I was born in West Wyalong, country NSW, Australia.
My first memories are of New Guinea, where Dad worked for a few years. We were in the highlands. A remote and beautiful part of the world, where the locals sold vegetables at the markets. At the age of 3 these markets suitably impressed me.
This memory, subconsciously encouraging me to make my own living from the markets, years later.
The twenty years or so, in between the New Guinea highlands and Bondi went something like this.
A happy, consistent childhood in Wagga Wagga, we had family holidays, on the NSW coast, Melbourne, Tasmania, or camping in the Snowy Mountains. My world, however small, was idyllic.
My love for art was definitely fostered at high school by some remarkable art teachers. Mr Illingsworth, Mr Mathews, Mr Tate, and Mrs Nolan. My Aunt Linda, who had traveled to all the great galleries, also filled my head, with visions of paintings I had only seen in books. She took us to the Victorian Art Gallery on many occasions and framed some of my drawings for her home.
Although I had no thoughts of actually becoming an artist… that sort of happened accidentally.
By 18, Wagga Wagga wasn’t doing it for me any more and Sydney beckoned. I arrived in Sydney to start my Bachelor of Design at UTS, a very naïve, innocent country girl and finished 6 years later, perhaps a little jaded by the whole experience. Finishing was a most triumphant moment for me – the course was damn hard and only the most tenacious and dedicated finish.
I suffered for a month in a textile design studio. Trying to paint small floral textile designs for the mass market. My big uni-degree ego shattered, when I was fired. Ah, the real world.
Then something amazing happened, my little subconscious memory of the highland market became a reality when in February 1994 I had my first stall at Bondi Beach market. Of course I didn’t sell anything. I had my uni drawings and a weird collection of things from hand painted glasses to origami swallows… and some very over designed clothes (university assignments) that people laughed at. But while I was sitting there for hours, not selling anything, I thought…this market needs drawings of Bondi.
Completely undeterred by my first market debacle, I returned with about 20 A4 pastel sketches of Bondi.
My first and the most important sale of my career was a badly drawn boy holding a surfboard ‘Bondi Surfer', to a young woman, for $5…I nearly fell over…. and so began my career as an artist.
My artwork has evolved dramatically over the years. Mostly on A2 paper, I use gouache, acrylic, pastel, collage, lino printing, plastic bags and more recently have adventured into oil paint.
I held my first solo exhibition in 1996, been involved with establishing two galleries, had work published as art prints and two book covers. I’ve painted hundreds of commissions, from people’s houses, wives, views, wedding invitations, council Christmas cards and café menus. In 2016 I had my first international group show at The Brick Lane Gallery in London. Many people all over the world own original Jennifer Baird paintings and drawings. I believe in affordable, accessible and original artwork, where prices start at $50.
The response has been overwhelming, I never anticipated the sale of a $5 pastel sketch would have launched my career as an artist. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
My work can be seen at Trove in Canberra. Shop 13, Level 1 Garema Centre, 70 Bunda st. Canberra City.
You can meet me at the Handmade markets held quarterly in Canberra. www.handemadecanberra.com.au