Ferguson Foundry: From the workshop to the million-dollar dream

Ferguson Foundry Gallery - a purpose built creative space made for everyone and all walks of life, by a humble yet heroic industry icon Leo Flavel.

Leo Flavel isn't the ‘idea’ of a gallery owner. An avid Holden Gemini enthusiast with a passion for growing fruit trees, most days you will find him tape measure in hand, workman boots on and getting his hands dirty building a project; this time a new gallery, and it's been a life of hard yakka to get here.

Leo had a dream, and one job would slowly but surely take him there. Starting at the age of 17 in 2000, Leo spent years mastering the art of framing. Fast forward 15 years of hard work, endless hours and saving every cent, Leo’s little framing workshop in the back lots of Bayswater has turned into Perth’s best framing store and boutique gallery, Studio 281, and he'll soon be launching his second gallery in the heart of Maylands - Ferguson Foundry. 

The Ferguson Foundry was inspired by Mephan Ferguson’s pipe factory.

Mephan Ferguson was an innovative engineer and after winning a large contract in 1898 to supply pipelines to Coolgardie, he set up a new foundry and commenced production within a year of winning one of Australia’s largest contracts of its time (later known as the Kalgoorlie pipeline). The enormity of this project commanded a new wave of employees and many weatherboard “worker’s cottages” were built as kit homes in Hay Street and brought to the surrounding streets of Maylands by horse and cart.

Leo and his father restored one of these cottages on Ninth Avenue, and Leo's avid interest in heritage buildings and woodworking skills are apparent in the new building. Feature Jarrah beams from the old Seventh Avenue bridge and 100 year old Oregan from the Fremantle Woolstores complement the mix of contemporary design and energy efficiency.

Taking on an owner/builder project whilst maintaining one of Perth most popular galleries has been testing to say the least, but Leo says his motivation was driven from many artists and friends willing to help out. It was the strong support that has come from the tight knit Perth art community that has inspired him to push on and solidify the decision to create Ferguson Foundry Gallery

“I have dedicated my life to the Perth art scene, from assisting emerging artists with career advice, creating custom presentation techniques, assisting large scale artworks and murals to representing established professionals, this new project is the next step forward to remove the elitist persona and open the art industry to anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of it ”

While WA lost many other galleries to the GFC, Leo has not only managed to succeed but positively thrive in a less competitive market, “It’s the old fashioned business models that are to blame, not the economy, we have updated and evolved the way we do business, A healthy blend of established and emerging artists not only increases a diversity of styles but also having a varied price point means there is something for everyone. Perth buyers have finally found their identity and seek out artworks that best represent their own personalities to decorate their home and we are happy to help everyone weather its your first painting or an avid collector.”

Perth artists are also backing Leo’s project in droves, with a huge line-up of exhibiting artists including Terry Cousins, Peter Usher, Jodee Knowles and many more.

A team of artists has also been hands-on supporting the build. Local artist Daek William (well known for his large scale murals around Perth and beyond) has been lending his visual genius to create the finishing touches, simply for the love of it. He said, "Leo is a good dude and a great support, he looks after me so I'm happy to look after him with what I have to share. I believe in his dream and believe this space is going to be amazing."

  • Visit studio281.com.au for more information and to speak to Leo direct.
  • Click here to check out the details of the Ferguson Foundry opening night party on October 29.