When pastel artist Denise Taylor was looking for a country town to retire to, she chose Clifton because of the vibrant art scene.
Denise arrived in Clifton 12 years ago and immediately joined the Clifton Art Workshops. “I can honestly say those years were the happiest of my life,” she said. When they closed in 2006, she was utterly bereft and wished for another like-minded group she could join. In 2012, Denise and three other friends sat having coffee at the Carnival of Flowers, and made the momentous decision to form their own arts group, one that was open to anyone. “We wanted to encompass all of the craft groups,” Denise said.
The Clifton Dabblers Inc was born. With 42 active members from Clifton and the surrounding communities, they meet several times a week at their headquarters, the old fire station in Clifton. The Dabblers has become a place of respite, companionship, and inspiration for its members. “They’ve started a network,” Trish Wallen said. “And that’s what it’s all about in these small communities. This is an outlet; a haven for a weekly chat fest. We come for camaraderie and friendship, and a lot of us would never have met such a diverse group of people. You learn tolerance and compassion.”
The walls of the facility are covered with examples of the members’ craft. From intricately detailed paintings to colourful mosaics and handpainted silk scarves. Stained glass ovals glow in the afternoon sunshine and everywhere is the hum of conversation as the members talk a mile a minute while they knit, paint and sculpt. “So far we’ve discussed making olive oil perfume, an intricate knitting pattern, and how to grow rosellas in Clifton,” Trish said. “And that’s only in the last half hour! It’s good fun.”
Members range from newbies to established artists who sell their works internationally. Mosaic artist Annie Sackley travels to the Dabblers every week from Allora. “I enjoy coming,” she said with a beaming smile. “It’s good company and it’s taught me to do lots of things that I never thought I could do. There’s always a Dabbler to help you.”
When painter and sculptor Jacqui Rahley lost her husband, she found great comfort among her fellow artists. “I’m alone on the property,” she said, “And you’ve just got to get out and about.”
In addition to working on personal projects, the members are offered workshops from visiting artists. “We have a go at it all,” Jacqui said with a laugh. “Once you’re into craft, you’ve just got to try everything.” They also participate in community art projects and their art can be purchased for a donation in their showroom.
President Rhonda Glare is excited to see the resurgence of art in Clifton. “They used to be very rich in culture here,” she said. “They used to get people from all over the place.” Thanks to love and support from the Dabblers, Clifton is becoming a haven for artists once again. www.dabblers.net
Words by Krista Bjorn | Images by Cory Rossiter