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Former jockey shows big talent for small buildings

miniature art
A replica of the Isis Shire Council Hall from a 1910 photograph captures some of the great history and heritage of Childers for miniature building craftsman Shawn Jarrett.

Former Childers jockey and rodeo rider Shawn Jarrett is now a skilled miniature craftsman who proves that being small is no barrier to big talent.

Shawn admits he’s a bloke that’s all fingers and thumbs.

He’s got big hands. Strong hands. Hands that held the reins of racehorses during a 15-year career as a jockey interspersed with life as a rodeo rider.

Those hands though, are capable of creating incredible art in the form of miniature buildings.

Shawn, now retired and living back in Childers with his wife Fay, is turning his spare time to pursuing a hobby that has become his passion.

His collection of replica buildings, all with history and heritage behind them, makes for an impressive display.

Shawn discovered his gift for creating these mini buildings while recovering from a horrendous rodeo fall.

“I smashed my right arm pretty badly, actually I was lucky not to lose it. It’s got all sorts of metal plates in it and I also sustained a severe shoulder injury.

“There wasn’t too much in the way of protective gear for rodeo riders. Basically, all you wore was your Akubra hat,” he laughed.

“As a jockey you were used to the falls but this one was really severe. My recovery was slow, things didn’t seem to be getting better and then I had a bit of a go at constructing miniature buildings.

“It was great therapy both physically and mentally for me and when I had finished the homestead that I was building I exhibited it in the Childers Show and won first prize,” he said.

miniature art
A table full of miniature buildings. Each building takes about two weeks to finish with paddle pop sticks the main building material.

Since retirement Shawn has spent the last year or so dabbling in constructing model buildings.

He is excited about the amazing historical buildings in Childers, both past and present.

Shawn’s current collection includes the Isis Shire Council Hall based on a photograph taken in June 1910. Another historic building created in miniature is that of St Margaret’s Private Hospital.

The hospital was located in Broadhurst Street across the road from what is now Forest View Hostel.

Shawn’s creation is based on a 1911 photograph.

“It’s sometimes difficult to create the building because you really only get to see the front. Rarely do you see the sides or rear,” he said.

All construction involves “paddle pop” sticks and whatever craft materials can represent galvanised iron roofs or lattice work.

Other works created by Shawn include a couple of pubs including the OK Saloon.

miniature art
What’s happening at the OK Saloon? Enjoyment of the OK Corral movie led Shawn to recreate this saloon from that era.

“I loved the movie of the OK Corral and I reckoned there must have been a saloon there somewhere,” he laughed.

The sides of the saloon advertise the fare of the time – beer, women and whiskey.

“Someone told me I have to stop concentrating on hotels and perhaps do a church or two,” he laughed.

While his work certainly creates a rustic “wow factor”, Shawn admits that there are others who also produce miniature buildings who are able to create really fine scale models including interior fittings.

“As I said, I am all fingers and thumbs and my skills certainly do not extend to that really fine work. However, I enjoy the challenge of what I do and the work that I create.”

Some of Shawn’s buildings come with lift up roofs revealing modelled interiors.

“My wife, Fay, is my harshest critic but it’s great to have another set of eyes cast across what you do,” he said.

“My next project will be the Kanaka Church that operated here in Childers and run by Missionary Thompson. I have a photo so I hope to commence that soon.”

Shawn is available to undertake commissions.

“I’m happy to talk with anyone about creating a model of a building that may be special to them,” he said.

miniature art
St Margaret’s Private Hospital which operated in Childers from 1911-1937. Modeller Shawn Jarrett enjoys replicating local history.

Shawn Jarrett can be contacted on 07 41261515.

For the record, Shawn commenced his working life as jockey just before his 15th birthday. He went to Ipswich where he rode for trainer Teddy Bell.

“Weight was always an issue in those days. You had to be 46 kilos with saddle, now its 51 or 52 kilos. Jockeys scarcely wore any protective gear when I was riding and the same went for rodeo work.

“There so much more protection now with vests etc which is a good thing,” said Shawn.

“I rode pretty well everywhere in country Queensland and Victoria, even Flemington, but weight got the better of me and I gave it away after about 15 years.”

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