Background in career and artistic background
Bec: Having attended an all girls school in the 80s/90s I was very much part of the push for girls to study Maths and Science. Despite loving humanities, I was competent in Maths and Science and was therefore strongly encouraged to choose subjects from those fields so I selected Chemistry, Physics and two Maths. Unsurprisingly I disliked them all but found solace in English and Art, the latter of which was selected as I refused to study Biology.
On finishing school I toyed with OT and flirted briefly with studying Illustration at Qld College of Art before settling on a general Arts degree, which was incredibly educational but relatively useless in terms of actual jobs. After 12 months I moved into teaching and felt that I had found my true calling. On graduating, Art always formed a significant part of my teaching practice as I integrated it into every subject whenever I was able. Yes, even Maths and Science.
Primary teaching has continued to form the basis of my career with slight forays into Lecturing and Tutoring (in PE) and High School teaching (in every subject) over the last 25 years. I also completed further studies in Children’s Literature and a Master of Education as well as becoming mum to four fabulous children, perhaps the best and trickiest subjects of them all.
Raising said four children took priority for a number of years and much time and energy was put into decorating their rooms and planning heavily themed birthday parties as creative outlets. As a result of this amateur event planning and styling, I was invited to join the Toowoomba Grammar Art Show Committee to help run the High Tea event, reigniting my dormant love of art and forming the basis of a whole new career focus.
As my involvement with the show grew, so did my interest in the growing number of emerging artists in Australia. I was determined to introduce as many of my favourites as possible to Toowoomba and set about wooing artists to exhibit at Grammar. I then had to convince locals to purchase and so embarked on an extensive social media campaign to create hype and generate sales. In my second year at the helm of the Show, sales hit $400 000, a result more than double the previous highest.
Art sourcing and event planning, combined with the renovation of two houses, saw my career aspirations take on a new direction and I returned to Uni (again), this time enrolling in a Bachelor of Interior Design.
Niki: I’ve worn many hats in many different fields, so I find it hard to say what my background or career has been. I initially trained as a lawyer and did a journalism degree which I thought at the time was creative, instead of doing finance or business with my law degree.
I moved to Paris for a year soon after being admitted as a lawyer and I spent my days visiting museums, window shopping (I was broke, living in an apartment the size of a toilet) and drinking rose in beautiful gardens on the Seine. I was also doing full time French lessons and left after a year without being able to speak a word of French. I think it was a skill that I was unable to pick up or acquire any understanding of the French language.
I then moved on to London for five years and worked at Discovery Channel and returned home and had my own IT/Strategy consulting business.
Everything I have done up until now has been very corporate client facing. Owning a gallery is a really nice change of direction. I wouldn’t say it’s any less work – it’s just more fulfilling.
First impressions of...
Niki: Bec and I met in Amsterdam on an agricultural tour that we were tagging along on. I was there for the shopping and sites but met some fabulous people! One of the first impressions that I remember about Bec is that she knew all the ‘things’. She knew where to shop, where the best coffee was, where to eat, where the art galleries were. We had been there for about 24-48 hours and she was like a local in 5 mins flat. If you ever want to know ANYTHING about ANYTHING you ask Bec. She is a fountain of stuff and where to find it. It’s hard to find something and show something to Bec that she hasn’t seen. So when I worked out that we had a shared love of Art she opened my world to a whole list of artists that I had never heard of. When we got home I pretty much continued to pick her brain and I love that I can show Bec an artwork and she can pretty much tell me who it is by, price point, where they sell their pieces. Bec is like the sommelier of art..
Bec: I remember first thinking how tiny she was. I mean, super tiny, the kind of tiny that makes anyone of average size feel like a giant in comparison. I also could see instantly that she was smart, not the type of smart that comes from lots of learning and study, but rather the natural, quick intelligence that is just innate. I like that sort of person, the type where you know that conversation will just flow and where you started is often very far from where you end up.
The Big move – what was the catalyst that led to the decision
Niki: I was living between Brisbane and Toowoomba and my husband and I had newborn twins which we were travelling with weekly up and back. We had four cots, four highchairs, 4 of everything in two houses. It was insane. So we decided to move permanently in January 2021. I had given up my IT consulting business before I had the kids and was pondering what I could do in Toowoomba after I returned from maternity leave. I really wanted to run my own business again and was thinking about what types of businesses were missing in our local community and what I could create to give back, and the most important thing was I wanted to do something that I loved. I was talking to a girlfriend of mine in my kitchen over a cup of tea and the words just flowed out of my mouth. I think I said ‘I want to do something in Toowoomba that is not already here and something that I love. I love art – I should open a gallery’. And that was it. The idea was born. I then mentioned it to some family over the next month or so who all thought I was insane and then I parked the idea. I happened to be catching up with Bec in the park and I remembered she knew all the ‘things’ and I asked if I could pick her brain about galleries and artists and how the arrangements worked. She had a look in her eye like I had stolen this idea! The first thing she said was ‘Let’s do it together’ with a huge smile on her face.
Bec: The park meeting for sure was the big move. However, in the months leading up to the big move was a niggling idea that this was something I needed to do. An artist had planted the idea in 2020 and despite dismissing it at the time, it just would not go away. Niki was definitely the catalyst and, the interesting part, we both recognise just how hard it would have been to go it alone.
Bec: I am a big picture person with a tendency to focus on the final goal, not the finer details. I have lots of crazy ideas and tend to jump from one to the other so I need grounded people to keep me focused. I am fascinated by people, ideas and concepts and how they work together to create something amazing.
Niki: I think I’m a bit of lots of types of personalities. I can be incredibly focused and driven to succeed, but can sit back and ponder and consider options. I’m a risk taker and also conservative. I also love to ask a million questions and probably all the inappropriate ones you shouldn’t.
Why do you work well together
Niki: We have strengths in different areas. I love a spread sheet and having all the information and data in the right place. I like to analyse figures, drive marketing campaigns, and make sure we meet deadlines. Bec is creative, can make the gallery look incredible and highlight pieces of art to complement one another. We are both definitely glass half full people, and we are very similar but also very different at the same time. When we decided to start the business, we really didn’t know what our strengths or weaknesses would be personally but we kind of hit the jack pot in a business partnership. What I am interested in and am driven by is not necessarily what Bec loves and vice versa – so we have kind of fallen in to our unspoken roles in the business and it just works. We do hold common ground in picking artists and art, and although we may not always agree we both bring a different dynamic of choices to the gallery – which benefits our buyers. Bec has also taught me not to sweat the small stuff. I have a tendency to worry or get stressed out about things but she has taught me to not worry as much and that ‘everything will be fine’.
Bec: People are fascinating. I was always amazed at how you can have such differing personalities, strengths and weaknesses but still work well together, until I realised that is how people work well together.
Vision for the gallery
Bec: Art brings joy and we all could do with joy in our lives, particularly when things are tough (COVID anyone). I had noticed that people wanted to buy art but often lacked the confidence to choose what they loved. I wanted the gallery to provide a relaxed atmosphere that inspired bravery, allowing people to follow their heart.
Niki: Art for the Heart – and art is for everyone.
First art purchase
Niki: My very first art purchase was a piece by Miranda Skoczek to mark the occasion of my wedding in 2016. It’s big, bold and beautiful and I love it. It brings me joy.
Bec: My first big purchase was a Bromley. Charlotte has always been one of my favourites. I think it’s her short hair. I love Bromley’s work because of the incredible detail suggested by just a few brush strokes.
The purchase with the biggest impact
Bec: Aside from the Bromley which I was lucky enough to purchase from him in person, the piece with the biggest impact is my tutu by Ewa Bathilier. Its big, simple and bright blue and white. It has been painted on acetate, which is a little transparent, with big brush strokes, seemingly made with the sort of brush you would use to paint houses. There are only two colours, the strokes are broad, the shapes are simple, but it has incredible movement and emotion. There are very few of her pieces in Australia and I will never forget seeing her gallery in NYC in 2018. It somehow validated the purchase, which I felt was brave (and more than a little crazy) and very instinctive at the time.
Niki: Possibly the piece that I bought for our wedding by Miranda Skoczek, but I’m torn between the pieces I bought from Spencer Shakespeare when he had his studio out the back of Tallebudgera Valley on the Gold Coast. I had not met Spencer yet so I visited with my mother-in-law as I was scared I might be kidnapped. All these unstretched canvases were all over the floor of the studio and he said pick whatever you like. I picked two pieces and had them stretched and framed which I still think are my favourites. If my house was burning down I think these are the two pieces I would grab.
What does Art for the heart mean.
Niki: When you see it you will know. It does something to you that other pieces of art do not. Those are the pieces you should buy.
Bec: Buy what you love when you can. Art regret is real and incredibly unspectacular.