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Drop bears found in Grafton

Stuart Payne - Drop Bear, Specimen 2011
Stuart Payne - Drop Bear, Specimen 2011 Simon Hughes

JUST like others "in the business", Stuart Payne admits he is terrible to watch a movie with – the prop maker/sculptor can’t resist digging his companion in the ribs when one of his models shows up on the screen.

Stuart’s South Grafton industrial shed is testimony to his two decades in the film industry which, he said, had dried up lately due to the high Australian dollar.

Among the menagerie of memorabilia is a fake Triumph motor, made of fibreglass and "ridden" by Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible II; a shield from Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader; moulds for the fake guns used in The Matrix, and; courtesy of Stuart’s brother Lachlan, who is an on-set motor mechanic, a 1939 Holden Chevrolet used in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia.

Although he started work this week on props for a new TV series called Terra Nova, the recent industry downturn has seen Stuart turn, for the first time in his career, to traditional methods of generating an income.

"I’m looking for the next commission, public work or art prize," said Stuart, whose work, Productive Landscape, was erected in River St, Maclean, earlier this year.

In his first ever gallery exhibition, Stuart spent months meticulously creating three magnificent pieces as part of Grafton Regional Gallery’s Fairytales in Fairyland exhibition, which opens on Friday.

There’s the haunting drop bear specimen in a jar, complete with an aged label and Latin name; a drop bear on a tree branch, and; the Mining Boomer – a mechanical kangaroo designed to explore and conquer an unforgiving land.

"Most pictures of drop bears had them % % as these fluffy koalas with fangs but I thought if they are this vicious carnivorous animal, they’re probably going to look pretty rough," he said.

Stuart said he was among only a handful of silicon model makers in the world. Although the end result offered incredibly life-like sculptures, the process was tedious and prone to difficulties, he said.

Stuart attended Grafton and South Grafton high schools before finishing his secondary schooling at The Southport School on the Gold Coast.

He said he took an interest in prop making while completing his degrees in Arts and Visual Arts at the Queensland University of Technology and has been working in the industry ever since developing skills in everything from leather work to explosives.


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