Kathy O’Neill, Kyneton
Kathy O’Neill calls herself a hunter and gatherer. In short, she does the hunting for you and in the semi-retirement phase of her life, she feels that, in the hunt for the old, the authentic, the historic, she’s found her niche.
History is something Kathy is passionate about. She grew up on the family farm in West Gippsland in the house that her grandfather built in 1910. Her father and his siblings grew up there; she and her siblings grew up there.
“Our old Victorian house was always full of interesting things; and all the farm sheds were full. Nothing had left the property since 1910; and as a family, we were all very aware of our history, our community’s history and Australian history. All through my childhood I loved listening to those stories.”
After she married, Kathy and her builder husband lived in the Dandenongs for 20 years but once the children had left, they sold the family home. Their own building projects, as well as others', took them to various places – Phillip Island, Mornington Peninsula and Ararat in West Victoria – before they bought a contemporary apartment in Docklands in the heart of Melbourne to try a different lifestyle.
“I loved city life. I’d studied Visual Arts and Photography earlier, so I loved visiting art galleries and exploring Melbourne’s laneways. I worked for a design company in South Melbourne and I loved the ease of it.
“But I think, sooner or later, your past comes back around to you, so when the time came to make a decision about the next phase of my life, I decided it was time to do what I wanted to do. I’d started a small vintage operation on Mornington Peninsula and I’d been amazed at how well it went, so when we leased the city apartment and came to Kyneton three years ago, I decided to give it a go here.
“I’ve never looked back on that decision. It reflects my early rural beginnings and I love the people, the towns, and the landscapes of Central Victoria. My husband has a day off building on Mondays, so we always take a road trip to source new things for the shop. We both love that.”
Kathy’s particular love is early Australian furniture and household items and Depression era pieces. She also relates to the simplicity and pared-back design of early industrial objects – to yarn spools, the wooden floats off fishing nets, old domestic items, old tools – even an old industrial balloon mold, which she still considers one of her most unusual finds.
“I like old scientific glassware too. I love the simple, unadorned form of so many of these old objects.
“They’re so evocative. Each piece tells a story. They have texture, smell and character that modern, mass produced items can’t replicate. I like that. They ooze local history.
“That’s important to me. The history of things keeps us connected to where we came from and how we used to live. They connects us to place. They connect us to our own history.