Jimmy Possum: an unbroken tradition

Image of three chairs inspired by the Jimmy Possum design style

Queen Victoria Art Gallery at Royal Park
26 November 2022 – 28 May 2023

The Jimmy Possum: an unbroken tradition exhibition surveys a showcase of Australia’s foremost vernacular furniture making tradition, including works by the eponym, subsequent historical makers and prominent contemporary artisans.

Bound to the people, place and history of the Meander Valley in northern Tasmania; this chairmaking tradition is unlike any other in the world.

It’s defining interlocking configuration; legs that intersect the seat and housed in the arms, back rungs that intersect the arms and housed in the seat, was reputably developed at several Meander Valley bush camps by the fringe-dweller Jimmy Possum.

There are no primary sources documenting this mysterious artisan. Circumstantial evidence suggests he could have been an ex-convict, equally he may have been a refugee from the Irish famine, or a First Nations man from the mainland.

The subsequent historical chairmakers (c1883 1980s), some known, some unknown, worked in or near the townships of Deloraine and Westbury, and each developed a distinctive interpretation of the original design.

Their chairs were made for family and friends and reflect the dimensions of who they were intended for, as the makers enjoyed the ultimate creative freedom of making for loved ones rather than for profit.

Contemporary artisans continue to be inspired by the tradition. Their works are informed by societal concerns such as sustainability, hyper-locality, identity and connection.

The Jimmy Possum: an unbroken tradition exhibition serves as example and exemplar of how things were and how they might be again.

Image credit: Bronwyn Tanya Harm.