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  • Customer Profile - Sherrie Knipe

Customer Profile - Sherrie Knipe

As part of a program run by the Bayside City Council, she is currently one of the artists in residence at Billilla Historic Mansion in Brighton. Each year the program invites four artists to spend 12 months working from the servant’s quarters at the rear of the magnificent heritage listed estate. Sherrie works from a tiny room that overlooks Billilla’s beautiful stately gardens. It’s a great workspace and is sparsely equipped, but when she needs access to more tools, she pays her local woodworking club a visit.

Sherrie’s imagination was sparked at a very early age, her mother was a Dressmaker and Milliner by trade and Sherrie was surrounded by textiles and designs. Her mother worked at home so she became very familiar with the processes of designing and constructing. She observed how her mother’s trade relied heavily on making patterns and working with moulds, a technique that has proved to be invaluable in her own work.

Being a very ‘hands on’ person, she has experimented with several artforms including, papermaking, screen printing, Shibori ( a Japanese method of dyeing fabric ) and printmaking. Sherrie completed a Fine Art Degree in painting and drawing at QUT in Brisbane when Archibald Prizewinning artist William Robinson was head of school. At that time, the course offered a very traditional education dedicated to classical techniques. It gave the students a strong grounding in practical as well as creative elements.

Sherrie’s path to working with timber as her principle material began with cardboard, this then led to her recycling tea chests and packing crates. A trip to the hardware store introduced her to plywood. She loved the fact that it was flexible and experimented by bending it and screen printing onto its surface. She also tried using textiles as a backing and began making shoes using these techniques, but found the limitations of the plywood and her own lack of knowledge of wood products frustrating.

John Stafford from Arts Queensland advised Sherrie to go and see Robert Dunlop, one of Brisbane’s most innovative furniture makers at the time. He had been doing a lot of work with bending timber and had the specialised knowledge that Sherrie needed to learn. Robert has been instrumental in the careers of many artists and craftspeople over the years. His workshop was a real hub in the 1990s for people stretching the boundaries of design and furniture making. He hosted several visits by international woodworkers who were keen to share their techniques and experience with others.

The time spent with Robert gave Sherrie the basic skills and knowledge of timber that she lacked, it also gave her the confidence to approach and use tools. His workshop was filled with enormous old cast iron machines that he maintained in great working order. For a young woman of small stature who had only used a jigsaw, standing before Robert’s monolithic bandsaw was a daunting experience.

One of the most valuable things that Robert passed onto Sherrie was the importance of making moulds and forms for bending, a key principle in her current work practise and a concept that was already familiar to her from her fine arts background. On a more practical level, she quickly learnt the woodworkers dilemma that you can never have too many clamps and set out to purchase as many as she could get her hands on.