Farming, travel, guiding and a love of nature combine in a wheel of creativity for garden sculptor Will Wilson.

Story By Cormac Hanrahan

In a tin shed at the back of a neat and tidy home in the seaside town of Ocean Grove, Vic, Will Wilson sits at a wax-splattered bench and pours himself into his work. Propped among an array of items from kitchen utensils to small screwdrivers and knitting needles, open books reveal brilliant photographs of native Australian fauna, their pages grubby with use.
Selecting what looks to be a dentist’s tool, Will brings his hands close to his face and delicately scrapes and shapes a piece of dark purple wax. Occasionally he pauses, glances at pictures in the books, then returns his energy to the delicate rendition of a willie wagtail coming to life in his hands. After undergoing the age-old ‘lost wax’ process, it will become immortalised in one of the bronze sculptures or birdbaths for which Will is renowned.
“It all happened completely by accident,” Will says of how he came to be an artist, small business operator and creator of unique garden sculptures. Raised on a sheep and cattle property near Derrinallum, about 100 kilometres west of Geelong, Vic, Will followed the well-worn path to agricultural college when he finished school.
“I went to college, I think, because I didn’t know what else I was going to do and it just seemed like the order of events,” he says. But while it may have been the obvious choice, college wasn’t the right fit and after a year or so Will decided to let his passions do the decision-making and took off travelling – first to northern Australia, then to Europe and Africa.
“Coming back from overseas I was 29 or 30 and clearly it was time to get a real job, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” he says. “I loved working outside but in the end I knew I wasn’t a farmer, but I didn’t really have a career path mapped out either, so it’s funny where you end up.”
What Will did have was a passion for wildlife, something he’d been able to indulge while working as a tour guide in Kakadu National Park and then on a wildlife reserve in Kenya. “I got home and had a bit of time on my hands and just started playing around with clay, doing small birds and little things like that for friends,” Will says. “Then a few people happened to mention they thought the little birds would be fun to have on a birdbath, and that’s really where the idea came from …”

This story excerpt is from Issue #81

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2012