Gene McClaren's mixed-media designs

Many passions start in those most creative of places; the backyard shed. 

This is where Gene McClaren first developed his love of tinkering, building and crafting as a child in Launceston in the 1970s and 80s. 

“My dad, he was a motor mechanic so we had a fairly well appointed workshop at home, with a bit of machinery,” McClaren said. 

“He used to do what they called ‘backyarders’, he had his daytime job and he’d be working at weekends servicing peoples cars and that sort of thing and I used to help him out there so that’s where it all started.”

McClaren has spent over a decade working as a pattern maker in a Launceston foundry, developing and perfecting his skills. 

When he was made redundant last year as the foundry closed he opened his own business as “banger of metal, maker of things”.

“I just saw it as an opportunity to really have a go and see what I can do,” he said. 

McClaren works in mixed media and his sculptures and designs are unique for their steel and concrete. 

The challenge of working with these different materials is what he enjoys.

“I like the rusted finish it gives it that, they say it’s ephemeral, it can be brand new and over the years you can see it slowly rusting and changing, I really like that about the steel,” McClaren said. 

“And the concrete is, it’s a big of a play on words, but the flexibility of it … the forms and the shapes that I can produce with it, it’s like clay to me.”

McClaren said a lot of his inspiration comes from architecture. 

I love art deco architecture, that period and also the brutalist type, which is Henty House in town.

Gene McClaren

“I love art deco architecture, that period and also the brutalist type, which is Henty House in town,” he said.

“A lot of people love to hate it, and I remember when I was a child that building was still fairly new and everyone hated it but it’s aged beautifully, I think the raw concrete and the way it’s weathered – it’s really got a presence there, I really love that.”

Creating designs specifically for people is something McClaren has also found a passion for. 

He tries to create pieces that are more than just a sculpture, but which hold a memory and story for the owner. 

“I go to them [the clients] for inspiration … that's really important, that they have their input as far as inspiration goes,” he said. 

McClaren is passionate about maintaining the craftsmanship in manufacturing. 

“What dawned on me ... I see the bare bones of the industry going, the pattern makers and designers and even the guys on the shop floor, once that’s gone in my mind it’s gone forever,” he said.