CRAFTING PASSION: Sculptor Jacqui Rahley putting the finishing touches on some of her work.
CRAFTING PASSION: Sculptor Jacqui Rahley putting the finishing touches on some of her work. Linda Mantova

Darling Downs woman crafts new passion

JACQUI Rahley is a country woman with a love of all things natural and a knack with her hands.

The talented sculptor and artist has been living on her 65-ha property, Aussie Park, at Upper Spring Creek, east of Clifton for the past ten years, and has had a life-long love of all kinds of art.

Look around her home and garden and there is evidence of her talents at every turn.

Jacqui has tried her hand at just about all forms of art, from wool paintings, spinning and weaving, to silk painting and ceramics, but for now her focus is on her sculpting work.

“You name it and I’ve had a go at it over the years,” Jacqui said.

She gets her inspiration from animals and the land, which is obvious by the abundance of figurines adorning her rambling garden, including a possum, kangaroo, kelpie dog, kookaburra, and bilby.

Born on her family’s sheep property in north eastern Victoria, Jacqui was raised in the Merino wool boom riding horses from a young age, and recalls one highlight as winning Champion Pony Under 14 hands, at the Sydney Royal Show, when she was just 11 years old.

“Horses were my first love, before my husband, Gary, and I got into breeding simmental cattle, but I still have a soft spot for them,” Jacqui said.

Operating Aussie Park Simmentals for many years, Jacqui and Gary had much success on the show circuit winning broad ribbons at local shows and the Brisbane Ekka.

“However, when Gary passed away six and a half years ago, I found it very hard and didn’t think I’d stay on the farm,” Jacqui said.

“I eventually sold all my cattle a couple of years ago, but still agist a few here for one of my neighbours. I still like having the cattle around,” she said.

Jacqui has three children, Ken, Donna and Neale, as well as seven grandchildren.

“Ken comes up from Brisbane to help out from time to time, and I always have a big list of jobs for him to do like strain the fences. His children love motorbikes so they have a ball on the farm,” she said.

Jacqui now keeps herself busy with her art work and volunteering at several organisations in the local district.

“I got involved in art when my daughter, Donna, was very young,” she said.

“I used to take Donna for art lessons, and the teacher saw me doodling one day and thought I had a real talent also.”

Jacqui started off painting and the rest, as they say, is history.

She worked as a teacher/librarian at the Biddeston State School for 20 years, teaching art to the students every Wednesday.

“I then had a go at pottery and did a few pottery courses including attending the McGregor Summer School for five years in a row,” Jacqui said.

“I became friendly with the tutor and did workshops with her at Maleny on a couple of occasions,” she said.

Jacqui has been doing clay sculpting now for around 15 years, however has had her own kiln for the past 25 years, as well as her own studio at home.

She has exhibited her work and had success at several shows, including winning Reserve Champion at the Toowoomba Royal four years ago, with a sculpture of Kingfishers.

“I like to make birds, and love anything Australian,” she said.

Her pieces range from sculptures of sheep and cattle, to blue wrens and riding boots, as well as mugs and vases.

Last year, she sold her work for the first time at the annual Bush Christmas exhibition in Toowoomba, and she is already working on pieces for this year’s event in November, as well as other privately commissioned pieces.

Jacqui also volunteers at the Homestead in Allora once a month, teaching the elderly residents pottery.

“I also teach pottery for one term each year at the Greenmount State School, and have done for the past six years,” she said.

Jacqui is one of the movers and shakers who started the thriving Clifton Dabblers Inc.

“About four years ago myself and three other local artists got together and called for expressions of interest in an art and craft group in Clifton,” Jacqui said.

“The response was overwhelming and in 2012 we started out meeting in the Anglican Church Hall,” she said.

“We then leased the old fire station in Clifton which is now the home of the Dabblers.”

The organisation has grown to now having 42 members and is also incorporated.

“It keeps me very busy, as I’m now the secretary of the Dabblers,” Jacqui said.

As well she likes to spend two hours in her garden each day, and devotes at least 3-4 hours on her sculpting.

“I just love making things with my hands,” she said.

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