Steph Day is the woman behind what is arguably Wagga’s most beautiful shop window.
The Paper Pear studio and gallery in Gurwood Street is hard to miss and the art deco shopfront is always filled with a shifting display of eye-catching artworks.
“It certainly attracts some attention and I’ve almost caused a few bingles when I see people driving past rubber-necking out the window looking,” she says with a laugh.
“I didn’t really know that I was going to run an art gallery, it just kind of morphed into one, but it’s been a happy morphing.”
With a background in graphic design, Steph moved into the shop 12 years ago to run classes and sell her own creations.
Her bespoke gift cards, often decorated with a signature colourful fruit, provided the name Paper Pear.
“I realised that the paintings were selling and that I might need some more and it quickly became a dedicated art space,” she explains.
“Initially I had a few local artists who joined and then they came from further afield, so I’ve now got over 50 Australian artists that I represent.”
Steph’s eye for bold and colourful pieces and her carefully curated walls and windows have been a hit on social media, attracting hundreds of thousands of video views.
“Instagram has been my saving grace and helps to spread the word far and wide, and I do go and do some shows elsewhere in places like Orange and in Sydney,” she says.
“One of the joys is putting it all together and curating it, and I do Instagram reels of myself hanging the works and they just go nuts with people wanting to see how I put things together.”
She explains that while many creative industries suffered through the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown caused business to boom in the visual arts.
“It just went crazy because I think people spent more time on home-focused pursuits and decorating,” she says of the surprise surge in sales.
“I sold lots of paintings for the backgrounds for Zoom meetings!
“People would say, ‘I need something that will look good behind me in the meetings, can you help me decorate it?”’
In choosing artworks, Steph says she looks for established artists who will be consistent with their approach and their supply of work, but she enjoys a broad range of styles.
“I have a real eclectic mix of things, with a little bit of something for everybody. I have a lot of wildlife and I guess I’m attracted to the bright and the quirky,” she says, casting an eye around the room before adding with a shrug, “I just let my eye guide me and after 12 years, I’m still in business.”
Steph still produces a steady supply of bespoke gift cards, but says she gets great creative satisfaction from hanging art and sharing her styling ideas.
“Curating is really my jam now, and I love bringing works together and showing people how they can be confident with their choices,” she says.
“It’s like styling your house every day and it’s always changing so it’s not static.
“A lot of traditional galleries run on a two-week timeframe and it’s all one artist, so you might not get excited when you walk past the window, whereas I have people coming every day because there’s something different.”