MATTHEW GEORGE and his young son were taking an evening walk down Maple Street, Maleny. The town was going to sleep for the day and the street was defined by its shadows and ragged roof lines. It was then that Matt was struck by an inspiration for a project that is now bringing smiles up and down the main street.
Crouching down to Jamie’s eye level Matt was pointing out the spiders and lizards coming out for the night when his eye was drawn back to the street’s roof lines with the thought, “Wouldn’t it be exciting to discover animals on those roofs.”
Back at his Peachester workshop Matt produced chainsaw sculptures of a possum and a python which were then mounted on the veranda of Watson’s Service Station. People saw the animals, were intrigued, and chatted about them with Watson’s staff.
There was clearly interest in this eye-catching idea that was bringing a smile to people’s faces. So Matt’s dream of an animal trail gradually took shape – each animal sculpture would be carved to the client’s specification and the finished sculpture would be mounted on their premises in sight of passing residents and visitors to Maleny.
The next commission was an eastern water dragon for Mark Richardson at 3 Maple Café. This huge dragon almost two metres long was mounted on the terrace roof. It was given a personal name and a Certificate of Authenticity was delivered to a delighted Mark. A Facebook page was then launched along with an explanatory email to potential businesses and interested parties.
As Matt’s Maleny Animal Trail started to take off it became easier to sell the concept to more business owners up and down Maple Street. They started approaching Matt with commissions, not because of any commercial reasons, but simply because they wanted to be part of Maleny’s new fun project. Since the first animal was installed in March the Maleny Animal Trail has been expanding every week with a possum on the One Zero phone shop, another possum on Supa IGA), a bilby on the Maple Street Coop, a tawny frogmouth on Rosettas Bookshop), a rooster on Maleny Kitchen & Homewares, mother and baby possum on Maleny Credit Union, a kiwi on Imelda’s Shoes, a python on Maleny Property Rentals, a trio of black cockatoos on the Maleny Community Centre, an orangutan on Maleny Newsagency, a giant goldfish on Monica’s Café, an Alice in Wonderland Caterpillar on Happy High Herbs, a kangaroo on Humphries + Fisk, a dragon on Collin James Fine Foods and a fox on The Range Hardware roof.
Matt George is a tall, lithe and cheerful man who says he has a taste for adventure and has learnt how to use a chainsaw to make a living. His huge shed / workshop in a Peachester clearing is dotted with his fanciful sculptures including massive toadstools and life-size animals from kangaroos to chickens.
He also has sketchbooks filled with drawings of animals and birds as well as concepts for private playgrounds and garden art.
When HT visited Matt in his workshop, he was carving a 1.5m dragon for the Colin James store. Some animals are simply carved out of timber without preparatory drawings, and he uses a variety of chainsaws and carving tools to achieve the basic iconic look of each animal or bird.
Matt lives where he works and he looks after his four and a half year-old son Jamie who is already involved in Dad’s work. He has his own tools for sanding and oil sealing the various animals, and his interest suggests a future father and son business has been seeded.
“When I had my son,” says Matt, “instinctively my thinking changed. And when later I had a daughter the importance of family really hit me – it is mainly about being inclusive and sharing. So, I wondered how I could stay home, enjoy what I do and be there for my kids at this stage of our family’s life.
“Well it turned out that part of me already knew the answer way ahead of time. I had purchased a carving saw to play with and learnt that I really enjoyed creating something out of nothing.
“My opportunity to create was always available as I grew up and in carving I discovered something that was unique, outdoorsy, and I could give my creations as gifts, to friends and family when required.”
What excites Matt about the animal trail is that he has been able to tap into something that gives adults and kids some fun as well as providing him with a viable income stream. Close friends are helping Matt develop the idea by creating an Animal Trail map that covers the entire Maleny
township. This will become a downloadable phone app with notes on the variety of wooden animals and birds created by Matt.
The Maleny Animal Trail is scheduled to go ‘live’ at the Maleny Wood Expo on May 4, complete with an information leaflet detailing the trail.
To contact Matt George phone: 0408 755 767 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org