Rocking horses lead lifestyle
BLOCKBUSTER film sets and London theatres could not keep this local away from her home in the rolling, green hills of South Gippsland.
Working for a year and a half in the film and theatre industry put Olivia O’Connor off the trail of scenic art and prop-making and into the wooden rocking horse trade.
According to Ms O’Connor, it wasn’t a calling from childhood – as with many of her artisan friends – but a realisation after her final assignment in her course at the National Institute for Dramatic Arts, where she was required to make a rocking horse.
Developing a severe allergy to the toxic resins used in prop-making combined with the industry’s unsustainable practices pointed Ms O’Connor towards something where she had more control over where she lived, what products she used and ultimately her art.
“I really liked the work but in theatre you make something and it’s used for six weeks. Then they put it in the skip,” she said.
“For a film, a prop or scene you’ve made, it might be used for about half an hour and then it’s disposed of for legal or copyright laws and never used again.
“Something I really like about making rocking horses is that you make it and people expect to keep it for generations in the family.”
Ms O’Connor only uses natural and where possible, Australian products with the exception of the horse hair which she sources from the USA because her father’s horses couldn’t keep up with demand.
“There are a lot of different craft skills you need like hand carving, leatherwork and airbrusing, but I think people really underestimate time planning and management,” she said.
“There is a lot of business skills in it if you want to make a living from it. There are hours of business stuff, which I hate, but who doesn’t?
“Having a strong online presence has been really important, especially through my website, and people watching the project’s progress through Facebook and Instagram.”
Working on her parents’ property, Ms O’Connor said she plans on moving on to her own, larger workshop but continuing to do wood carving demonstrations such as at the recent Mudgeerabah Show in Queensland and holding classes in traditional rocking horse making.
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