In our ‘A Drink with Jeff’ series, Campbelltown Catholic Club community liaison Jeff McGill has been catching up with a diverse selection of club identities.
Jorja Cummings displayed one of her finely-worked canine drawings at The Catho last week.
But if you think Jorja is a visiting talent from Campbelltown Arts Centre you’re barking up the wrong tree… she’s a member of staff.
The beaming 19-year-old might have even taken your order at Harvest bistro, poured you a beer, or served you a latte at Café Sage. Indeed, the skills hiding in plain sight among our club employees has often amazed me, so Jorja agreed to be my latest face-to-face chat.
We met in the foyer where I used the abundant light to study up-close one of her vivid illustrations (of a pug dog with a camera), noting the attention to detail, the light lines, dark lines, the implied lines.
I’m no expert, but I do know a pencil line is used to define the edges or boundaries of a subject. So I wondered, metaphorically, what Jorja’s edges or boundaries were?
I got my first insight as we walked to the bar and bumped into two of my favourite staffers, Georgina Barry and Adam Cooke. I whipped out Jorja’s artwork and the result was a joy to watch. Cheeky. Funny. Supportive. But Jorja, I realised, is no natural show-off and went slightly red-faced at the praise by her workmates. But she clearly enjoyed the camaraderie and I whipped out my camera phone to take this snap.
“She’s a great supervisor,” Jorja smiled to me about Georgina as we walked on. “On my first night working here, I didn’t have a name badge so Georgina lent me hers — our names do sound similar.”
At the bar, we ordered our drinks. I was surprised when the young bloke pouring my beer, Adam, noticed the artwork and announced the real power of Jorja’s drawings was not so much where Jorja put her pen, but where she didn’t — the use of creative white space. His eloquence, and obvious respect for Jorja’s talent, made me smile. “One of the best things about coming to work here is the good friends you make,” Jorja told me as we walked to our window seat in the lounge. “We all often hang out after work, and go out for drinks and dinner.”
I asked Jorja, a Camden girl, about whether she had any links to The Catho before she joined the staff 16 months ago.
“Not really,” she replied. “I went to St Patrick’s College and we would come down to The Cube for some events.” I told her some of my good friends were St Pat’s teachers, reeling off a list of names including Wendy McDonald. “I only saw Mrs McDonald the other day!” Jorja shot back. “I was working in the Dove and Shears and she came in for dinner and came over to say hello — she remembered me!”
Jorja said her only other connection to The Catho was her father Jamie’s long involvement with Collegians Cycling Club. It was her dad’s idea for her to apply for a job at the club. “I was starting uni, and wanted to get a car,” she smiled. “And it worked — I now have a car… so, thanks Catholic Club, I guess.”
Her favourite shift? “I love the cafe… doing all the milk and latte art.” That made me laugh. Art will always find a way to happen if a true artist is involved. It is made clear to me that it’s not just ‘making coffee’…it’s creating fascinating foam patterns to impress members and guests.
Which leads our conversation to her drawing talent…
“I started my own art business when I was 14 or 15,” Jorja said. “We needed to buy laptops for St Pat’s, and my parents wanted me to appreciate the value of things so I had to contribute. I created a Facebook page and offered to draw a portrait of people’s dogs for between $10 or $50. It slowly built up from there, with hundreds of jobs now, and I have customers in New York, Canada, New Zealand, and all around Australia.”
Wow, I thought. I also began to understand why Jorja is described around the club as a “pocket rocket”.
Her clever line drawings are even featured in a newly-published book: A Woman’s Way: A Freedom Ride For Navigating Life’s Highway. “It was written by Clare-Ann Taylor, my tutor at St Pat’s,” she explained. “A Kombi van was the motif, and all chapters are named after parts of the van such as ‘brakes’ or ‘driving seat’, and I made the Illustrations to go with each. I loved it. I really want to do markets, too, and have my own prints and postcards to sell to people.”
When Jorja graduates from university as a high school teacher, Jorja hopes to help others develop their own talents. “My art teacher at St Pat’s was Louise Glase, who is amazing. If I can be anything like her, that would be great.”
Jorja beamed as she told me her twin brother, Jett (who has also worked at the Club) suggested she have a go at doing tattoos… but she’s still pondering that one. “And I find drawing people hard… I definitely prefer drawing dogs.”
Dogs have been a huge part of her life. Her mum, Debra, breeds and shows pugs and the family also has border collies and a chow chow. Family, too, has obviously been a huge influence. “When I was 10 years old I got a set of Derwent coloured pencils for Christmas and started drawing… I haven’t really stopped, and some of my Catholic Club wage today helps me buy art supplies.”
Do the dogs like her portraits of them? “Not really,” she laughed. “I don’t think they take much notice — they just sniff my drawings and walk away.” Everyone’s a critic.
I then asked Jorja about her experiences serving club members and guests. “I had a customer in the café the other day who made my day. We got chatting as I made her coffee, and afterwards because it was quiet at the time. Ten minutes later she came up to me and said, ‘thank you for your kindness’ and gave me a pen — a really, really nice pen! Wow. How nice was that. Most people we serve are nice. That’s the best part of our jobs.”
When I asked her about less-nice customers, I realised Jorja was not just an artist on paper, but in human relations. “You do get the odd rude person,” she admitted. “But, it might just be because they’re having a bad day and so they get cross with you. I take the view that if you’re nice back to them, it might just change their mood and make their day a bit brighter. I know that when I go out if someone compliments me or says a friendly hello, I feel better.”
I certainly find Jorja’s outlook infectious because I doubt I’d have the same patience or wisdom. (One of my pet hates is entitled idiots who can only make themselves feel important by being rude to hospitality staff.) But, Jorja’s agent-of-change policy is what really does build bridges. And, in essence, is truly artful.
As we finished our drink, I snapped another photo of Jorja in the new bistro area, deserted after the lunch patrons had all gone.
We bumped into masterchef Peter Sheppard, the Club’s Director of Food and Beverage, who quickly showed us he’s also a wannabe comedian. When he looked at Jorja’s artwork of the pug, he glanced at my face, then looked at the pug artwork, then glanced back at my face. “An incredible likeness”. Ho ho.
As we left the club, I pondered my initial query — what are Jorja’s edges or boundaries? The obvious answer is that her story is just getting started, so there are none. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in 20 years time, Jorja was a famous artist, or a successful teacher, or…perhaps, even a Club Director offering a distinct (and artistic) perspective. With a pencil in her hand it feels to me like anything is possible.
And Jorja is just the tip of an iceberg. Every person who serves you with a smile at The Catho has their own talent and story.
If you are a member of Campbelltown Catholic Club and have a story to share, you could be featured on A Drink with Jeff. Contact us at email@example.com