From the beginning..

Please enjoy reading the extensive history of Mandurah Arts and Crafts from the time the doors were opened in 1976, and everything in between up until 2015, written by Margaret.

1976 - 1999

The Beginning |

In 1976 the Shire of Mandurah was not yet a city, it was a very small town with a population of approximately 8,000 people. In those days there were mainly holiday homes or sharks and old shops with no new homes or buildings. New Halls Head didn't exist, neither did Greenfields, Meadow Springs, Erskine, Bridgewater and many other places that are now populated areas. At the present time (2022) there is a population in Mandurah around the 88,000 mark.

1976 was the year Beryl Smallwood and her husband Colin came to Mandurah to live. It wasn't long before Beryl, finding there were no art and crafts groups in the district, decided something should be done about the situation. In the meantime she and other ladies (five in all) would travel to Pinjarra not only for pottery classes, but to have their work fired as no one in in Mandurah at the time had a kiln. Beryl told me they would have to go to Pinjarra, sometimes in the middle of the night, as there was no thermostat to control the kiln. She wrote to the Mandurah Shire Council, speaking also to the President Mrs. Pat Thomas, Councillors and anyone who would listen to her ideas. The President suggested to Beryl that she herself should do something about forming an art and craft group.

Mrs. Maureen Sullivan, then employed by Council suggested an advertisement be placed in the local newspaper notifying the public that a meeting was to be held re forming an art and craft group in Mandurah. Beryl subsequently advertised that a meeting would be held in the Mandurah Medical Centre at 2PM on the 15th of April, 1977. She made scones for afternoon tea, with tea and coffee etc, provided by the centre. The day arrived, and at 1:45PM her heart sank when she looked out and there wasn't a sign of anyone, however, later at 2PM when opening the doors she was delighted to find about 50 people waiting for her.

Those present were made to feel very welcome. Mrs Jean Adams came forward and offered to be the secretary for the meeting and later became the first Treasurer of Mandurah Arts and Crafts. The meeting went extremely well. There was much discussion and everyone was enthusiastic - so from this meeting the Mandurah Arts and Crafts Society came into being. The first office bearers were:

President | Mrs. Beryl Smallwood

Vice President | Mrs. Jess Parsons

Secretary | Mrs. Mary Farley

Treasurer | Mrs. Jean Adams

First committee members elected were | Messers, B. Ingle, P. Bell, J. Craven, S. Winsor, E. Bassett-Scarfe and G.ST John.

The list of crafts taught at this time included | China painting, oil painting, pottery, floral art, pewter and copper embossing and copper enamelling. The Mandurah Arts and Crafts Society (inc) was the first art and craft group in Mandurah.

The Start of the Venue Problem |

Finding premises was to be an on going problem for the society, a problem which is still with us to this day.. However, in 1976 it was the first hurdle the group had to overcome. Mr. Lance Rock offered the use of 86 Mandurah Terrace, but as there were no toilets on the site, the Shire Council would not allow occupancy of the building.

The wife of the caretaker of the Lucky Caravan Park in Henson Street, Silver Sands, while speaking to Beryl one day, suggested the S.E.C (now Western Power) be approached re hiring their hall on the corner of Henson Street and Mandurah Terrace - contact was made, and the S.E.C agreed to rent to the society for $15.00 per week.

The first class took place there on June 4th 1978, classes were held every day, the tea, coffee and biscuits etc were provided by members.

The First General Meeting |

This was held in July 1978. At this meeting Beryl suggested the group work for an exhibition to be held at a date two months after the general meeting. Panic followed as to how their work was to be displayed.

The day prior to the exhibition everyone worked together to set up the show. When the doors opened at 9am on the day of the exhibition there was a queue waiting to enter. The weekend was an enormous success. However, as the ladies were packing up on the Sunday after the completion of this terrific weekend, a man approached Beryl telling her that that he had purchased the S.E.C Hall, and that in future the rent would be raised to $45.00 per week. Plus, the society would be responsible for the payment of the water and electricity. The group was stunned, as there was no way they could afford to pay this amount, they were struggling to pay the $15.00. So they were faced with looking for the second of their many homes.

Venue Number II |

Mrs. Shirley Purchas, being a member and learning that another home was required, rang her husband regarding their building in Mandurah Terrace, the second floor of which was vacant at the time. Mr. Anthol Purchas, Shirley's husband, agreed to let it to the Arts and Crafts at a nominal rental - an added bonus was a shed in the garden which was able to be used by the potters. This was fantastic, however after approximately 4 months, the society was asked to leave as Mr. and Mrs. Purchas were expecting friends from the Eastern States and required the 2nd story for them to stay in. The ladies were very appreciative of this venue and hoped they had not over stayed their welcome.

Venue Number III |

This was a dilapidated and condemned unit in Sholl Street, the building was absolutely filthy. The members had to shovel the dirt off the floor. It was scrubbed from top to bottom and painted by the members so it would become habitable - at least it was in a spotlessly clean state by the time they had finished cleaning and painting. This was their home until they were told they would have to move as the place was organised to be demolished.

Constitution and Incorporation |

It was about this time that Mr. Jim Woodcock, a member of the Arts and Crafts, offered to draw up the constitution and rules for the society, this document was registered in July 1978. He then did all the work entailed for the now large group to become incorporated. This registration took place on the 2nd of February 1979. It was proposed by Mrs. Beryl Smallwood at a general meeting held in the Mewburn Centre on this precise date that a vote of thanks was given to Mr. Woodcock for the time he had given, and work he had done in drawing up these two special documents for the Mandurah Arts and Crafts. It was moved by V. Old, seconded by J. Parsons, that Mr. Woodcock be given $50 for expenses incurred in drawing up the constitution, and a further $50 for the finalisation of the incorporation and registration of both. The constitution has been amended twice since then - once on the 7th of December 1979, and again on the 15th of February 1981.

The Lions Club - Venue Number IIII |

In 1979, the society was offered the Lions Club in Park Road as a venue to hold their classes. This was quite convenient as it meant the potters could be included as there was a small room for them to work in. The group were very grateful to the Lions Club for the opportunity to rent this building. It was however found to be rather small for our needs, so from what I can gather, a verbal agreement was made jointly by each club, with the Arts and Crafts Society helping with the expense of extending their building, which meant the society would then have a permanent home. The Mandurah Arts and Crafts Society were to supply the materials etc.. and were apparently prepared to spend $4000. However, twelve months went by with no commencement of any work taking place on the building. The end result was a letter from our President, Mrs. Monica Baczynski to the Lions Club advising them that as our position has changed we would now be unable to proceed with our help for the proposed extensions.

When it came time for us to leave the Lions Club premises, it was to be the last time that pottery could be included in the list of crafts for people to participate in, simply because the wet area required for potting has never, since that time, been available.

Venue Number V |

In 1984 we left the Lions Club for a unit in the Industrial area, this was in Rafferty Road. It was cold and fairly dark which resulted in member numbers falling.

Venue Number VI - The Uniting Church |

Fortunately for the society, the Uniting Church vacated the premises on the corner of Gibson and Sutton Streets, the church had approached the Shire Council offering them the opportunity to purchase the premises, the asking price was allegedly $90,000. The shire turned the offer down saying it was too expensive. A member of the church suggested that the society may be interested in buying the property. This was offered to the society for the much reduced price of $50,000.

The then President of the Arts and Crafts, Mrs. Monica Baczinski signed an 'Option to Purchase' for the hall subject to the shire agreeing that an interest free loan be made available to the society, as this was what they were offering to do for other organisations and sporting bodies in the district at the time. The application was rejected.

Instead, the shire president gave an assurance that the purchase could be arranged if the shire was given the option to purchase they would see us right. This document was given to them, their promise being that the church building would be renovated and additions made to make it a top Art and Craft Centre. We were to have out home at last, one we could have been proud of. Mrs. Baczinski's son-in-law drew up plans for a new kitchen and pottery room extension to the hall, however the renovations and additions, of course, did not go ahead.

Never at any time was the society approached about anything to do with the council actually going ahead with this purchase, it was only when Mrs. Margo Harrison, who was by this time the President, received advice from the council that they, the council, had purchased the property themselves. At the time, the Arts and Crafts knew nothing about this transaction taking place. The hall of course, was now the property of the Mandurah Shire Council, bought for $50,000 (the price quoted to the Mandurah Arts and Crafts Society). A draft lease was received from the Shire Council by Mrs. Harrison and in a covering letter the council advised the Society to go through the lease and make any alterations thought necessary.

Mrs. Harrison asked Mr. Stuart Brookes to read it. He found the document to be a straight commercial lease (later confirmed by a solicitor). It contained clauses which were thought to be inappropriate as far as the society was concerned. These included maintenance on the building with the society responsible for building a new toilet block, estimated by council to cost $10,000. The lease of the hall was subsequently set at $1200 per annum. Despite the fact a letter had previously been received requiring us to pay a rental of $25 per year. Discussion with the shire took place regarding this. The outcome of the meeting, was that council decided against giving the arts and crafts society a lease, but would rent to them at $50 per year, our society would be responsible for water and sewerage rates as well as maintenance of the grounds. This was agreed upon. The society then moved in the church hall. When settled we asked the arts council for a grant of $2400 to paint the hall inside and out (this was permitted by the shire). $1300 was then spent from the arts and crafts funds to rewire the building and put in more lights and an additional two fans.

City Status |

In 1990 Mandurah became a city! The city's first Mayor was a councillor Bruce Cresswell. It was not long after this that notification was received by our president, from the Mayor, that the council had decided to increase our rent from $50 per year to $1560 per year.

When Mayor Cresswell was asked how he had arrived at this figure, he replied that it was based on the user pays principle. With this development it was felt there had to be a change to the former agreement. This time we required the council to pay the water and sewerage rates as well as cutting the grass 3 or 4 times a year. This was felt to be only fair because we were paying so much more rent.

At this time we were advised by letter from the council that as we had no lease on this hall, we could be given a weeks notice to vacate the premises at any time.The uniting church hall was the Arts and Crafts home from 1985 - 1996.

The Proposed Cultural Centre |

When this was mooted, council indicated that an Art and Craft centre could be built in the cultural centre precinct, on a site behind the senior citizens centre. Plans show that provision had been made for this. However this proposal did not go ahead as apparently after everything else was built there was no room for the Arts and Crafts!! Newspaper cuttings at various times indicated that the shire had no money ear-marked for the provision of an Art and Craft Centre.

The Childcare Centre |

President Mrs. Julie Gillam and her executive committee, were called to a meeting with Mr. Matt Thomas of the city council. A lease of the child care centre building (except for two rooms to be used by the Arts Council) was offered to the Mandurah Arts and Crafts Society (inc) for 5 years. This proposal was gladly accepted. Everyone agrees it is a very good facility, which we are very lucky to have, it is our best venue to date. If there is any complaint it would only have to be that it is a little too far out of town.

It must be included in this history of our society, that now, in September 1999, we have a membership of 280 and still growing. Choice of crafts is wonderful, with new crafts explored throughout each year. Those available at the present time include:

China painting, non-fired glass engraving, glass decoration, stamp art, paper embossing, scribblers club, needlecraft (candle wicking, cross stitch, bullion, tapestry, ribbon embroidery, hardanger and carrickmacross) bobbin lace and tatting, spinning, crochet, painting (oils, watercolour and acrylic) drawing, hobby ceramics, miniatures, silver craft, folk art, porcelain dolls, silk painting, pewter and copper embossing and more.

This group must be one of the most successful (non-sporting) clubs in the district - starting with no money or assets and 14 members to, at present, assets of over $40,000 and 280 members.

Recognition |

Over the years we have had some very good office bearers and committees. However I feel it is fitting that Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Brookes be recognised for the number of times they have held every office, Stuart being an excellent President, and tireless worker for the Arts and Crafts as a handyman and liaison officer with the council. I would also like to at this time to make special of mention of Mrs. Jean Brookes who has taught so many wonderful crafts to our members, crafts none of us would have learned without her expertise.

2000 - 2015

Written by Judith Jones |

The society remains at 4 Tuart Avenue, but is under continual threat of being re-located. Our lease has gone from a five year term with a five year option to, as of 2015, renewal on a one year basis and with the continued expansion of the city and the influx of large shopping centre complexes this it too valuable a site not to be re-developed.

The intervening years since 2000 have seen an increase of membership to a peak of 350+ in 2002 dropping to a more manageable 267 at the moment. Art classes have increase in the last few years but there has been a drop of interest in craft due to changes in life style and home commitments.

The demise of the Mandurah-Murray arts council, (renamed Arts, Culture, Peel) who were originally allocated two small rooms in the studios for their use, means we have gained very valuable office space to help cope with the management of our club.

Re-development of the Falcon hall into an E-Library left quite a few groups looking for a new venue, also with the increase in insurance costs most small clubs faced closure through lack of funds which led to a gain in our membership. We have also added another venue close by for a pottery group and after a few teething problems this is now up and running. The addition of air-conditioning to both buildings has been a big bonus for members, especially during the summer months. Sales of work (both craft and art) have been quite successful with a lot of interest shown by the public.

Classes now available now include a variety of art mediums, namely oils, watercolours, acrylics, mixed media and encaustic. Craft classes are held in cards, glass slumping, spinning, knitting, crochet, needlework, bobbin lace making, writing, pottery and patchwork & quilting and also includes a social group.

The lease for the club expires this year and we can only hope for a continuation of this to cater for arts and crafts in the Mandurah area.

Recognition - 2014 saw the passing of our Founder and life member, Beryl Smallwood. Her inspiration, enthusiasm and hard work led to the start of this club.

2016 - Present

Coming Soon |