You say MONA, I say MOONAH, let’s call the whole thing off

Class Consciousness III

Textile designer and Moonah-devotee Penny Malone knows a thing or two about class. She’s got plenty of it.  And she knows a thing or two about living and loving in the northern suburbs.

“Someone asked me the other day where I lived. When I told them they said, ‘You live at MONA?’
I said, No, Moonah! ‘Well that’s too similar you’ll have to change that!’ they said”.
It is true that MONA is close to Moonah and it’s also close to Penny who has recently been asked to put some of her work in MONA’s shop.  This is a very exciting prospect for a girl from the northern burbs.
And Penny has serious northern-suburbs cred.  She first lived in Moonah when she was three or four years old, out the back of the car yard on Main Road, right next to the bowling alley they were building at the time.  Her family later moved to Austins Ferry where she grew up and went to school in Glenorchy.
“I’m used to living in the northern suburbs, it holds no fear for me. But I
remember once when a friend of a friend once said ‘Aren’t you frightened?’”
Penny has been a practicing artist in business for around 30 years. Her work is inspired by the natural and built environment.  And it’s not hard to see where she gets her inspiration living in the light industrial environment of Moonah against the massive backdrop of the Wellington Ranges.
Penny lived in Melbourne for ten years and when she returned to Tassie, thought she might live in the country but ended up in Moonah, the most Melbourne-like place she could find.
“You know, with a main street, shops on either side and constant traffic passing through?
I love that it’s industrial and residential. It has everything that you need. 
There’s a canvass shop and all sorts of industry here that I use for my work”.
Pattern is an essential concern for Penny and the influence of both the past and present are easily observed in her designs. Her work is detailed, repetitious and labour intensive.
“Patterns just evolve.  I build up designs by repeat placement stencil printing”.
A strong work ethic has grown from her working class roots.  And it shows. Penny has grown her own design business that she pursues with discipline and industry.
“I grew up in a family where if you were going to do something, you did it properly or
you didn’t do it at all. Basically it was don’t put energy into it if you were not going to do it well”.
“My work is my way of making sense of the world. I do it because it sustains me”.
When asked what has shaped her, Penny is pretty clear that her dad’s mental illness was a major factor. Living with, and loving a parent, with a chronic mental health condition was challenging.  One of the things she remembers about him when she was growing up was the high regard he held for wealthy
“He had a reverence for people who had money and it made me
not care for stuff like that. I value people for who they are not what they have”.
It’s fair to say that Penny thinks that Moonah’s bad rap is largely a thing of the past.  It’s been a really long time since a friend once likened Moonah to visiting the Bronx but she still gets the occasional comment about living in Moonah.
“People say ‘Oh you live NCR!’
North of Creek Road. I just think, you don’t know what you’re missing out on”.
Talking to Penny is a fantastic reminder about all the advantages of living in Moonah. Easy access to the bike track means Penny cycles to her other job at the TMAG.  There is a community arts centre literally around the corner from the flat she lives in on the Main Road. There are medical services, shops and a growing restaurant culture.
Penny’s been noticing that Moonah is gentrifying-up.
“Slowly people are buying here who can’t afford West Hobart. I hope they
enjoy being here and it’s not just a place they come home to sleep in”.
When Penny’s not in Moonah you occasionally see her sitting in the window of the Queen’s Head, North Hobart sipping a beer with her brother and watching the world go by.
Go check out the wonderful Ms Malone.

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