Greythorn Icons to undergo major restoration work

For the past 23 years the Greythorn Icons have been watching the passing traffic on Doncaster Road, North Balwyn from their standing position in front of the fire brigade.

On Friday 23 June, the Greythorn Icons statues will be removed temporarily for conservation work and will be reinstated in October after works are completed.

The Boroondara Arts team engaged a conservator for this task in mid April.

It was identified the icons were ant infested and additional treatment to conserve the works would be required.

Grimwade Conservation Services were engaged to repair the sculptures for wood rot, moisture sustaining wood-degrading bacteria, and active ant nests. The Greythorn Icons need to be temporarily relocated to a facility where they will be treated, fumigated, dried, and repaired before being returned to Greythorn Central shopping centre later this year. This process will take a minimum of three months.

Background on the Greythorn Icons
The distinctive and colourful group of sculptures in the parkland opposite Fire Rescue Station 19 in Greythorn has long intrigued passers-by. They were created from two-metre cypress logs by Angela Polglaze (1968-2021), a well-known chainsaw artist. After graduating from the Victorian College of the Arts in 1997, Angela became known in wood working circles as ‘Angie the Chainsaw Chick’ and began to carve a niche for herself in the realm of public art. Angela created whimsical and colourful sculptures for communities across Victoria. In Boroondara, you’ll find examples of her work at the Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre and the Hawthorn Community Centre.

In 1999/2000 the City of Boroondara allocated funds to improve the Greythorn Shopping Centre’s footpaths, seating, and garden areas, and it was at this time that the Greythorn Traders Association decided to revitalise the shopping centre’s signage. They were keen to bring a sense of fun and humour into people’s life and approached the council to see how they could realise their vision. The council readily agreed, and Angela Polglaze was commissioned to create The Greythorn Icons. She worked closely with Janet Busby, the Greythorn Traders Association marketing coordinator at the time, and the Council’s Landscape Architect, Joey Boothby, to bring the project to life.

The site selected was Greythorn’s Fire Rescue Station 19, which had opened in 1963 replacing the former Kew Station in Belford Road. This modern fire services facility was designed by Richard Mabin & Associates. How the community and local children must have celebrated to have a fire station close at hand! The garden opposite proved to be an ideal site for a public artwork. The sculptures were installed in August 2000, and officially launched in September 2000.

The statues reflect the local Greythorn community and include a fireman with a dalmatian; a lollipop lady; a shopper and a baker/waiter. At the launch, on 9 September 2000, each of the statues was presented by a member of the organisation/business they represented.

The Greythorn Icons: Fireman and Dalmatian 2000
The Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board (now Fire Rescue Victoria) presented the fireman and the MFB’s mascot, Kit the dalmatian. One immediately senses the sculptor’s love of colour, the red, purple, and yellow on the uniform – a magnet for the eye. The helmet is inscribed with a ‘G’ for Greythorn, in the same script as the former crest of Greythorn Primary School, while the dalmatian is sitting proudly, ready for a pat.

The Greythorn Icons: Lollypop Lady 2000
Greythorn’s local lollipop ladies presented the school crossing sculpture. Lollipop ladies were first introduced by Premier Hamer in 1974, following a rise in the numbers of fatalities at school crossings. The name was coined in the UK, describing signs carried by the school crossing supervisors. Cleverly, Angela integrated the lollipop sign within the uniform and added a mouth-watering candy lollipop too.

The Greythorn Icons: Shopper 2000
The glamorous shopper with her long golden locks was presented by the president of the Australian Retailers Association. This totem is also decorated with some surprising characters, on the shopper’s vivid blue coat a black cat peeks out between the shopping bags. Sculptor Angela Polglaze had a lot of fun over the years depicting women in various guises.

The Greythorn Icons: Baker/Waiter 2000
Greythorn has been home to a bakery for many years, and cafes and restaurants have long been a feature of the strip. The sculpture of the baker/waiter is a surprisingly contemporary character with her brilliant purple hair cascading below her baker’s hat and reminding us that these are works of the imagination first and foremost. It was presented by the President of Greythorn Traders Association, who also ran bakery in Greythorn.