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Blokes rare quest to find problem solvers

25 JUNE 2003

He's a bloke who travels across Australia seeking people who work in rare trades, build beaut barbies and have sheds akin to shrines. And now he wants help finding Australia's great problem solvers.

Mark Thomson, the self-styled Research Director at the Australasian Institute of Backyard Studies in Adelaide, launches his new project hard on the heels of the Rare Trades exhibition opening at the National Museum in Canberra.

"I'm looking for legendary fix-it people, from the bush mechanics and local shed legends to the high-tech engineering geniuses people who can get out of trouble with the ingenious use of few resources," Mark says.

The writer and photographer met many problem solvers while researching Rare Trades, the book which inspired the National Museum exhibition, about 24 tradespeople still practising the art of skilled manual labour.

"The artisans I met through Rare Trades showed that solving problems with your hands can be a source of real delight, satisfaction and even profit."

Mark's new project will acknowledge the everyday creativity that goes on in sheds, farms and factories by finding out what makes problem solvers tick.

A former journalist and art school graduate, Mark Thomson speaks passionately about:

  • His best-selling book Blokes and Sheds and his follow-up exploration of Aussie barbecue culture in his book Meat, Metal and Fire;
  • Work as a moral act and the spellbinding execution of the Rare Traders who leave their mark on basic materials transformed into functional objects. Mark is talking about his journey through Rare Trades at the National Museum this Sunday, 29 June.
  • Trade runarounds and apprentice windups; sometimes funny, sometimes discarded because they're thought dangerous; but intended to pass on knowledge or teach an important trade lesson;
  • The quest to preserve backyard culture in Australia by dispelling the stereotype that 'backyard jobs' are dodgy or dubious.

To arrange an interview with Mark please contact Public Affairs Director Martin Portus on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or m.portus@nma.gov.au