Coastbeat goes behind the scenes with Sawtell artist Jeramie Scahill

Artist Jeramie Scahill recently embarked on one of the biggest commissions of his career – transforming massive sheets of copper into a sculpture that takes pride of place at the new entrance to one of the north coast’s premier shopping centres. We went behind the scenes to his home studio in Sawtell.

Everyday inspiration

“I have a shelf full of sketchbooks with a million and one designs,” laughs Jeramie pointing to a corner of his backyard studio. “I created them to draw on in the case of a mental blank…but it turns out I never get mental blanks!”

This constant inspiration becomes clear as Jeramie shows me around his home and garden, pointing out sculptural works hanging from the trees and pieces of jewellery adorning tables and bookcases. Where most of us see a block of wood, a collection of seed pods or a sheet of copper, Jeramie sees potential. He sees a story, a message and a whole new form, shape and structure.

“Palm fronds are always falling off a tree in my backyard, so I decided to turn them into a sculpture,” he explains. “The minute I’m bored I just look around and am inspired to make something with what I see.”

Coastbeat goes behind the scenes with Sawtell artist Jeramie Scahill
Jeramie is constantly inspired by nature

Highs and lows

His artistic vision has earned him a place amongst the who’s who of sculpture at the internationally prestigious Sculpture by the Sea. In 2009 Jeramie received the Unrepresented Sculptor Award for an installation featuring six large pods woven from vines found in the rainforest. He was invited to exhibit again the following year and made a large stainless-steel piece which sold for $45,000. Jeramie has since entered several times but hasn’t been successful.

“The art world is so fickle and rural artists are often out of the loop,” he says. “I still enter lots of competitions, but I’ve realised you can’t rely on prize money to get you through, hence throwing myself into my new jewellery label.”

Coastbeat goes behind the scenes with Sawtell artist Jeramie Scahill
The master at work 

A challenging commission

Happily, he didn’t have to leave the north coast to snag his latest commission, which may end up being a career defining piece. Jeramie worked with massive sheets of copper to create large panels patterned with copper-wrapped tiles to create the impression of an underwater scene. The sculpture is now at the new entrance to Coffs Central on Gordon Street.

“It’s the biggest job I’ve ever had but I was up for the challenge!” Jeramie laughs. “Like all sculptures, it took on a life of its own because when you start using a certain medium you find it folds in a way you didn’t quite expect, or the colours reflect a little differently. It grows as you do, which makes it exciting.”

This isn’t the first time Jeramie has had work on show in Coffs Harbour, but he says the feeling never gets old. “I have sculptures at the front of the Cavanbah Centre in Harbour Drive and down at Park Beach near the surf club,” he says. “I get a buzz every time I see them, and I feel a real personal connection to my work.”

Coastbeat goes behind the scenes with Sawtell artist Jeramie Scahill
Jeramie has launched three new jewellery collections 

Profits put to good use

Growing up in outback opal capital Coober Pedy put Jeramie in good stead for a life of transforming treasures from the natural world. “My step-dad was an opal miner and I got into opal cutting but I was a bit too wild with my shapes and ideas,” he says. “I bought a workshop and taught myself to be a silversmith and make jewellery.”

Jeramie initially sold traditional pieces and worked on commissioned rings and necklaces before the desire to focus on his own creations grew. He has now released three of his own collections.

In an effort to encourage conscious consumerism with a focus on environmental and ethical values, Jeramie donates a portion of his profits to up-and-coming charities and hopes to increase donations as his business grows – in line with the motto ‘From a Seed to a Forest’.

His first partnership is with a local program. “Refugees residing in Coffs have been invited to establish a new community garden,” he explains. “Even my small donation can make a big difference to a program like this.” Jeramie has also partnered with an organisation called Tangaroa Blue, a not-for-profit dedicated to the removal of rubbish and debris from Australian beaches. 

Coastbeat goes behind the scenes with Sawtell artist Jeramie Scahill
Jeramie says the Coffs Central sculpture is his biggest and most challenging to date 

Personal fullfilment

As we stroll around the garden looking at Jeramie’s sculptural works, I comment on how satisfying it must feel to see a finished piece on display. “Yes, to imagine something and think about how it could be made and then see it through to completion… it’s such a high.”

And how lucky we are to enjoy Jeramie’s work as we wander through town and experience art in the open. 

Coastbeat goes behind the scenes with Sawtell artist Jeramie Scahill
Jeramie’s garden has been adorned with his sculptures

See Jeramie’s work at the Gordon Street entrance to Coffs Central and his art and jewellery collection on Instagram

Our region is bursting with talented creatives! Check out Kyle Shilling, Dallas Webster and Coastal Drones