Kempton: went there last week. Just an impromptu visit. We’d heard Dysart House, the grand, historic home of food and wine writer Leo Schofield was for sale. So we thought we’d swing by, write a cheque and buy the 9-bedroom Heritage Highway mansion. Obviously that’s not true! We were really on a mission to visit a new venture just launched by local resident Karen Collyer-Christmas. And yes… that is her real name!
Kempton: Heritage Houses, Sheep Grazing… and a Gallery!
The township of Kempton is a quaint village just off the Midland Highway. Originally settled in 1821 as Green Ponds, the current population runs to a couple of hundred residents. Sheep graze the plains and hillsides surrounding the town, which is about 50kms north of Hobart.
Part of the southern midlands, Kempton could be missed by those travelling between Hobart and Launceston. But Karen, who has just finished a psychology degree, has given people another reason to make the detour.
Gallery Kempton: Everything Old is New Again
The tiny green building housing Gallery Kempton in the main street has a history of its own. It was once a home for a widower raising four young children; and once an antique store. A duo of barber and shoemaker have also claimed the building. But now it’s the perfect space for Karen Collyer-Christmas and her band of arty colleagues to exhibit and sell their work.
When I met with Karen, she was still excited about the gallery’s successful opening night. Attended by the Minister for Tourism (Scott Bacon) and a gathering of friends and supporters, it was the perfect way to launch a new business.
Karen Collyer-Christmas: Goals for the Gallery
Very passionate about her craft, which includes making collectible bears, Karen is also keen to support other talented designers and makers. She sent me this lovely note about her aims for the future…
I am so excited that you are writing an article about the gallery!
Although the business is called Gallery Kempton, and it is a gallery, it is also very much a gift shop. Everything for sale is made in Tasmania, but we have worked hard to provide items for sale that anyone can afford. The challenge is to provide art at accessible prices whilst ensuring the artists are able to make a decent living from their work.
The goal of the gallery is to provide relatively informal gallery space, with some pieces that are highly collectible and expensive, and many pieces that are equally beautiful but very affordable. The cheapest handmade item in the gallery is a bear handbag for girls at $12.
Over time I would like to display art works by the local kids, and to develop a gallery and gift shop that local people can afford and want to shop at as much as tourists and those passing through. A few local kids came in for a look today, and I was absolutely touched by how respectful and polite they were!
One was very keen to buy some of Donna’s jewellery for his mother; another was interested in my explanation that some bears cost $15 and others a lot more, because they vary according to how long they take to make. He thought about it and said “well, that makes sense, you need to eat!”
Designers Exhibiting at Gallery Kempton…
Talented young photographer Ceri Brose from Colebrook Tasmania. The prints on canvas by CezB Photography are amazing. They appear to be a cross between a photo and a painting. It must have been difficult for Ceri to choose which photos to display; but the ones she did select will surely sell quickly.
A unique shot of the Callington Mill in Oatlands; a fire escape and graffiti-covered wall taken in the Hobart CBD; and a beach scene… some of my favourites. Tim Ferguson (Doug Anthony All Stars) has a landscape photograph by Ceri hanging on his wall.
Jewellery artist Donna Griggs from the east coast of Tasmania. The jewellery collection by Seaside Expressions is hand crafted using polymer clay and designed by Donna. She has arranged some of her brightly coloured bangles (which sell for $39) on a chain, with a style and colour to brighten any ensemble!
Doll-making expert, Janelle Woodward from Hobart Tasmania. Sitting demurely in the corner of Gallery Kempton, you will find some pretty handmade dolls. The dolls have wonderful expressions on their little faces, and come dressed in a range of frocks to delight any collector. And Janelle doesn’t just make Nelly Dolls. She is also the force behind Silk and Tulle, and offers bridal dress making, veils and a budget line of bridal wear for all sizes.
Local artist Kelly Figgel of Brighton Tasmania. The gallery has a selection of Christmas stockings available right now, just in time for Christmas. Handmade by Kelly, the stockings are a riot of patchwork squares. I’m sure this talented artist will be frantically working on another project for the post-Christmas period (in fact, there are now bags available as well).
Kenn and Adrienne of Tasmanian Wood Jewellery will have some of their jewellery pieces in the gallery by the time this article is published.
Karen Collyer-Christmas, the bear-making Queen of Kempton, obviously has her own work on display too. She says this about an intricate, handmade witch hanging over the counter of the gallery…
the witch is Matilda, she is the first of a range of ‘Sunburnt Witches’, whose job it is to repair the damage done to Tasmania’s environment. Matilda is hand sculpted from merino wool, and is for sale at $485. Matilda takes about three days to make!
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