Since 1994, Chelly and Peter have created rusty wire works for galleries, private homes, restaurants, cafes, vineyards and corporate spaces. Their sculptures appeared in magazines including Vogue Living, Country Style, InsideOut and Marie Clare.
It all started by chance. Chelly and Peter met while studying ceramics at LaTrobe university in Bendigo and together decided to set up a ceramics studio. “We went to an auction and bought a timber rack for our planned ceramics studio,” Peter says. “Stuck on the rack was a roll of rusty wire.”
The coiled wire appealed to the then Daylesford-based artists who twisted and curled it into a birdcage. “As soon as we finished the birdcage we took it to the Convent Galley and the owner thought it was fantastic.” The artists returned home and started to make other items in the same manner.
“We made things based on what we needed in our house,” Peter recalls.
The birdcage was followed by candelabra, twisted fruit bowls, fire screens and even a bed. An outdoor toilet without electricity had a twisted wire candleholder.
That was in the early nineties. The couple has since sent work to homes, shops and galleries across Australia, and have had exhibitions in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. “People love the thought that their piece was once a wire fence,” says Peter, who admits they never used the ceramics rack …
In 1998 they were looking for an international market. The couple sent their folio to the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in the US – the letter to the Museum of Modern Art was returned unopened, but the Guggenheim staff was more receptive. “We received a fax from the Guggenheim saying they loved our work,” Peter says. “They placed an order for 66 pieces.”
Having work placed in the Guggenheim has been one of the many achievements the two Australian artists have celebrated since they started twisting their own niche in the art world.
In 2000, the couple bought their first house, a derelict 1860s miner’s cottage in Castlemaine. They took six months off work to restore it and have since added to the property’s buildings, with a studio and three gallery spaces built in similar 19th century style.
The three galleries house a selection of their work including grapevine leaf mirrors, candelabras, wall features, bowls, fire screens, eggcups and chandeliers. Other pieces, such as their very popular metal flowers, outdoor sculptures are scattered throughout the couple’s stunning garden, which they created from scratch.