You say MONA, I say MOONAH, let’s call the whole thing off
Class Consciousness III
Textile designer and
Moonah-devotee Penny Malone knows a thing or two about class. She’s got plenty
of it. And she knows a thing or two
about living and loving in the northern suburbs.
“Someone asked me the other day
where I lived. When I told them they said, ‘You live at MONA?’ I said, No,
Moonah! ‘Well that’s too similar you’ll have to change that!’ they said”.
It is true that MONA is close to
Moonah and it’s also close to Penny who has recently been asked to put some of her work in MONA's shop. This is a very exciting
prospect for a girl from the northern burbs.
And Penny has serious
northern-suburbs cred. She first lived
in Moonah when she was three or four years old, out the back of the car yard on
Main Road, right next to the bowling alley they were building at the time. Her family later moved to Austins Ferry where
she grew up and went to school in Glenorchy.
“I’m used to living in the
northern suburbs, it holds no fear for me. But I remember once when a friend of
a friend once said ‘Aren’t you frightened?’”
Penny has been a practicing
artist in business for around 30 years.
Her work is inspired by the natural and built environment. And it’s not hard to see where she gets her
inspiration living in the light industrial environment of Moonah against the
massive backdrop of the Wellington Ranges.
Penny lived in Melbourne for ten
years and when she returned to Tassie, thought she might live in the country but ended up in Moonah, the most Melbourne-like place she could find.
“You know, with a main street, shops
on either side and constant traffic passing through? I love that it’s industrial and residential. It has
everything that you need. There’s a
canvass shop and all sorts of industry here that I use for my work”.
Pattern is an essential concern for Penny and
the influence of both the past and present are easily observed in her designs.
Her work is detailed, repetitious and labour intensive.
“Patterns just evolve. I build up designs by repeat placement
A strong work ethic has grown
from her working class roots. And it
shows. Penny has grown her own design
business that she pursues with discipline and industry.
“I grew up in a family where if
you were going to do something, you did it properly or you didn’t do it at all.
Basically it was don’t put energy into it if you were not going to do it
“My work is my way of making sense of the
world. I do it because it sustains me”.
When asked what has shaped her,
Penny is pretty clear that her dad’s mental illness was a major factor. Living with, and loving a parent, with a chronic mental health condition was
challenging. One of the things she
remembers about him when she was growing up was the high regard he held for wealthy
“He had a reverence for people
who had money and it made me not care for stuff like that. I value people for
who they are not what they have”.
It’s fair to say that Penny
thinks that Moonah’s bad rap is largely a thing of the past. It’s been a really long time since a friend
once likened Moonah to visiting the Bronx but she still gets the occasional
comment about living in Moonah.
“People say ‘Oh you live NCR!’
North of Creek Road. I just think, you don’t know what you’re missing out on”.
Talking to Penny is a fantastic
reminder about all the advantages of living in Moonah. Easy access to the bike track
means Penny cycles to her other job at the TMAG. There is a community arts centre literally
around the corner from the flat she lives in on the Main Road. There are
medical services, shops and a growing restaurant culture.
Penny’s been noticing that Moonah is
“Slowly people are buying here
who can’t afford West Hobart. I hope they enjoy being here and it’s not just
a place they come home to sleep in”.
When Penny’s not in Moonah you
occasionally see her sitting in the window of the Queen’s Head, North Hobart
sipping a beer with her brother and watching the world go by.