Header image: “Phoenix”
Guy Breay is an inspiring artist specialising in timber sculptures based in the Western Downs region of Queensland. And his life has been just as beautiful and interesting as his sculptures are.
Guy was born in England, yet called the South of India home where his father was a Tea, Coffee and Cardamom planter. It was here Guy was exposed to the many examples of fine sculpture in clay, stone, bronze and ivory that can be found in Hindu temples and elsewhere in India.
Years later, he moved to Papua New Guinea, where he was involved in the development of the Tea, Coffee and Cardamom industries and supported local farmers to manage their businesses in sustainable ways. This is also where he met his Australian wife and ‘soulmate’ Jan.
While living in Papua New Guinea, Jan and Guy bought a property near Dalby, Queensland, now known as ‘The Stiks’, and started the journey of building their new home from local materials and timber from the property in a way that was sustainable and worked with the land.
They returned every year to chip away at their home build until 1993 when they returned with their four children to settle into life in Australia. It was here that Guy really found momentum in his love and passion for all things timber.
“I had been working with wood almost all my working life.” Explains Guy.
“I studied sculpture at school and it flowed on from there. But when we started building our house at ‘The Stiks’, I was able to get really creative and make the design of our home more artistic, as we were using trees from our own property, and wanted to be self-sufficient.
“As I learnt more about the history and the species we had on our land, the more I realised just how precious our forest was. It’s so important to harvest in ways that work with nature and respect the environment.
“About 60 years ago, the early sawmill timber-getters had come through the region and wanted to encourage the growth of the local Cypress pine. So in the process, they ring-barked most of the Budgeroo trees on the property, which were competing with Cypress and were not considered suitable for milling due to internal pipes and defects. The remaining dead Budgeroo trees are very susceptible to fire. The exterior of the trees were gnarled and sun bleached in appearance, but then someone who was familiar with local timbers became very excited to see these dead trees and advised me that in spite of their rugged exterior, the heartwood had very beautiful Mahogany grain and colour. Over time, I have very carefully salvaged them from fire hazards and brought them to my workshop where they are treasured and given a new life in the form of furniture timber or sculpture.”
Period of discovery
Discovering his own unique style has been a journey of its own, as it is for many artists. Guy was encouraged and guided by many excellent wood workers he met at the Maleny Wood Expo over the years.
“I had been making bush furniture from Budgeroo and selling it for a while, leaving the rustic edges, but then I really wanted to get back into art and started experimenting more with sculpture.
“Some years back Jan and I went to Ireland to meet with a world renowned wood sculptor, Ian Norbury, to attend a 2 day one on one master class. I spent the whole time chatting and having fun with Ian and not doing any carving. It was however very inspirational and was a turning point in my artistic life.
“I began to discover my true destiny and inspiration as a wood carver. Instead of concentrating on figure carving of female form all the time, I broadened my outlook and styles to create more abstract sculpture from the natural shapes that sun bleached, rugged and twisted branches and tree stumps offered me. I try to incorporate contrasting colour, textures, lines and negative space into all my work these days”
Guy also considers how he uses each piece of salvaged timber from his property.
“Nothing goes to waste. All of the chips are used in the fireplace to start our fires in winter, sawdust is used in the garden, and what remains is a unique sculpture, a one of a kind piece.”
Guy started exhibiting his work at the Maleny Wood Expo in 2012, where show a keen interest in his “different” style of work. But in meeting other woodworkers and artisans, and stepping into an open and supportive community, this took his work to a whole new level.
“You really are rubbing shoulders with the best of the best from around the country at the Maleny Wood Expo!” Shares Guy.
“People I admired like Don Powell saw my work and encouraged me to submit my work into the Wootha Prize, that was a real compliment.”
So he did. And Guy took home 3rd prize…. twice!
“I remember Robert Howard saying as a judge of the Wootha Prize, ‘Whoever has got into the finals you have already won, and whoever gets a prize, well, it’s luck of the draw!’ That was so encouraging to all the finalists in the Pavillon. I really admire Robert and think he is one of the most skilled wood craftsmen in the world.”
Since becoming a regular exhibitor at the Maleny Wood Expo, Guy has expanded his reach to more people across the country.
“Not only have I made a lot of friends through the Maleny Wood Expo, it has become a base outlet for sales, and an opportunity to build connections with my customers. You just don’t get the same feeling selling online. I’ve been able to do some lovely commissioned pieces as a result of being at the Expo.
“We also get the opportunity to share ideas and concepts with other artists and makers who in turn become friends and supporters”
Advice for budding new artists
“For any budding new artists, just give it a go and just get started. Don’t make things just to make money, that will come with time, endeavour to find your own style of work, and create unique works of art.
“Over time you will build your skills and confidence. What has helped me on my journey is expanding my network and getting to know more people.”
Where to find Guy’s work
Guy now exhibits in galleries all over the country and sells his work online through his website. He is also open to doing commissioned pieces.
- David Linton Furniture and Timber works, Maleny, Queensland
- The Good Egg Gallery, Samford, Brisbane, Queensland
- Murrays Art and Framing, Toowoomba, Queensland
- Bungendore Wood Works Gallery, Bungendore, NSW
- Maleny Wood Expo, Maleny, Queensland
- Mt Coot-tha Sculpture Exhibition, Brisbane, Queensland
- Western Downs Regional Arts Exhibition, Dalby, Chinchilla and Miles, Queensland
Follow Guy on social media for tips and work-in-progress stories about his works
To be in touch