Legendary Orara Valley local and accomplished artist, Ian Watson has been creating art with wood, metal and stone for more than 40 years.
His passion for woodworking came from the most unlikely of places – through a job labouring at a Dairy Farm in Upper Orara. He was asked one day to get rid of a bunch of old pioneer stumps, and quickly found it difficult.
“I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t pile them up and burn them, so I started making furniture in my spare time,” Ian said.
That was the birth of an incredible journey that pioneered the woodworking community in the Valley and beyond. He spent his days journeying across the Mid North Coast with his flat-bed truck collecting rosewood in the Dorrigo and Tyringham areas that the ‘cockies’ were only too glad to be rid of.
“More often than not, I’d have a full load before I even got to my destination because there were always beautiful pieces on the side of the road.”
His love for making furniture soon moved a love for making art, and he committed to making it his full time career. Loading up his single wagon with his artwork, he travelled QLD, NSW and ACT developing a network of galleries that would show and sell his work.
“The year 2000 for me proved more than just a century change – it was a life change. My mother died, my marriage ended. I hung up my toolbelt and undertook a Diploma in Aboriginal studies.”
This break saw Ian venture into six years of work as a drug and alcohol worker with the Ted Noffs Foundation. By 2010, the tools were calling his name again and Ian came back to “my art and my sanity”.
During Ian’s career, he has won many awards and had many pieces commissioned for local art trails and businesses. One of his more familiar works is the ‘Central Seating’ sculptural piece acquired by the Coffs City Council, previously located in the Council chambers. He is also a founding member of the Orara Valley Artists group and was a pioneer of the Mid North Coast woodworking movement.
Ian lost everything in the 2019 bushfires – his home, and all his belongings including 300 tonne of Rosewood he had stored to create art into retirement. There were, however, some unusual treasures left in the wake of the fires that Ian hopes to use in future exhibitions.
Creating Two Tails for the new ‘Insta Stops’ in the Orara Valley has been part of his own art therapy in dealing with the loss.
“Light creates shadow, the shadow follows form, and I seek the balance between,” Ian says.
“The making of Nana Two Tails is something I am very proud of and I hope the community is too.”