Inspirational women finding their niche

Niche is a popular buzz word at the moment. Amongst other definitions the dictionary describes niche as a ‘comfortable or suitable position in life or employment’. Alison McDonald, Freya Jobbins, Marina DeBris, and Jhess Knight are inspirational women who push the boundaries of comfort and traditional art to explore their creative niche.

Alison McDonald

Alison McDonald is a local artist who integrates her passion for recycling and the environment into her work through the use of everyday materials, items we throw away on a daily basis. Alison regularly exhibits new artwork in Townsville, interstate and now internationally. Her work is held in collections including Royal North Shore Hospital; Visy Education Centre Townsville; and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, California. Her Wonton Wild and Unimagined Exhibition recently toured the Museums and Galleries circuit.

I was invited to visit Alison’s studio recently, as part of an interview assignment. The visit revealed a well organised work space with recycled media sorted neatly into containers and on shelves. Amongst the recycled plastic and metal were copper hot water services ready for her next exhibition at the Perc Tucker Gallery. Alison will be using a variety of water vessels in surprising ways.

Alison McDonald Choker created whilst on residency in Aberystwyth, Wales Up-cycled PET plastic collars, silver coated wire and Perspex 53 cm (diam)

Freya Jobbins

Freya Jobbins works with recycled toys making installations and assemblages for exhibition and commissions. She also runs workshops around Australia and visited Townsville in 2017, as part of a RADF funded project.

Initially, Freya’s journey began after a horrific head on collision. Freya revealed in an interview that art and drawing was a way to regain her fine motor skills after her accident. Freya has come a long way since then. “Freya’s prints and sculptures have been exhibited and held in collections Australia wide, in NYC, Detroit and San Francisco in the USA. Hamburg Germany, Oslo Norway, Klagenfurt Austria Yorkshire England, Dubai UAE and in Tel-Aviv Israel” (Smug Mug, n.d.).

Her workshops with recycled toys are a fun way for the community to be involved in creative recycling. Freya has found a way to step outside the comfortable workshop niche market with her assemblages. Her work pushes the boundaries of comfort in the viewer. The artist uses dismembered toys to shape bodies and faces making up-cycled sculptures of Greek gods, iconic characters, artists, and celebrities.

Freya Jobbins 2015 Cassiopeia front view toy assemblage.

Marina DeBris

Marina DeBris is the name used by an Australian based artist whose work focuses on reusing trash to raise awareness of ocean and beach pollution. The artist had a successful graphic design career before stepping out of a comfortable career and deciding to make ‘Trashion Wear’, utilizing trash washed up from beaches. Her work is displayed in Sculpture by the Sea, featured in magazines there is a demand for her Trashion Wear as a statement piece at fashion events and on catwalks.

With her passion for the environment the artist would love to run out of trash but realizes there is a demand for her work with the current interest in sustainability. People are comfortable wearing and displaying her fashionable trash or joining in and making their own statement piece at one of her workshops.

Read more about Marina’s work in this article published by the Sydney Morning Herald:

Marina DeBris Sculpture by the Sea 2015.

Jhess Knight

Jhess Knight is a puppeteer who I am hoping to meet in person when she comes to Townsville in September. So far there have been emails and phone calls back and forth to secure her visit. [Her visit is subject to funding approval from a RADF grant]

Jhess works with trash to make puppets. She trained at the London School of Puppetry and has a wide range of skills making and operating various styles. She teaches puppetry to people of all ages, speaks at events and collaborates with other artists.

The puppeteer is passionate about sustainability, her work is created as much as possible using recycled and re purposed materials. Making puppets with children may be the obvious choice. Jhess found a niche market taking the corporate world out of their comfort zone. Her engaging workshops encourage adult participants to use their imagination and make puppets from discarded trash. Participants who are reluctant to be involved at first, leave believing they can be creative. Learn more about Jhess’s art by visiting her website or watching this YouTube video ​

Jhess Knight.

They are four women who have found innovative ways to follow their creative recycling passion. They have shared their knowledge generously and inspired me to follow a creative pathway.


Written by Sonia Ward
Sonia was born in Adelaide and the mother of four children and grandmother to eight. She is currently a fulltime Bachelor of Visual Arts student and part time workshop facilitator, who constantly thinks about the next creative project.

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