Exploring the mystery of Jimmy Possum

Image of three chairs inspired by the Jimmy Possum design style

Image credit: Bronwyn Tanya Harm

Who was Jimmy Possum? And how did a unique chair making design develop in a small region of Northern Tasmania?

Opening this weekend at the Queen Victoria Art Gallery is the exhibition Jimmy Possum: an unbroken tradition.

The exhibition explores the mysterious identity of a man known as Jimmy Possum.

It features more than 50 Tasmanian made chairs all linked to an Australian bush chair-making tradition that spans more than 150 years.

The exhibition aims to unravel the clues as to who the illusive maker might have been, and details why this making tradition is unique, not only to Tasmania, but to the nation.

Launceston Mayor Danny Gibson said the exhibition would be a great way to celebrate the unique history of design in Northern Tasmania.

"This exhibition shares the research of a globally recognised chair-making method unique to Northern Tasmania," Mayor Gibson said.

"I encourage everyone to visit the exhibition while it's on display and to find out more about this tradition that's still very much alive today."

QVMAG Senior Curator of Visual Art and Design Ashley Bird said the exhibition creates a unique opportunity for visitors to explore the research behind the mysterious Jimmy Possum.

"Every chair on display within this exhibition is unique and has its own story attached to it," Bird said.

"The unique angle of the Jimmy Possum chair-making tradition is that they are not mass-made. They're individually crafted and tailored to suit the owner of the chair.

"Each chair has its own unique history and they are largely made from reclaimed materials that tell a story of the people and place that the chair was made."

Co-curator Dr Mike Epworth said he hoped the exhibition would spark pride in communities across Northern Tasmania.

"Researching the history of Jimmy Possum is a fascinating process, as there is no record of who he was," Dr Epworth said. 

"This exhibition explores the Tasmanian connection to this making tradition, and highlights the possibilities of who Jimmy Possum could have been."

Jimmy Possum: an unbroken tradition is now showing at the Queen Victoria Art Gallery at Royal Park from 26 November 2022 to 28 May 2023 with free entry.

Issued 25 November 2022.