Making art is a labour of love

September 08, 2017

Jack Anselmi examines the goanna he is working on.

A man sits and examines a ceramic goanna with detached limbs.

The creature is green and upon close inspection you can see the detail of its scales. Each scale is perfectly in line and gives the lizard a lifelike quality.

Artist Craig ‘‘Jack’’ Anselmi has spent a long time working on this piece.

Off to the side there is a large white ceramic pot with a crack running down the side.

The pot came out of the kiln slightly damaged but this has not deterred Jack, who plans to make use of it through his creative talents.

When the goanna is complete, and its limbs have been attached, it will be fastened upon the pot, creating the perception that it is attempting to pull it apart.

Jack has been working as a full-time artist for several years and said art did not always go to plan – but that was what made it enjoyable.

‘‘We all make mistakes but if you know how to cover them up that’s a bonus,’’ he said.

Jack’s work is unique and he said people had even travelled from towns outside Greater Shepparton to meet him and find out more about what he does.

‘‘You don’t see my kind of work anywhere around the place, even clap sticks and all that stuff, I do them different to other people.

‘‘I put a bit of leather on the wood and people sort of like that kind of thing.’’

For the past 15 to 20 years Jack has been focusing on his craft and said he worked a lot with wood and clay, which he uses to create elaborate walking sticks, didgeridoos, pots and lizards.

Jack was born in Mooroopna in 1965 and when he was quite young his father gave him the nickname Jack, and it stuck.

As a young man he played for Mooroopna Football Club and worked in sheet metal for more than 20 years.

Although Jack loved football, it took its toll on his body and left his hands damaged. In one football game he injured himself so badly he had to take several weeks off work.

Despite this, Jack said he would not change a thing.

In a way, his injuries have helped him change the direction of his career and led him into the art world.

It was when he was having trouble with his shoulders that he started to dabble with art projects in his parents’ shed.

Then Kaiela Arts, which was originally based at Corio St, opened and Jack was encouraged to join.

For Jack art is not something he measures in minutes or hours. He does not time how long it takes to complete a piece but did admit that sometimes he would spend his spare time thinking about what he could create next.

‘‘The variety of art is just unreal — it’s fantastic,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s always something you can do, I don’t think you can run out of ideas, you can do the same thing 10 times but they’re not all going to be the same.’’

Jack’s passion for art saw him and fellow artist Cynthia Hardie win the 2016 Indigenous Ceramic Art Award.

‘‘It does give you a lot of confidence,’’ he said.

‘‘You’ve got to put detail in your work because that makes it shine and really come alive.

‘‘If you don’t detail you won’t get the result.’’

Although wood and ceramics currently keep Jack busy, he hopes to one day branch out and use steel.

‘‘I’ll never give it away, I’ll always do art,’’ he said.

‘‘You can surprise yourself, and I do ... I love it, it’s great.’’

These days Jack is kept busy with Kaiela Arts’ workshops and visiting schools around the region to show students different ceramic techniques.

Jack attributes much of his career to Kaiela Arts and believes the gallery has opened many doors for local Aboriginal artists.

‘‘The feeling in the gallery itself is fantastic, everyone gets along, they help each other,’’ he said.

‘‘This is one of the opportunities where indigenous locals can get into their art and it’s given us directions ... there’s always something going on.

‘‘I reckon it’s come a long way — indigenous art in all mediums — and we lost our culture here a fair bit and it’s getting a lot of our culture back too, so that’s a good thing.’’

You can find Jack’s art at Kaiela Arts on High St, Shepparton where several select pieces are on display, adding to the diverse collection within the gallery.

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