If you’ve had coffee at Café 66, driven past the Fylnns Beach Resort or shopped at the Growers Market, then chances are you have been touched by Carey Bellamy’s art. Wendy Hall gives Focus an indepth portrait of the artist who is bringing art to our streets …
What brings an award winning fabric designer and artist all the way from Zimbabwe to Port Macquarie?
This is the question I put to Carey Bellamy, the Port Macquarie based, South African painter whose colourful and imaginative paintings adorn such landmarks as the wall opposite Café 66 in the centre of town and the award- winning Flynns Beach Resort.
Carey’s answer is as interesting as her colourful life. She relates that it was really a series of coincidences and quirks of fate that led her to adorning the walls of our town.
Carey was born in Zimbabwe in 1960 at a time when it was still called Rhodesia, and the map of South Africa was very different to what it is today. Bulawayo, in Western Rhodesia where Carey was born, is known in Zulu as ‘the place of the killing.’ Little was she to know that the killing she would be making would be on the streets of a faraway beach resort in Australia!
Carey’s schooling took place in South Africa, where she discovered that she was compelled to draw at every opportunity she got! This stood her in good stead to enter a selective High school in Johannesburg – the Johannesburg School for Art, Ballet, Music and Drama.
> A ROOM OF HER OWN
Upon leaving school, the travel bug took hold. Through a friendship Carey had made while working part-time as a hotel receptionist, she got the chance to go to sea.
Her first experience at sea wasn’t all that glamorous – she worked as a pursurette on a cargo ship that brought frozen lamb from New Zealand to Saudi Arabia.
But she was hooked, and this first stint was followed by similar work on a passenger ship – the HV Astor. Carey’s artistic tendencies were somehow discovered by the ship’s management, and she soon had a room of her own at the bottom of the ship – where she painted a New York theme board for the dance floor and other backdrops. After a few years of doing this, Carey was persuaded to further her ability to draw and paint. She was 26.
> FURTHER STUDY
By 1986 Carey had decided to study for a National Diploma in Textile Design in Durban at the Natal Technikon. She saved up the money herself to do this course, which took 3 years. And, always conscientious, she worked hard to do well at it. Working in the accounts department of a local private hospital provided her with living expenses while she did the course
After winning a number of awards, Carey won the Emma Smith Scholarship for further study, and as a result chose to head to Manchester in England to study for a Masters Degree in textile design at Manchester University.
> RETURN TO THE SEA
The early ‘90s recession was in full swing in England at this time. Manchester was fun but cold and rainy, with tiny houses squashed together and nightmare traffic. Carey’s options were limited regarding the kind of jobs she could choose in her field. Big companies weren’t taking on new recruits. Carey made the decision to return to the sea one last time.
This time the girl from Zimbabwe was thinking big, and as a result she gained a position on the Queen Elizabeth the Second (QE2). It was the world’s largest passenger ship at the time, and Carey was soon a deck supervisor. But again, her painting talent was seized upon, and passengers would see Carey’s backdrops for shows and pantomimes – including one for Neil Sedaka and Harry Connick Jnr.
> HEAD HUNTED
Carey was lured back from the QE2 when British company, David Whitehead Textile Design Group, went looking for her. They wanted her to design fabrics for their Durban enterprise. Carey stayed there for five years as a textile designer. Those five years gave Carey the valuable experience that enabled her to spread her wings.
The political situation in South Africa at that time was on the boil, with Nelson Mandela just out of gaol. Carey was a new mum, and decided that she would like to leave South Africa for safety reasons with her only child Amber and go to live in Australia.
Why Australia? Carey had been to Sydney and had been enthralled by the experience of coming through the heads of Sydney harbour on three occasions, with the promise of the sight of the Opera House and the bridge on the other side … plus Australia had sunshine and blue skies, and Sydney had wide open spaces nearby and a climate similar to that of Durban.
Through her company, Carey found an Aussie sponsor. Then started the long and tedious process of becoming a permanent resident of Australia as a skilled migrant.
But she did it with her usual determination, and she and Amber (aged four) arrived in South Sydney in 1998. They wasted no time in becoming Aussie Citizens two years later, and Carey remains very proud of this fact.
When Amber started school, Carey received the $50 back to school allowance that the NSW Government has been giving to everyone with kids at school until 2008. The generosity of this gesture made Carey cry, and she immediately rang up to say thank you. The person who answered the phone said they would put this on her file but wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, as no one had ever thanked them before!
Carey went on to work in design studios in Sydney and Melbourne for a few years, creating designs for apparel and furnishings.
> SEA CHANGE
After just a couple of years of city living with three hours commuting each day involved, Carey felt the need to escape from all the hustle and bustle … a sea change was required. It was an impulse decision that saw Carey and Amber bundle everything up, get in the car and drive north. The promise to Amber was that wherever Carey ended up finding employment, they would stay.
The first job Carey was offered was in a motel in Port Macquarie. As luck would have it, accommodation came with the position! Her first job was at the Beach Park Motel; then Carey found her present job at Le George Motel (which, incidentally, is adorned with her paintings).
Carey knew that she had to think of some creative way to get artistic commissions on the Mid North Coast! Port Macquarie isn’t exactly renowned for having textile design studios, so other options had to be thought about.
Her lucky break came about when Carol Kepers, who had seen some of Carey’s artwork, told Phil Saltofosso of Café 66 fame about Carey’s talent. He wanted some changes made to counteract the eyesore of a wall with a drainpipe that his customers had to look at each time they ate there.
Thus the ‘Afternoon in Tuscany’ mural came to be on the wall beside the café. Carey’s mural was highly commended in the 2006 Heritage Design Awards.
Commissions sprang from this piece of work. Now you can find Carey’s work far and wide in Port Macquarie, both publicly and privately.
> WHAT NEXT FOR CAREY?
Next on the agenda is painting Trompe l’oeil bookshelves for sale privately and at markets. Carey can also be commissioned for private art work. She can be contacted on 6584 1248 or by email: email@example.com
> SEE THE ART!
Places where you can find the works of Carey Bellamy in Port Macquarie and Lake Cathie: Café 66, Coastal Music, Flynns Beach Resort, Le George Motel (by permission), Mike’s Seafood, Growers Market, Pollards Pools (by permission) and I’lly Café.
> Story by Wendy Hall.