Sculptor John Turier and artist Nicola Hensel have topped and tailed their 26th year of life together with two milestones.
In January they were married, in a ceremony at The Lock-Up gallery in Newcastle city.
And, this summer, they are exhibiting together.
"After 26 years of making art side by side, this is the first time we've actually shown our art together," Turier says.
They each have more than 20 works in Maitland Regional Art Gallery showing at an exhibition titled Kalliope Calliope after the Greek goddess muse of eloquence and epic poetry.
Two of the Turier sculptures on show contain deep personal elements.
One is "a mechanical parade" based on a game the pair played back in the early years of their relationship, when their house was thrumming with the activity of six young children. The couple placed "strange, funny toys" on the ledge over their kitchen sink.
"We used to rearrange them to surprise each other in the morning," Hensel explains.
"It was to keep us sane," Turier says.
"It just got more and more ridiculous, a joke that ran between everybody," says Hensel.
Turier has used bicycle chains to make a hand-wound conveyor belt that parades strange beings, including a kangaroo with a pineapple head and an angel with bonito fish tail wings.
In another new work, Turier has made bronze figures representing himself and Hensel at either end of a balancing beam. It's about the burdens and rewards of leading a creative life, he says.
The autobiographical figures were made using the lost wax bronze casting method, which starts with a model made of malleable industrial strength wax, and then develops through a series of progressions from solid to liquid and back again.
"I love bronze, it's like sculptor's oil paint in a way," he says.
Turier depicts himself carrying a moon uphill - "it's a little metaphor for romance".
Similarly, the figure of Hensel bears a load, an over-sized "harvest basket" carried on her head to symbolise the balancing act of being a creative practitioner and a dedicated mother and partner.
Hensel, whose art form is drawing, says she raised their family "the traditional way". She fit art in around home duties, working at the kitchen table and setting up a "mini studio" on a plank placed over the laundry tub.
"Somehow I just managed to have a career that came out of being completely enmeshed with a domestic life," she says.
The couple's children, now all adults, also work in creative fields from hip-hop DJ-ing to lacemaking.
"I think it's just from them seeing us wing it," Hensel reflects.
"It didn't feel like some precious thing that you had to aspire to, it's just what we did, we always made stuff for fun and pleasure."
In the MRAG exhibition, Hensel is showing intricate graphite drawings of trees worked plein air.
"I would get up at five o'clock in the morning to go and draw," she says.
There are also works based on cuttings taken from the couple's garden, such as a sprig of berries "turned into like a galaxy".
Hensel says she's been drawing since she was a small child, starting with "lipstick on the wall".
"I just doggedly decided that I was an artist from an early age," she explains.
Turier started out as a plumber and had his own business, while gigging after hours as songwriter Johnny Bakerlite. (He's releasing a CD of his new tracks at the exhibition's opening.)
The turning point came for Turier when he was helping his brother, who'd had an accident, find a new line of work. He investigated fine arts, and enrolled himself instead. In his second year of study, Turier gained representation at a Sydney gallery.
He has since worked on more than 20 public art projects, including the 14-metre tall sculpture Foundation Seed which stands in the middle of King Street.
Turier says sculpture resonates with him as it requires a mix of his practical skills with the "being in the moment" process that attracted him to make music.
"Suddenly the light came on, it was just fantastic," he says.
"I never looked back from there. It's a human impulse to make."
Nicola Hensel and John Turier's exhibition, Kalliope Calliope, runs from November 23 to February 16.
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