SHARING THE MAGIC: Master wood craftsman Geoff Hannah  has been sharing his skills at the McGregor Winter Arts Retreat since 1981.
SHARING THE MAGIC: Master wood craftsman Geoff Hannah has been sharing his skills at the McGregor Winter Arts Retreat since 1981. Jacklyn Wagner

Live like an artist at McGregor Winter Arts Retreat

THE McGregor Winter Arts Retreat at USQ is a chance to immerse yourself in art and inspiration and forget about the outside world for a day or a week.

At the same time, you create works and learn skills which you take home with you forever.

As the winter retreat prepares for its 30th year, from July 3 to 7, the words of long-standing tutor and oil and acrylic artist Michael Winters perhaps best summarise what has been described as "The McGregor glow,” according to educational events co-ordinator Cassy Stephan.

"The miracle happens when the alchemy of tutor and student combine through words, canvas, brushes, paint and colour,” Michael said.

"Then, at school's end, the canvases spread their wings and, once home, the miracles are then enjoyed by others ...”

Retreats are held in winter, spring and summer, with the latter celebrating its 50th year in January 2018.

They are open to all ages and experience levels, from beginners to proven talents, and attract participants from all over the country.

Subjects this winter include acrylics, watercolour, charcoal, urban sketching, mixed media, jewellery-making, oils, furniture-making, sculpture, millinery, textiles, sewing and pattern making and photo bookmaking.

"It's an extraordinary experience,” Cassy said. "It's like stepping into another world.

"It allows you to live like an artist and learn from renowned tutors, national and international.”

One such artist is Lismore master wood craftsman Geoff Hannah, who has been sharing his skills at the school since 1981, having returned from a Churchill Fellowship to study in London and Paris.

One of his major works, the Australiana Cabinet, sold to a wealthy Belgian buyer for nearly $500,000. And little wonder, with Geoff devoting literally years to each piece.

His Hannah Cabinet, now for sale at Bungendore Wood Works Gallery, was made over a six-year period using 34 different Australian and international timbers, four species of shell and 17 varieties of precious stone, with extensive marquetry inlays on 18 doors and 140 drawers.

Geoff, who turns 69 this year, began in carpentry at just 15 and is the school's longest-serving tutor.

His only regret, he said, is that he didn't start work sooner so he could achieve more.

He has no plans to retire, because he said he is already doing what he wants to do, creating beautiful works and sharing his skills at schools both at home in Lismore and annually at Toowoomba.

"I haven't missed a year,” he said proudly.

"I really enjoy passing on the knowledge I have in woodwork, inlay, marquetry, polishing, the gold work ...

"It's great to see the students go home with a piece of furniture they've made themselves.

"Some have been coming for 20 years, and they've furnished their whole house with mirrors, beds, wall cabinets ...”

The camaraderie is another thing Geoff loves about his classes, which are limited to just 14 and mainly attract those in their 40s to 80s.

"We're like a big woodworking family,” Geoff said.

To find out more about any of the McGregor schools, email mcgregor@usq.edu.au or call 07) 4631 1111.


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