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Blue Mountains artist Warwick Fuller: In search of light

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By Ellen Hill for Lost Bear Gallery                   Photos: David Hill

A summer breeze softly brushes against Warwick Fuller’s neck and pulls at straggly bits of hair sticking out from beneath his trademark hat.

The incessant buzz of countless cicadas pulses the air.

Warwick8His faithful red kelpie, Digger, gives him a lovesick sideward glance, whining in contentment, too lethargic to bark at the maggies squabbling in the trees.

Fuller shifts his position and the sticks crunch softly under his boots. He absent-mindedly wipes his paint-spattered fingers on his trousers, leaving multi-coloured smudges on the fabric.

His paintbrush moves frenetically across the canvass, desperately punching and prodding, sweeping and sliding the colour into shapes.

Digger sniffs the breeze and catches a waft of eucalyptus oil released into the atmosphere by the scorching sun. He heaves himself to his feet with a sigh, his snout high and picking up a hint of wattle, kangaroo dung and a neighbour’s barbecue.

What is it, Digs?’’ Fuller coos quietly.It’s just a rabbit. You’ll be right.’’

The old dog grunts suspiciously and flops back down to the ground, his weary head resting on his paws.

Fuller takes a step back.

Warwick6He absorbs the scene with all senses awake: the great boulders plonked 50 feet from his back door, the course Aussie scrub, the rickety wooden gate he knocked up years ago, the rugged crags in the distance and the clouds skating across the sky.

Encompassing it all is the light.

Fuller glances at the canvass, satisfied. He has frozen this moment in perfect detail.

When I paint I like to have all my senses activated,’’ he said.I interpret the landscape differently if there’s birds singing or aeroplanes soaring overhead. If I smell the summer grass it just puts me in a different mental state and that’s going to affect the way I paint. I stay in total concentration so I can absorb all those things while I’m painting.

Warwick5“If I can quote myself: `How can I paint a frost if I don’t have cold feet?’ ‘’

One of Australia’s most respected plein air painters and a Fellow of the Royal Arts Society, Warwick Fuller has painted the Australian landscape for more than 35 years, during which time he has built a solid reputation through more than 60 solo exhibitions and numerous awards and accolades.

After living at Emu Plains for 30 years (he remains patron of Nepean Art Society), Fuller and his late wife Wendy moved to the Kanimbla Valley near Lithgow 18 years ago, just a short distance from where his ancestors Edward and Harriet Fuller settled in 1839.

“This country has a rugged beauty and the weather is fairly volatile here, which makes for interesting landscape, being on the edge of the Dividing Range.’’

Fuller travels around the country often on painting trips and when at home is inspired by the jaw-dropping landscape. He has an easel permanently set up on the back verandah. Pick up any catalogue of any Warwick Fuller exhibition in the past 18 years and there will be that scene.

But it’s not a changing landscape he’s after.

Warwick 1“The real essence of what I’m trying to create in my paintings is trying to interpret what I see and paint my emotional responses to that. It’s more than just getting the right colours and tone. It’s the light that inspires me.’’

Used to working at a furious speed to capture a scene, Fuller was not fazed by the unrelenting pace of the Australian tour of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall in November.

Fuller was the official tour artist for the Royal couple, as he was during their 2012 tour.

A dozen works he painted during the tour will be exhibited at Lost Bear Gallery from February 1 to 15. The non-commercial exhibition will be an opportunity for art lovers to view Fuller’s paintings before they leave Australia.

Warwick11The works depict scenes captured by Fuller when the Royal couple visited Tanunda near Adelaide, the national War Memorial in Canberra for the Remembrance Day ceremony and Sydney, where Fuller painted the world-famous Sydney Harbour featuring the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House as seen from Admiralty House.

An accomplished watercolourist himself, The Prince often chooses an artist to join him on tours as a way of supporting the arts and in appreciation of the unique perspective that an artist can provide.

Fuller said he was free to paint the subjects and in the style he wanted.

“There was no expectation. His Royal Highness asked me to go on tour with him because he liked my work and knew what I painted, and that’s the last thing he asked.’’

Warwick9While he only had two opportunities to talk with the Prince, the second occasion at Admiralty House in Sydney was a lengthy 15 minutes, during which Prince Charles talked about artist Edward Seago, who he met as a child and who toured with his father the Duke of Edinburgh to Antarctica on the Britannia.

The pair were then joined by the Duchess and chatted for a further 10 minutes about Fuller’s artworks he had produced during the tour.

While the Prince will formally exercise his right to first option to the paintings, the Royal couple has already expressed interest in several.

“He was very enthusiastic about the work,’’ Fuller said.

Lost Bear Gallery director Geoff White adjusts the light on a Warwick Fuller work

Lost Bear Gallery director Geoff White adjusts the light on a Warwick Fuller work

Paintings acquired by the Prince will become part of the Royal Collection when he ascends the throne. Fuller will also gift Prince Charles a work.

Artworks produced during the Royal tour will form the special exhibition at Lost Bear Gallery, along with several larger works developed from smaller studies painted on tour.

Warwick Fuller’s Royal tour collection will be displayed at Lost Bear Gallery, 98 Lurline St, Katoomba, from 10am to 5pm daily from February 1 to 15. Details: (02) 4782 1220 or lostbeargallery.com.au.

  • Warwick Fuller and Lost Bear Gallery are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media and Headline PublicityWarwick11

Lithgow: Artist shines light on Royal tour

 

 

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Lost Bear Gallery director Geoff White adjusts the lighting on a Warwick Fuller artwork

By Ellen Hill for Lost Bear Gallery               Photos: David Hill

Experience the recent Australian tour of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall through the eyes of official tour artist Warwick Fuller in Katoomba next month.

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Plein air artist Warwick Fuller at work

A dozen works painted by the Blue Mountains artist during the November tour will be exhibited at Lost Bear Gallery from February 1 to 15. The non-commercial exhibition will be an opportunity for art lovers to view Fuller’s paintings before they leave Australia.

The works depict scenes captured by the respected plein air painter when the Royal couple visited Tanunda near Adelaide, the national War Memorial in Canberra for the Remembrance Day ceremony and Sydney, where Fuller painted the world-famous Sydney Harbour featuring the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House as seen from Admiralty House.

An accomplished watercolourist himself, The Prince often chooses an artist to join him on tours as a way of supporting the arts and in appreciation of the unique perspective that an artist can provide.

The Prince’s 15th trip to Australia was Fuller’s second as the official tour artist for the Royal couple. His first invitation was in November 2012.

Warwick2Fuller was not fazed by the unrelenting pace of the tour and, true to his usual practice, worked at a furious pace to complete each piece onsite.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re painting a cloud, a wave or the wind in the trees, there’s always something happening fast,’’ he said.But what pushes me to paint quickly is the changing light. More importantly, I’m trying to paint while I’m still in the zone of the initial inspiration.’’

However, Fuller was free to paint the subjects and in the style he wanted.

“That’s the beautiful part about it, there was no expectation. His Royal Highness asked me to go on tour with him because he liked my work and knew what I painted, and that’s the last thing he asked.’’

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Respected Australian landscape painter Warwick Fuller

While he only had two opportunities to talk with the Prince, the second occasion at Admiralty House in Sydney was a lengthy 15 minutes, during which Prince Charles talked about artist Edward Seago, who he met as a child and who toured with his father the Duke of Edinburgh to Antarctica on the Britannia.

The pair were then joined by the Duchess and chatted for a further 10 minutes about Fuller’s artworks he had produced during the tour.

While the Prince will formally exercise his right to first option to the paintings, the Royal couple has already expressed interest in several.

“He was very enthusiastic about the work,’’ Fuller said.

Paintings acquired by the Prince will become part of the Royal Collection when he ascends the throne. Fuller will also gift Prince Charles a work.

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Warwick Fuller and his dog Digger

Artworks produced during the Royal tour will form a special exhibition at Lost Bear Gallery, along with several larger works developed from smaller studies painted on tour.

A Fellow of the Royal Arts Society, Warwick Fuller has painted the majestic Australian landscape for more than 35 years, during which time he has built a solid reputation through more than 60 solo exhibitions and numerous awards and accolades.

His techniques are unmistakable in portraying the vibrancy and energy of nature, of tapping into his own subconsciousness and releasing his life experience onto canvass with the confidence of a mature artist who has earned his success.

Warwick Fuller’s Royal tour collection will be displayed at Lost Bear Gallery, 98 Lurline St, Katoomba, from 10am to 5pm daily from February 1 to 15. Fuller will talk about his tour experiences at 3pm on Saturday, February 6. Details: (02) 4782 1220 or lostbeargallery.com.au.

Lost Bear Gallery and Warwick Fuller are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity

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One of the artworks painted during the Royal tour


Debut author makes big picture issues real

Cover detail

By Ellen Hill for Sue Liu

Humanitarian efforts in far flung locations, terrible natural disasters and appalling acts of terrorism become believably real through Sydney author Sue Liu’s debut work Accidental Aid Worker.

The independently published book is a travel memoir of a courageous woman on a quest to find love and places to belong.

Readers will feel an immediate emotional commitment to Liu as they travel along this literary journey through an overwhelming series of experiences encompassing the entire gamut of human sensations – love and loss, encouragement and disillusionment, achievement and adversity.

More than 150 copies have already been sold and distributed internationally.

The book was launched on November 1 at a soiree attended by Dr Rabbi Dovid Slavin, who runs Bondi’s Our Big Kitchen and Inside Out author Greg Fisher, whose connection with Liu feature in the book.

Readers will learn how Liu stumbled into voluntary aid work in the wake of the 2004 tsunami during the civil war conflict in Sri Lanka. She teamed up with a tour guide, a Catholic priest and a community of refugees, beginning a 10-year obsession with helping people in need. Through tragic events, Liu meets the larger than life Geraldine Cox and spreads her generosity to help orphaned children in Cambodia.

Accidential Aid Worker author Sue Liu

Accidential Aid Worker author Sue Liu

Accidental Aid Worker is a moving and real-life account of one woman’s drive to survive and support others while masking battles of her own.  Along the way, Liu loses her grip on life and embarks on a harrowing journey through mid-life crisis, disconnection and chronic depression. She is forced to face inescapable truths about herself in order to navigate her way to the woman she really wants to be.

Liu shares her most vulnerable moments with warmth and bare honesty, alongside epic travel adventures and quirky tales involving; priests, nuns, a rabbi, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, a tuktuk accident, refugees, orphaned children, surgeries, fishing for marlin and at times, spontaneous singing and dancing with children.

Liu’s decade of volunteer community work began in 2004 when she galvanised her community of Sydney’s inner west, with more than 100 supporters following her journey back and forth trying to deliver the aid collected to refugees to the devastated people in the town of Trincomalee in the north east of Sri Lanka.

“Back in 2005, I was overwhelmed by the groundswell of support I received from friends and people in my own community in particular who just wanted to contribute in a tangible way to my collection and help people in crisis. It became an addiction to being a humanitarian, I couldn’t stop,’’ she says.

Accidental Aid Worker is also Liu’s very open struggle with grief, loss and isolation. She recounts multiple losses in her family, struggles with being a single, self employed woman and suffering burn-out, depression and the mid-life zone of her 40s.

However, Accidental Aid Worker is also about Liu’s commitment to survive, give hope to others facing adversity and reconnect with her life and purpose, which includes devoting herself to community.

“I believe life is a series of next steps and pieces of a puzzle and I certainly have had a full, interesting and quirky life. I couldn’t keep these stories to myself anymore and part of my healing was writing and producing this book. I think my struggles will really resonate with a lot of people. There are plenty places to laugh with and at me, and plenty of times to commiserate.

“I recommend reading with tissues and a glass of wine.’’

This heartwarming and thought-provoking story will make you laugh, bring you to tears, inspire a thirst for travel, a yearning to give back and pause for thought about what really makes us all tick.

The limited edition memento paperback of Accidental Aid Worker features a special memento double cover is available for $35.00 plus postage along with an ebook at accidentalaidworker.com.au.

As well as being a great stocking filler, purchasing the book will help communities with $5 per book sold before Christmas donated to a charity supporting Sydney’s homeless and disadvantaged. The purchaser can choose between OBK, The Wayside Chapel, Lou’s Place and Gethsemane Community.

Go to accidentalaidworker.com.au for more information about this self-published book, author Sue Liu to access photo galleries, news clippings and the shop.

Books are also on sale at Hill of Content at Balmain and Gleebooks at Glebe, Dulwich Hill and Blackheath in the Blue Mountains as well as online through Ibooks, Amazon, Goodreads and Smashwords.

  • Sue Liu is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity

AAW 3Dcover


Second brush with royalty for Blue Mountains artist

Blue Mountains artist Warwick Fuller (r) with Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall during their 2012 tour to Australia

Blue Mountains artist Warwick Fuller (r) with Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall during their 2012 tour to Australia. Photo: David Foote, AUSPIC

By Ellen Hill for Lost Bear Gallery

Respected Blue Mountains artist Warwick Fuller will have his second brush with royalty when he tours with Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall this week.

The plein air painter will travel to Adelaide, ahead of the Royal couple who will arrive there tomorrow (Tuesday, November 10) and visit the small town of Tanunda in the Barossa Valley to experience a “taste of regional life’’.

The tour will then travel to Canberra on Wednesday (November 11) before heading to Sydney, where Fuller will part with The Prince and Duchess who will continue on to Albany and Perth.

A watercolourist himself, The Prince chooses an artist to join him on tours as a way of supporting the arts and in appreciation of the unique perspective that an artist can provide.

The Prince’s 15th trip to Australia will be Fuller’s second as the official tour artist for the Royal couple. His first invitation was in November 2012.

“He was very easy to talk to on the first tour,’’ Fuller said.

“We got on well and we had a few laughs and jokes, all in three or four-minute meetings.’’

Fuller has recently wrapped up his latest solo exhibition at Lost Bear Gallery at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.

“Although I don’t like pre-empting what I might paint, I do hope to capture something special at the War Memorial on the eleventh.’’

After the tour, Fuller will gift The Prince a painting from the trip and His Royal Highness will also have first option to the others.

Any paintings acquired by the Prince will become part of the Royal Collection.

A Fellow of the Royal Arts Society, Warwick Fuller has painted the majestic Australian landscape for more than 35 years, during which time he has built a solid reputation through more than 60 solo exhibitions and numerous awards and accolades.

His techniques are unmistakable in portraying the vibrancy and energy of nature, of tapping into his own subconsciousness and releasing his life experience onto canvass with the confidence of a mature artist who has earned his success.

Fuller’s works show a tireless chase of the elusive light on landscape such as the thrill of gazing at the last rays of sunlight in the tree tops.

“I can paint something of what it looks like but I am trying to capture the way I feel,” Fuller said.

“I want my pictures to sing the songs I sang when I painted them. My hope is that if I can paint with the joy of that moment, something of my emotional responses to the moment will shine through.’’

Lost Bear Gallery owner Geoff White, who has represented Fuller since the 1990s “Warwick Fuller’s work is for the discerning viewer who appreciates the finest art.’’

Warwick Fuller’s work can be viewed at Lost Bear Gallery, 98 Lurline St, Katoomba, from 10am to 5pm daily. Details: (02) 4782 1220 or katoombafineart.com.au.

  • Lost Bear Gallery is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity

Blue Mountains: Warwick Fuller artists’ retreat on the edge

Artist Warwick Fuller at work

Artist Warwick Fuller at work

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group

Artists can take their talent right to the edge with one of Australia’s top painters at a workshop retreat at Parkland’s Country Gardens & Lodges in September.

Renowned landscape painter Warwick Fuller will lead an intimate three-day outdoor oil painting workshop for a select group of 10 energetic artists with experience in oils at the luxurious Escarpment Group property at Blackheath from September 15 to 17.

Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “The Blue Mountains has been recognised as a `city of the arts’ and Escarpment Group properties have featured in artworks for decades, especially Darley’s Restaurant at our Lilianfels Resort & Spa property and the very famous Hydro Majestic Hotel.

“So we are delighted to continue that tradition and offer the Parklands property as a luxurious artists retreat.’’

Fuller, who lives at Little Hartley, has had more than 60 solo exhibitions throughout Australia and internationally, has received numerous awards and is represented in prominent galleries in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and London.

The plein air painter and Fellow of the Royal Art Society of NSW has paintings hung in private, corporate and institutional collections throughout the world.

Fuller’s style of landscape painting was emotive yet sincere, he said.

Cloud to the West, Blackheath, by Warwick Fuller

Cloud to the West, Blackheath, by Warwick Fuller

“You can read ad infinitum of the landscape painter trying to paint his feelings’,capture the light’, `render the mood of a scene’. There is nothing particularly new or unique in this ideology, developed in part through a natural progression of a very strong landscape tradition in Australia. It is sad to see these expressions misused, abused and over used to the point of becoming almost meaningless with insincerity.

“Those statements are though, I believe, some of the more important aims and ideals at the core of the genuine landscape painter’s psyche. I, like others, do search for a means of expressing these qualities. I know for me these are genuine and worthy goals. In this, there is a dilemma I feel will test me.

“It has been a long-held opinion of mine that too often the work of the traditional landscape painter has been seen in an over-familiar sort of way. That is, known objects in the picture being seen superficially and assessed according to a preconceived understanding of those objects. How do I express my vision of the subject unambiguously? It’s not a technical thing as for example, in composition. It’s far more elusive than that.

“I am doubting more often whether the direction I am taking can adequately reveal, for example, the thrill of gazing at the last rays of sunlight in the tree tops. I can paint something of what it looks like but I am trying to paint how I feel! I want my pictures to sing the songs I sang when I painted them. My hope is that if I can paint with the joy of that moment, something of my emotional responses to the moment will shine through.’’

Mr Bruegger said: “We look forward to seeing how the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area location inspires each artist under the tuition of one of the greatest Australian landscape painters of our time.’’

Warwick Fuller will host an artists’ workshop at Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges, 132 Govetts Leap Rd, Blackheath, from September 15 to 17.

Workshop cost: $400 for three days. Special accommodation packages available: $259 per room per night for twin share with hot breakfast for two adults; $200 per room per night single share with breakfast plus $25 for working lunch including fruit and juice.

Phone (02) 4787 7211 or go to www.parklands.com.au to book accommodation and dining options.

 


“All about the yum’’ for NSW Chef of the Year Lee Kwiez

Darleys Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez

Darleys Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group

He was acknowledged by industry for his fine dining creations but for NSW Chef of the Year, Darleys Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez, “it’s all about the yum’’.

His top chef gong was one of five major awards received by Escarpment Group in the Blue Mountains at the Tourism Accommodation Association (NSW) Awards of Excellence in July.

Darleys Restaurant at the Lilianfels Resort & Spa property at Katoomba also took home Regional Restaurant of the Year.

Darleys Restaurant won the Regional Restaurant of the Year Award

Darleys Restaurant won the Regional Restaurant of the Year Award

Other Escarpment Group awards included Regional Superior Hotel of the Year for Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant, Regional Deluxe Hotel of the Year for Lilianfels Resort & Spa and Front of House Employee of the Year for Lilianfels duty manager Meagan Iervasi. The world-famous Hydro Majestic Hotel Blue Mountains at Medlow Bath also received a highly commended for Redeveloped Hotel of the Year.

Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger, himself a career executive chef, said: “We are very proud to have the top chef in NSW leading our restaurant team. The innovation from his kitchen is exceptional and I am particularly impressed with how he is embracing local and regional food in the menu.

“However, the award for Darleys Restaurant shows that the outstanding dining experience our guests have come to expect is the result of an excellent team of chefs and wait staff at the restaurant.

“Darleys is a beautiful restaurant – the refurbished décor and gorgeous view, the customer service and the fantastic food is world-class.’’

A Colo High School alumni who grew up on a large rural property at Freemans Reach in the Hawkesbury, Kwiez’ culinary career inspiration was cooked up at home.

Mum was cooking shepherd’s pie when I was 14/15 and I thought `I want to be a chef’, then I did work experience at Maxwell’s Table at Kurmond and stayed on to Year 12,’’ he said.I finished school on the Thursday and started work full-time at Maxwell’s Table on the Monday.’’

During his career, Kwiez has travelled the world working in kitchens in Switzerland, Hayman Island and Canada before returning to Sydney where he worked at several restaurants including Milson’s Restaurant.

Darleys Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez has won many awards

Darleys Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez has won many awards

He was responsible for raising the Woolwich Pier Hotel from number 13 out of 20 to 18/20 in the Good Pub Guide, ranking it one of the top seven pubs in NSW.

“Flavour. Simple. That’s why I love being a chef,’’ Kwiez said.

“Food has got to look good obviously but if it looks pretty and you can’t eat it, I’m not interested. It’s all about the taste – it’s got to have the yum factor.’’

Kwiez has embraced the national focus on local and regional produce, choosing for his menus from produce grown in the 6000sqm kitchen garden at the Escarpment Group-owned Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges property at Blackheath wherever possible.

“Freshness, seasonality and locally grown: that’s my aim in the Darleys kitchen wherever possible,’’ he said.

What can’t be sourced from the Parklands garden is bought from local and regional suppliers from a 100 mile radius of Darleys Restaurant.

The range of produce is enormous, from Dutch carrots, nasturtium flowers and tomatoes to quince, pears, apples, plums, kale, broccoli and more, even the occasional catch of yabbies.

You think `Great, we can make a soup, we can make a salad’,’’ Kwiez said.You go online, you look at cookbooks, you look at what other chefs are doing, you look at three Hatted restaurants. Then you make a little salad or something and tell the customers it’s from the dam up the road – Parklands Pond Yabbies, there you go.’’

Darleys Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez focuses on local and regional produce

Darleys Restaurant executive chef Lee Kwiez focuses on local and regional produce

Kwiez counts former colleague Saffire Freycinet head chef Hugh Whitehouse (they were apprentices together at Maxwell’s Table and Kwiez took over Darleys from Whitehouse) as a mentor who inspires his own culinary creativity.

While Kwiez is the recognised talent of the Darleys kitchen, he also credited his team for the exceptional standard of food and service at the multi award-winning restaurant: “I’ve got a great team – it’s not just about me. Without them I couldn’t do this.’’

Away from the restaurant kitchen, the father-of-three loves simple flavoursome food: “ A nice steak or sausages as long as you’ve got a big salad to go with it. Or roast chicken with roast potatoes in rosemary and garlic and a big side of greens, that’s my favourite thing with maybe a nice sauce from the roasting juices of the chicken. You can’t beat a good roast chicken.’’

Darley’s Restaurant, Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Lilianfels Ave, Katoomba, is open from 6pm to 10.30pm Tuesday to Saturday. Reservations: (02) 4780 1200 or reservations@lilianfels.com.au.

 

Awards – Lee Kwiez

  • Woolwich Pier Hotel: Sydney Morning Herald Good Pub Guide 2012-Three schooners award (18/20)
  • Milsons Restaurant: Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide – One Hat Award
    2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000
  • Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide – One wine glass award 2009, 2008, 2007
  • Gourmet Traveler wine awards – -Two glasses 2004
  • Gourmet Traveler food awards – -two stars 2006, one star 2005
  • Jaspers Restaurant: Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide – One Hat Award 2001, 2000

Awards – Darleys Restaurant

  • Regional Restaurant of the Year 2013 – Tourism Accommodation Awards for Excellence 2013
  • Fine Dining Restaurant Award – 2010 Savour Australia Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence – NSW Regional
  • Australian Hotels Association (NSW)Hall of Fame. 2010
  • Best Regional Restaurant – SMH Good Food Guide Awards – 2010
  • Two Chefs Hats – SMH Good Food Guide Awards – 2010
  • Regional Restaurant of the Year – AHA (NSW) Awards for Excellence – 2009
  • Two Chef’s Hats – SMH Good Food Guide Awards – 2009
  • Hotel Restaurant of the Year – Hotel Management National Awards – 2007

Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Local and regional produce is a key feature of Darleys Restaurant

Local and regional produce is a key feature of Darleys Restaurant. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

 


Time Travelling Tailor

By Ellen Hill     Photos: David Hill

WHEN Lorna McKenzie dresses each day, friends can tell exactly what mood she is in – and which era – simply from her outfit.

But her love of period dress was not born simply out of a superficial liking of the look or a romantic ideal of times past.

It is an outward show of her environmental, humanitarian and anti-establishment ethics.

“Unfortunately, the fashion industry is unethical, there’s lots of piece work and things aren’t made to last,’’ she says.

Lorna learned to sew from her mother Edna and continued it at school before honing her skills during a TAFE course in the 1980s.

I’ve always sewn,’’ she says.I really can’t remember when I learnt to sew.

“Mum ran a dressmaking business from home and she made wedding gowns, ball gowns, debutant dresses. My bedroom was the fitting room, so I grew up surrounded by all these beautiful fabrics and dresses.’’
Lorna keeps her period clothing folded in a camphor-scented Colonial era dress box just like people of the past.

I’m not fussed about fashion, I never have been,’’ she says.I’ve always dressed eclectically, I’ve     always worn second-hand clothes (my mother used to be appalled) – we call it vintage now.

“Fashion in the stores never fits me – I’m very short in the waist and clothes always bunch up at the back and I hate wearing things with brand names on them. Frankly, most fashion today is designed by men for men’s bodies – no hips, no breasts, no anything.

“But if I make something, I know it is going to fit me. What I work on is timeless. I like Regency, 19th century, Italian Renaissance  and 1940’s. 1940’s is my favourite, it suits me.”

By contrast, today’s ever-changing fashions represent the modern consumerist society Lorna abhors.
Before that, most average people would have made do with hand-me-downs and owned a small number of clothing items.

“If you were in service you would receive only one gown a year. You’d have two or three pieces of clothing: you’d have your Saturday walking out clothing and your everyday gown and linen underneath everything and that’s it. Unless you were rich you didn’t have nightgowns.’’

Period dressmaking is part of Lorna’s ethical living standards, of bucking against a wasteful society which throws away items simply because they are no longer in vogue.

As well as being a member of mediaeval research and re-enactment group the Society for Creative Anachronisms (Dismal Fogs Shire) and the Australian Costumers Guild, Lorna has also joined diverse local and global environmental and humanitarian groups.

“I grew up with parents who lived through The Depression, so I make do and mend and I don’t like wasting things and I’m a shocking hoarder.

“My mum used to wear a singlet underneath her bra because it keeps your bras cleaner and you don’t have to wash them so much. You let things air on the line. We wash too much and waste too much water. Clothes lasted longer because of that.’’

Apart from which, period clothing is often more comfortable.

“I wear 19th century corsets and I lace into about two inches smaller than my natural waist and that’s still perfectly comfortable. My medieval corset, which I’ve made out of hemp rope, that’s the most comfortable thing I have. I love to wear it because it supports my breasts and it shapes my waist and is really comfy. Women have not worn tortuous clothes for thousands of years – we wouldn’t put up with it, we’re not stupid.’’

In fact, Lorna took part in an 80km long, three day fundraising march recently with the Napoleonic Society dressed in garb of yesteryear. And next year she will mark the bicentennial of the crossing of the Blue Mountains by re-enacting the event wearing clothing of the era.

These were clothes women wore,’’ she says.When you go to a fancy event, it might be a little bit uncomfortable because it’s a little bit tighter than what you would normally wear, but they made clothes that were comfy. Women worked all the time except for high class ladies, but even they sat and embroidered and they walked everywhere.

“They wore natural fibres, and natural fibres breathe. When I dress up in 19th century, I will have on a chemise, corset, skirt, a petticoat, lots of petticoats or a crinoline or a farthingale or something like that. Over that I will then have my dress, but it is all made out of natural fibres – mostly linen and wool so it’s not uncomfortable.’’

But then there is the fun of playing dress-ups and living the life of whomever she wishes.

“When I am wearing a particular dress for a particular period, I am time travelling,’’ Lorna says. “I am living with a woman of that period. I make it like she did and then I wear it and I get laced in and I’m suddenly in another time. You stand differently; you move differently and even speak differently. It’s empowering. You don’t need a tardis; you just need to make a new gown for a different period.

“For example, as a member of the Society for Creative Anachronists, a medieval society, I’m Bethan, an Italian Renaissance woman wealthy enough to be able to have nice clothing but I’m not really, really wealthy.’’

Most re-enactment groups require costumes to be 90 per cent authentic, but generally Lorna is more relaxed with her period reproductions.

“In the historical world they don’t like you to make things there isn’t proof and evidence of. There’s also the fashion police, the informal self-appointed people (they’re called ropers from the Tudor period).

“Of course if you’re making something for a competition it has to be correct and you have to use the exact techniques of the period. But if nobody’s judging it, you want to have the outside looking exact, but what you do on the inside is up to you.

“I tend to make what I call generic gowns of the period. I look at all the elements and I might decide that I want that neck and that whatever and then put them all together.’’

A case in point is the 1940s fashion range Lorna is creating using original patterns from the era which once belonged to a well known Blue Mountains dress maker.

“I am designing a 1940s range, but I am taking elements from that time and making them for 21st century women because sizing was totally different in vintage patterns,’’ Lorna says.

“My expertise is vintage and historical sewing. I am not a 21st century designer. I’m a 21st century excellent copyist from the past, I’m an adaptor.’’

And Lorna is not alone with her dress-up box.

“Because of social networking now, I’m in contact with people all over the world who do this. I used to think I was weird and strange but there are thousands of us, probably millions of us, and I no longer feel strange or different. I feel I’ve got a community, and I adore that because now I know there are people who create like me and make like me, and they don’t watch television 24/7 and they sing in choirs and life is an adventure.

“There are parts of me that really like past eras and wish I could live there because consumerism has taken us over today. But really I’m glad I am a woman living now. Until the 19th century, while they believed women had a role, men were still debating whether women had souls.’’