Next time you drive past the Bellbrae Art and Garden sign on the Great Ocean road between Anglesea and the Bellbrae roundabout, pop in and say hi to the lovely Catherine M. Brennan. Softly spoken, full of vibrant creative energy and always busy, Catherine is the heart and soul behind this inviting and eye-catching working studio/gallery.
Originally from Cairns, Catherine was shifted about constantly in her youth due to her father’s work. Constantly changing schools, she became quick to judge a person’s character, a skill that became very valuable in the world of art, retail and completing commissions.
Her nomadic life took her from assisting a Melbourne bank with their valuable art collection to the remote mountains of Papua New Guinea as a young adult. It was here she worked with the indigenous communities in building cottage industries around weaving and painting. This was also the time she met husband Brian. Ongoing dangerous and at times fatal flying conditions put an end to the young couple’s adventures in this country, so Catherine returned to Australia to work with indigenous communities in Darwin.
Eventually the couple married and settled in Bendigo to raise their three children. Inspired by her early Fine Art studies at the Lance McNeil Academy of Realism and Berice Ireland Academy of Realism, Catherine returned to her art studies as a mature age student to major in sculpture and photography.
Catherine then arrived at the marketable medium of hand painted scarves. This was a way she could self fund her desire to continue creating art. She now sources the materials and transforms them into her original beautiful designs. These scarves are a consistent seller still to this day.
Salt and Pepper Gallery began in Bendigo. While supplying her scarves to the Bendigo Pottery Precinct, Catherine noticed a cluster of un-utilized buildings surrounding the pottery. After some investigation and negotiation her first working studio/gallery was born. She then encouraged other like minded creatives to rent the other small buildings to create a mini Monstalvat. A creative community that became very successful over the years with tourists and locals.
But the call of the ocean was too strong for this beach girl at heart, so she moved to Torquay and in March 2015 she re-opened Salt and Pepper here in Bellbrae. It was the similar co-operative of businesses layout, (the Bellbrae Art + Garden precinct also hosts a café, nursery and home wares space) that attracted Catherine to this spot, and she has made a success of this tiny work space. Predominantly stocking her incredibly diverse range of underwater inspired paintings, jewellrey, photography, handmade scarves and found object sculpture, Catherine does also support selected local artists. She runs monthly workshops around weaving a sculptural fish or basket, macramé and hebel carving. She also runs private mixed media painting classes and takes painting and portrait commissions.
After much travelling and creative experiences, Catherine M. Brennan is a treasure on our coastline and creative community. Pop in and say hi! Salt and Pepper Gallery is open 7 days a week, 10am-4pm and can be found at 557 Great Ocean road, Bellbrae. Phone 0417 760 365. You can also find her on social media under saltandpeppergallery.
Photo of Catherine M. Brennan by Rebecca Hosking