Bungendore Wood Works Gallery has remained remarkably consistent over 30 years. A cooperative networking attitude to other woodworkers, display, diversity and fine craftsmanship and exhibitions have been recurring and core ideals for BWWG.
The opening exhibition in September 1983 featured a single work from each of eight woodworkers from the region around Bungendore. David Mac Laren, a furniture maker himself, gave the exhibitors a quantity of American Black Walnut that he had brought from New York for their projects. “You have to give things first. I believe in gestures – not the bottom line.
“Bungendore Wood Works Gallery provides a space, where wood workers can display their works, where diversity is encouraged, and fine craftsmanship is essential.” That was the statement printed on the first exhibition flyer.
And if we were to explicitly restate our mission today, it would say something like: “we aim to provide the best possible space, to display a diversity of the best Australian art and craft available to us in the best possible way, and where fine craftsmanship and artistic skill and integrity is still, most essential.”
The new Bungendore Wood Works Gallery complex, situated directly opposite the original Gallery site, was opened in April, 1994 by the Honourable Jim Snow MP.
David Mac Laren
David left mechanical engineering at Yale University and arrived at the Australian National University in 1963 to do an arts degree in Philosophy and English Literature. He returned to the United States to try his hand at playwriting, and joined the anti war political campaigns of the late 60’s. With limited success in writing and the demoralisation of the political scene, David was willing prey to the woodworking love affair when he joined Impressions In Wood, a co-operative of woodworkers in Manhattan as an apprentice.
Here he was introduced to derivative renditions of the natural edge furniture of George Nakashima and the stack laminated sculptural furniture of Wendell Castle. And he was not alone. All of his fellow woodies at Impressions had previous careers.
The Arts and Crafts Generation
A dynamic cultural shift to the crafts was sweeping the US in the early 70’s and soon after it would manifested itself in Australia. This laid the ground for a profound craft practice and an unparalleled and extraordinary generation of craft, and wood craft, turning and furniture making in particular. With Australia’s incredible, unique and diverse species of extravagant timbers, turners found a passionate expression matched by skills and daring that made them world leaders
George Ingham, Canberra, 1983
The arrival of George Ingham to head up the new Canberra School of Art Wood Workshop and David Upfill-Brown to establish his workshop at Tharwa, near Canberra were propitious beginnings. Graduates from the newly established school and a very active group of Canberra woodworkers provided the energy and enthusiasm to organise a most successful wood Conference at the ANU in 1987.
During these first years of Bungendore Wood Works Gallery, Mac Laren visited Ingham and Upfill-Brown, participated in the Canberra wood craft exhibitions and served as guest lecturer and artist in residence at the ANU Wood Workshop. This was the beginning of an authentic arts and crafts community, one of many throughout the country.
A Tourism success story
Since 1992 the Gallery has earned two National Tourism Awards and no less than 15 state and territory tourism awards both for tourism retailing and as a significant tourist attraction. In 2007 the Gallery was again successful in the ACT Region Tourism Awards winning the Specialised Tourism Services Award and nomination for the 2007 National Tourism Awards held in Canberra in February 2008.
The Gallery continues to be a leading presenter of woodwork and fine arts and has over the past 8 years being consistently recognised by artists as a most desirable “place” to exhibit their work. The Gallery now presents work by over 200 of Australia’s leading designers, makers and artists in most mediums including wood, painting, sculpture, ceramics, glass, jewellery, printmaking, photography and textiles.