‘It Was Unpredictable’: Denise Pepper Reflects On Her Time In The Making It Barn

On Saturday night, Denise was the latest Maker to be eliminated from the competition.

With her signature glasses and love of bright neon designs, Denise had been a stand-out in the competition from day dot. But her design for a new game sadly didn’t meet the judges’ brief, ending her time in the barn.

“I don’t think you can prepare yourself for what we embarked on,” Denise told 10 play following her elimination.

“In saying that, I think I had a personal growth — at 61 you can still have personal growth you know,” she added, laughing.

“I discovered that I have such an internal willpower and strength to fight through things and that was a really lovely experience for me to discover.”

After studying building construction, Denise said she felt a deep calling to explore creative exploits and began doing decorative paint finishes for building companies and interior designers. “That might have just been the little seed that started germinating,” she said.

Pulling inspiration from her home, her family and nostalgia, Denise wanted to apply those pillars of her work into what she created during her time in the competition.

“You can draw on [nostalgia] as you get older, past traditions and memories, because the world’s moving so fast that it’s really lovely to draw back on those kinds of past things,” she explained. “Domesticity is also something, the house is where I get lots of ideas, it’s from home!”

When Denise saw the casting ads for Making It, she said she just saw the call-out for creatives who loved sculpture and making and immediately applied, doing no further research into what she was getting herself into.

After getting through multiple rounds of interviews, Denise finally thought she should do a bit more research, finally finding out that she would be competing for a prize pool with other creatives. “I went, oh my god what have I done to myself?!”

Usually, Denise’s large-scale metal sculptures can take months to finalise, so being thrown into the barn with just hours to finish her designs was quite the adjustment. Still, throughout the competition, she was able to impress the judges — and create some pieces she is extremely fond of.

“I really loved the heritage shrine because I could really show my true artistic ability to create a hand embossed copper boat on a smaller scale,” Denise said.

“I had made a four-meter life-sized one of those, so I really enjoyed that because I was working with something I really know. As a heritage shrine, our heritage can be quite fragile so that works with that message we try to get across… a ship journey across the ocean can be really fragile.”

Though being on the show was a creative challenge, Denise said one of the biggest difficulties was being away from her family for so long, and maybe the biggest challenge she overcame.

“I realised that, if you are determined to do something and focus really hard, you're able to slightly detach yourself from that and be in the situation you’re in and work through that. I found that was very surprising to me,” she said.

“For me to throw myself into an emotionally and physically exposed situation has been like whoa, did I really do this? I’m still coming to terms with it and I don’t know what those terms will be at the end of it!”

Watch Making It Australia on Saturdays at 6pm on 10 and 10 play on demand