Antony Davies and his dogs
Lucy the irish wolfhound views "Best in Show" a new exhibition at the Wheatfield Gallery Jembaicumbene, NSW. Photo: Colleen Petch
Artists and heritage put Braidwood on the map; now, dogs are making the place famous. Paintings and sculptures of 80 assorted mutts from the gold rush villages of the district are hanging from the granite stone walls and standing outside an 1859 mill that has reopened for the first time in a century.
Antique dealer and restorer Antony Davies chose dogs as a theme to launch a new gallery, Wheatfield, in the four-storey mill, which in its peak was a gold-crushing plant, sawmill and flour mill, employing 25 people.
''Braidwood is a very dog-friendly place,'' Mr Davies said. ''There are dogs on every corner. There are several dogs particularly well known that sit outside certain shops in the main street. Both locals and visitors alike stop and see them.''
Mr Davies and his partner Andrew Gow spent four years restoring the stone and sandstock-brick building once surrounded by wheat fields. Standing above a tunnel and millpond on the Majors Creek Road at Jembaicumbene, the mill has 70 moulded window frames handmade by Amish craftsmen in Pennsylvania.
The current Best in Show exhibition has lured international art buyers and includes a welded sculpture of a cattle dog, a sheet-steel working dog, and painted cut-out of a blue heeler.
So life-like are some of the pieces that visitors' dogs will rush at them, then sniff them and turn to their owners as if to ask for an explanation.
Inside the mill under heavy mountain ash beams, a great dane called Atlas with different coloured eyes, one matching a blue napkin poster, is mounted on an easel.
Mr Davies' research has revealed the building was constructed for £6000, which he says is equivalent to $8 million today.
''I have a background in art and antiques. I worked for Sotheby's for 20 years, so we felt a gallery would allow the community to come and see it,'' he said.
More restoration will lead to residences opening upstairs, enabling Wheatfield to become a centre modelled on the Arthur Boyd Bundanon centre for artist residency programs.
''We're hoping that this particular venue will allow all kinds of exhibitions, craftwork, sculpture,'' Mr Davies said. ''We're having a collection of antique toys in February and early colonial artefacts.''
Wheatfield gallery is open from 10am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday, and the exhibition closes next weekend.