It's official. I no longer live in Steel City. Don't let that fool you though - you can take the girl out of the town, but you can't take the town out of the girl. You're not getting rid of me that easily. We hear it constantly and I've said it myself often enough that creatives always leave Newcastle. When I started Steel City Collective over a year ago, I was on a mission to prove to myself that I could stay. I promised myself that I would freelance, I'd commute and make a living for myself in the town where I grew up. I knew it would be difficult and I knew I'd struggle. What I didn't know is that I would achieve so much. In the past 18 months as a freelance designer and illustrator I have been contracted by a variety of businesses and organisations to handle everything from logos, branding, copywriting and artwork to large scale murals, promotion, advertising and arts events. I've been lucky to work with some amazing organisations including the IBAA, Surfest, The Festivalists, Totem Brand, headspace Newcastle, TiNA and Seasoned Music. I was commissioned to install several public murals, oversaw Newcastle council youth workshops, established and ran a contemporary gallery space and studio in the CBD and choreographed and executed a large-scale art performance as part of the Special Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. Steel City Collective were resident artists for two seasons of the hugely popular Jurassic Lounge at the Australian Museum. We painted walls, bodies, canvases and everything in between. That's just the tip of the iceberg. I could have never imagined what I was capable of. But it was hard. At times desperately so. Much of my work came with huge costs; financial, emotional and physical. There were weeks when I didn't sleep. There were bills that didn't get paid. There were hundreds of emails, phone calls, and more paperwork than paper works. There were dazzling highs and dizzying lows. "Start a creative arts business", they said. "It will be fun," they said. It was. I met some amazing people and experienced great things, but it took it's toll. I hadn't made art for art's sake in a long time. At times I felt as though I had nothing left to give and had little to show for it. The people around me found it difficult to understand. My plans were idealistic and my dreams were grand and naive, but I said at the time (and stand by it) that they had to be. When I met Chet and Matt from Work-Shop, as well as Xander from The Chrown I found connections with people who were on similar paths. Not only did they share similar goals, community spirit and genuine desire for others to achieve, they were already moving forward, growing and changing the art scene in Sydney where there was a larger audience. They were hard working, business minded artists that thrived on collaboration and creativity. I found myself spending more time in Sydney and wanting to become more involved with their projects.
When Matt and Chet offered me a position with Work-Shop, and an apartment in North Sydney presented itself at the perfect time, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I am working in the Work-Shop Makery (www.facebook.com/WorkshopMakery) - a gallery and retail space so like Shop Steel City that I could be forgiven for thinking I was back on Hunter Street. Representing incredibly talented artists, crafters and makers daily, as well as contributing to the innovations within Work-Shop, I love going to work in the morning. I haven't gone far and I don't feel the need to say how much I'll miss my friends and family in Newcastle because I don't intend to. I'll see most of you just as much and I look forward to being surprised again every time I come back. You won't have a chance to miss me either. I've been writing for the Mirage for the past year and I'll continue to cover the various and sundry events that will always keep me coming back to Steel City.