he told us he was born in that room up there. And I had my first root up there as well'."
The main room, once the storefront, it mostly empty now, with the richly coloured sandstone walls exposed and freshly repointed.
Heath said it might one day make a nice gallery to show the work produced in their studio but for now she, simply enjoys sitting in the uncluttered space and enjoying the light and the view.
The floorboards are original, complete with square-headed convict-made nails and tin patches covering knotholes in the wood.
Heath & Enright have wallpapered the kitchen with old newspaper they found under the old lino, dating back to the 1940s.
"It's fascinating to look back at the stories from that wartime period and even the ads are fun to read," Heath said.
It is the discovery of the mundane little things that have proven to be the most fascinating during the renovation process, such as two old-fashioned pegs found under the floorboards.
"They were handmade by a local tinker named Ma Brown, the local kids were a bit scared of her but people still remember her," Heath said.
"She had a horse and cart and used to make pegs from the willows beside the Blackman River and bits of tin scavenged from various places."
Nobody is more aware of the immense significance attached to small, ordinary items than Heath, who has had her own jewellery practice in Brisbane for 30 years.
"I do a lot of commission work. I like the collaborative aspect of that,: she said.
"A lot of artists have problems doing commissions because they think their voice is going to be diluted but I really enjoy the process. I often find I'm doing new work like that.
"And very often people will bring something they have inherited or pieces that are really sentimentally loaded and you have to capture that. Often what they want is something that can express those stories.
"Jewellery is something that has that link with generations past and handing it down to the future."
As a teenager in Melbourne, she could not wait to get out of school and making jewellery seemed to fit her needs for a vacation.
"I used to spend a lot of time with Dad in his workshop and I've always liked manual skills and making things," she said.
"I thought about architecture but I wasn't committed to long study so I got an apprenticeship with a traditional Hungarian diamond jeweller called Laszlo Puzsar in Little Collins Street when I was 17 and took it from there."
Heath now exhibits her work at Hobart's Handmark Gallery and hopes to build a local practice and network of contacts before eventually moving to Tasmania full time.
"At the moment, we live and work from our home studio in Brisbane and we have a very busy practice, so the time that we come here is an escape from that," she said.
"We spend two months here every summer and then a couple more trips throughout the year, we work on the building but we're also taking a break. We love just exploring Tassie and we have made some great friends.
"It might just be for our retirement, we want to take a step back from that and my mother came from Tasmania so I have family here too.
"My cousin said 'TUNBRIDGE'- what were you thinking? but we can connect with Hobart and Launceston, we have friend in both cities, the travelling doesn't seem like much to us. It would take you an hour to drive from one end of Brisbane to the other."
They still have a lot of work to do, most notably removing a more modern staircase from a back room and replacing it with a traditional Georgian-style staircase in its original location in the main shop front room.
"The new staircase has spoiled that room and it's spoiled the roofline at the back where they had to change it to fit," Heath said.
They have already left their own mark on the place by tracing and painting their own shadows onto the garden shed out back to immortalise their efforts taming the overgrown yard.
And when they create their new studio in the old stables, they are considering a tribute to Tunbridge's horse racing history.
"There was a famous pacer born here called Golden Alley, he was a national winner, so calling the studio Golden Alley could be nice," Heath said.
Saturday Magazine - The mercury, May 2 2011
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