TWO wrought iron benches created by Paradise-born-and-raised, now Bairnsdale-based artisan, Tony Raeburn, were installed as a permanent exhibit at the St Arnaud Railway Station.
Commissioned by the St Arnaud Raillery Hub, Mr Raeburn was given a brief to emulate the height of the St Arnaud goldfield's period when the heritage listed 1878 station was opened and decorative wrought iron was also in peak demand.
Modelling a heritage motif and contemporary ornamentation, the benches feature Mr Raeburn's signature scroll and hot stamped decorative spheres, adding another new element of significance to St Arnaud's rapidly expanding artistic landscape.
Photographs of the benches have already generated interest from as far away as England where much of the world's specialised tooling for wrought iron work is made.
The benches are hand painted in familiar dark red railway heritage tones and each inscribed with "St Arnaud" on the rear slat, as railway benches often were as to advise train passengers at which station they had arrived.
Mr Raeburn says he has received many requests for photographs to be shared among fellow wrought iron artisans, now a niche collective dedicated to keeping this metal-craft alive (which dates back before the 15th century).
"I'm really proud to be able to put something back into the community, and it's great to see this beautiful building being thoughtfully used to promote a wide range of regional artists, working in many mediums, which is bringing people to the town," Mr Raeburn said.
Growing up on the family farm at Paradise, 35km south west of St Arnaud, Mr Raeburn always had a fascination for metal fabrication, working at Goldacres after ditching a farm apprenticeship and then moving to Bendigo to complete his metal-trade certification at night school.
He returned to the family farm at Paradise to build a new home and raise a family.
Mr Raeburn's step-father, Steve, introduced him to the decorative wrought iron craft, after purchasing some machining equipment. Mr Raeburn began experimenting with it, making mainly ornamental pieces, however quickly expanded his equipment to sculpt heavier metals.
The "Raillery benches", as they've been dubbed, add to Mr Raeburn's other decorative work in St Arnaud's heritage precinct.
His wrought iron expertise was called upon for a project to recreate sections for the St Arnaud Town Hall front and rear gates, whilst he was employed at TPOS Fabrications.
Mr Raeburn moved to Bairnsdale with his family in 2010, to realise his passion for heritage crafts and work with his uncle who specialised in antique clock restoration, and also open his own wrought iron business, Old World Creations.
Every school holidays Mr Raeburn returns to the farm at Paradise with his family.
"The kids and I look forward to coming home and appreciate the natural beauty of the landscape here and freedom we are afforded to explore it," Mr Raeburn said.
"Rural people worry a lot about their youth leaving their towns, but sometimes our young people need to leave to follow their dreams and passions.
"If our young ones are always made feel welcome and valued in our community, they will always return, and the bonus is they will bring what they've learned home to share."
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