A local resident of Currumbin Valley for 30 years, Arno Schilling is a talent in a field of his own – possibly the only person in Australia to exhibit such skill in hand carving wooden masterpieces. Born in the German city of Karlsruhe, home of the automobile inventor Karl Benz, Arno moved to Australia as a young man, building homes in Melbourne. Before long, he and his wife Trudi moved to the Gold Coast in 1969 to be closer to family, where Arno’s real artistic career began.
One of his most loyal customers, the late tourism entrepreneur Keith Williams, commissioned Arno for works on his Hamilton Island and Port Hinchinbrook developments, on Keith’s private home, and the luxury boat, Achilles. Former Beatle George Harrison also commissioned Arno to handcraft the doors to his majestic home on Hamilton Island, where Arno lived in residence for six months. Arno’s creations were commissioned for Sea World back in the late 80s and early 90s – from the enormous Tiki canoes to the iconic carriages of the 1980 opened Flume ride – still in use today.
Around the Gold Coast, Arno’s work has been seen across hotels lobbies such as The Marriott in Surfers Paradise; an installation of the Daintree Rainforest in the penthouse of Broadwater Tower; and even the hand carved Tiki statues for Mayor Tom Tate’s former hotel, The Islander in Surfers Paradise. Arno’s creations were nothing short of iconic to the Gold Coast tourism industry.
But perhaps his most impressive masterpieces stand sentry in his home studio in the Currumbin Valley, part of the home Arno hand-built back in 1974.
The intricate detail of one of Arno’s wall-sized wooden carvings needs to be seen to be believed. Taking over two years, between 1987 and 1989, Arno researched, drew and carved into mahogany a full scene of the First Fleet landing. The piece has never sold, but Arno assures all of his work is for sale.
And he continues to create masterpieces, with one underway and nearing completion. His process is fascinating, first visualising a scene, then printing the drawing on to seasoned timber, before carving out the foreground, middle ground, then background.
When quizzed on the time and effort involved in each piece, Arno says, “People ask me how long this piece took or that piece – I always say, 33 years.” A true master of his craft, Arno Schilling is an asset to the Southern Gold Coast, and we hope more people get behind his inspiring work.
(Below Arno with CSGC CEO Peter Doggett)