RARE AND ANCIENT ART: Dion Channer's passion for paper will be on display next weekend at the expo. He is pictured here with a lamp made from his paper and frame crafted by his son, who is a cabinetmaker.
RARE AND ANCIENT ART: Dion Channer's passion for paper will be on display next weekend at the expo. He is pictured here with a lamp made from his paper and frame crafted by his son, who is a cabinetmaker. DONNA JONES

Unique artisans will shine a light on past at Gympie expo

WHAT: Quilt & Craft Spectacular and Ancient Crafts and Rare Trades Expo

WHERE: Pavilion and Comets Stadium at the Gympie Showgrounds, November 3-4.

DION Channer's passion for paper has taken him around the world.

Mr Channer makes paper exactly as it has been made for millennia in places like India, Nepal, Bhutan and all over south east Asia.

He even makes papyrus using a method discovered last century by an Egyptian professor of antiquities, as the Pharoahs of Egypt outlawed the writing down of the paper making process back in ancient times.

Western civilisation has been losing the art of paper making since the industrial revolution of the Victorian Age when hand mills were replaced with steam-driven machines.

The decline in paper use in recent years all over the world is a direct result of computer technology with the rise in popularity of email over handwritten letters and blogs over diaries.

None of this has dampened the passion Mr Channer has, and to find where this passion stems from, you have to step back in time to 1978.

Imagine the balmy warm breezes from the Mediterranean Sea in north east Sicily where Mr Channer, then an English teacher working extremely long hours, picks up a French craft magazine in one of his fleeting moments of spare time.

He stops at a page with a black and white photo of a French man, partially silhouetted and back lit behind a sheet of handmade paper.

"His expression was one of serenity, peace and tranquillity,” Mr Channer said.

"I thought to myself, it doesn't matter what he's doing. I need to do that.”

Not long after, a friend from England came to visit Mr Channer, bringing with her a box containing partially processed raw materials and some of the specialist equipment needed to make paper, and most importantly, a book outlining the process.

As luck would have it, his rented home in Sicily was perfect for paper making with a long narrow room he could utilise for drying the finished product.

The following year Mr Channer returned to Australia and settled in Adelaide.

With nothing save the clothes he was standing up in, he decided to make paper for a living and found great success at it thanks to the support of the governments of the time and their genuine interest in the arts.

A highlight came in 1983 when Mr Channer was invited to a papermakers' convention in Kyoto in Japan.

Mr Channer ended up spending three months in Japan with a family whose mill had been making the paper for calligraphy and for the traditional paper screen doors for generations.

At the end of the year Mr Channer returned to Italy, this time to Triste, where he taught English at the university and perfected his paper-making craft in his spare time.

He returned to Australia in 2003 and now devotes all his time to making intricate artworks.

He has settled in Glenwood with his partner Sue Purnell, who makes mosaic art pieces.

Mr Channer said he feels honoured to have been selected to represent artisans who will be displaying at the Quilt and Craft, Ancient Crafts and Rare Trades Expo next weekend.,

"Virtually everything created is beautiful and practical,” Mr Channer said. "Every single artisan, by doing what they do, is looking to make a human connection between the artworks they make and the people who take them home. They are giving a little part of themselves in each piece.”

Gympie Times


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