Sunday, October 26, 2014


Dorothy Leviny grew up and lived at Buda for most of her life.

She was a talented artisan who had spates of self doubt.

In her younger years - in her early twenties - Dorothy is particularly 'down' in her diary. Around the time of her sister's wedding she declares she will go to England when she is about thirty.  And says she will go to study painting.  This never eventuates, but neither does the husband and family that she is perhaps allowing herself an alternative to...

Dorothy does study painting in Bendigo with Arthur Woodwood, who was a particularly respected teacher, fresh from Europe.  The Bendigo School of Mines where Arthur taught was considered one of the best Art Schools in the country at the time.  Much later, in the year that she turned sixty, (1941 I think!) Dorothy spent a year studying metalwork at RMIT.  An example of her metalwork, a tea service, is now in the National Gallery of Victoria collection.

As I read Dorothy's earlier diary she reminds me of my own self doubt, and an early awareness of a need for self discipline.  As time goes on she seems to get caught up in trying to make a living for herself - despite not enjoying working. 

Dorothy describes being unhappy, and realises that it is more than the war that is upsetting her, as she has felt this unhappiness before.  We know she then moved back to Buda after her mother died, and that she spent time looking after the Museum section of the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Museum.
We also know she spent time making her own work.

It is a disappointment that there are no later diaries for Dorothy.  I would dearly love to hear how she felt about her 'work' in those later years when she was no longer needing to 'make ones living' and was more free to make art.  In the recorded interviews that Hilda Leviny (one of Dorothy's sisters) made in the early 1970's Dorothy is described as having only been interested in her art.  

I hope that means Dorothy really did allow herself to be an artist in the later half of her life.  The legacy that is the work she left behind suggests she committed herself to making quality pieces.

There are as many reasons for making as there are makers, and getting to know Dorothy through her diaries is only one small window into who she was and when she lived.  I am not an historian and I find the freedom to relate to Dorothy's Diary at such a personal level empowering.  I am free to enjoy getting to know Dorothy as best I can without the pressure to 'get it right' for general historical interest.  I am able to explore Dorothy as a maker, as a woman, and as a person that wasn't sure at times. I freely admit my research reflects much about me.  Most importantly however, I thank Dorothy for an example of a commitment.  A commitment to quality making.