Family’s art is a little bit sheepish

Ann RawlingsCountryman
Newdegate Machinery Field Days art co-ordinator Melissa Cugley and her son, Fletcher, with one of their sculptures.
Camera IconNewdegate Machinery Field Days art co-ordinator Melissa Cugley and her son, Fletcher, with one of their sculptures. Credit: Ann Rawlings

While mobs of sheep dot the Lake Grace Shire, none were as colourful as those penned in the Dyson Jones Wool and Technology Pavilion at this year’s Newdegate Machinery Field Days.

A unique art project by the Cugley family, who farm just south of Newdegate, Rainbow Sheep on a Silver Fleece presented a range of familiar local resources in a new light.

Ear tags, featuring the brands or property codes of producers from around the district, were crafted into sculptures of several sheep, carefully guarded by a black-and-white sheepdog.

Artist Melissa Cugley, who is also field days art co-ordinator, took several months to complete the sculptures, assisted by husband Matt, son Fletcher and daughter Jasi.

Spurred on by past field days president Syd Walker, Mrs Cugley said each sculpture had its own character.

“Syd Walker had all these ear tags that he no longer needed, and he said, ‘Let’s make an artwork’,” she said. “I was just going to make a couple, but then thought the more there were, the more effective the display would be — and they are a mob animal.”

National Livestock Identification ear tags are colour-coded for the animal’s year of birth, with the colours following a eight-year cycle.

“Syd put out a notice saying we needed tags. A lot of people gave their tags to me because they were not in sheep any more, or had changed the name on their tags,” Mrs Cugley said.

Donations ranged in size, from bags of tags to handfuls, with many locals eager to contribute.

“The colours changed, such as the shades of greens and reds, so there was a huge range of colours to work with,” Mrs Cugley said.

“They were beautiful and vibrant colours. There were also colours that were no longer used, like brown and dark blue.”

Linked in different rainbow patterns, the tags became the wool of each sheep, which were constructed using chicken wire over a welded metal frame. “Coming up with a design for joining the tags proved to be tricky. We did a chain effect,” Mrs Cugley said.

While Jasi keenly contributed to the project when home from her Albany boarding school, Fletcher completed the mob scene. “We got given a lot of black and white tags and Fletch said, ‘That would make a great sheep dog’,” Mrs Cugley said.

But, as with any task, practice makes perfect, and the last sheep to be made proved to be a favourite, taking on the rainbow hues of a new field days drawcard.

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