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I first met Hamish Knox via a phone call.

At one stage, while looking for my little piece of heaven in Warrandyte, I was toying with the idea of building.   I found a little plot of land with a passable view in North Warrandyte and rang Hamish to see if he’d be prepared to collaborate on the build.  When I said I was thinking to build…his words were;

“Oh dont do that!  No…. dont do that!  It’ll kill you!!  No….dont do that!”

I had to work pretty hard to convince him to consider it. (Clearly not a builder who’s desperately looking for work!) After quite a lengthy conversation, he generously agreed to meet me at the block of land and talk about the possibilities.  What fun!  On a very hot summer afternoon Hamish arrived at the block and very quickly started interpreting my ideas with arms sweeping across the (very steep) block, describing a living area here and a deck there.  It was very tempting, but in the end the steepness and inaccessibilty of the block defeated me and the project was shelved.  Nonetheless a friendship developed and pretty soon he invited me out to see his extraordinary property at Christmas Hills.  That was nearly a year ago.    I knew then that the whole property was rich in photo opportunities.  So on my return from New York I rang Hamish once again to set up a time to make a return visit to his property.  Armed with a couple of cameras and accompanied by my guest photographer Kerry Cross I made the picturesque trip from Warrandyte to Christmas Hills to bring you this collection of photos.

From the minute we turned into the driveway, I could see Kerry itching to get behind his camera. It’s one of those places where there is delight around every corner.  There is nothing predictable here. There are textures and patina in every little nook.  Quirky signs abound.  This one sits to the side of back door.

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In the studio, this recycled bowling ally floor is enjoyed by Hamish’s much loved dog Moby.

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This couch was made by Hamish’s brother Macgregor Knox around twenty years ago.

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Mention Hamish Knox in this area and people immediately recall his father, Alistair Knox, designer/builder/architect…a name synonymous with mud bricks, solid timber and corrugated iron.  Alistair was very much influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s emphasis on linking the building with the site. So his buildings sit harmoniously in our Australian bush setting. While not traditionally trained in architecture, Alistair’s contribution in that field was recognized by Melbourne University in 1984 by the conferring of an Honorary Degree in Architecture. These architectural influences have clearly been absorbed into Hamish’s building style and are in evidence everywhere at Christmas Hills, mud bricks, solid timbers and corrugated iron abound, creating rustic buildings in a rustic landscape. Kerry and I loved these photos of Hamish.

Hamish’s kitchen is filled with paintings by his mother.

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This building is called “Red Shed” for obvious reasons.

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This wonderful old beer vat from the Abbotsford Brewery has found a new use as a water tank. It just oozed character from every rusted metal strap.

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Kerry took lots of photos of Hamish’s truck…it’s a boy thing.

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While Hamish has worked his creative magic in the buildings, his partner and landscape gardener Loretta Childs has developed garden ‘rooms’ around the buildings which also utilize recycled materials and objects. It’s a partnership made in heaven.

l’ll have to describe the setting…photos just dont do it justice….think of a house with a  view from Christmas Hills right across the Yarra Valley- taking in Tarrawarra Museum of Art and Healesville. Aaaah. Breathtaking!

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This enormous outdoor table is made from two pieces of offcut granite.

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Imagine lunch with that view of the Yarra Valley.

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Interesting sculptures abound throughout the garden. The mosaic chair below was made by Hamish’s mother Margo.

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Wood sculpture by Hamish’s brother Macgregor Knox.

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Sculpture by Hamish’s sister in law, Jackie Staudi, (with cobwebs).

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These enormous swivels from an oil rig,  provide a home for succulents.

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This burnt out hull of a boat (originally a Fly River scow) has a significant link with my newest series about Montsalvat.  Up until l996 it was housed in the original barn at Montsalvat.  In fact the barn was built around the hull.  Hamish worked on lovingly restoring it there for five years.  Tragically, on 4th July 1996 the barn burnt down and this burnt husk of the boat is all that remains.  Hamish was utterly devastated.  He lost not only the boat, but all of his tools with it.  Thereafter he was responsible for rebuilding the barn based on the original structure. It was so beautifully done that it blends perfectly with buildings that have stood at Montsalvat for decades. Nowadays, the barn hosts exhibitions and concerts.

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Rethink and recycle….

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Opportunity Knox at Christmas Hills in abundance.

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Take a look at this very tiny selection from Hamish’s collection of recycled materials.  Let your creativity run wild.  You know you want to. These metal rings have definitely got me going!

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If these items interest you or you would like to talk to Hamish about availability of other recycled items, call him on 0403 585 854.

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When I asked Hamish about his beginnings as a builder, this was his reply,

“I grew up in a highly creative family.  I’ve been building since I was five.  My Dad had a big joinery and I used to just go down and raid it. All the materials were readily available.  There were nine of us kids growing up together and we all create stuff.  There are dancers and foodies, yoga teachers and inventors.  My brother Alexander is a sculptor.  He won the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award in 2006.”

Loretta Childs’ business name is “Every Garden Design”.  She can be contacted on 0425 705 501.

Kerry Cross is a freelance photographer who has been taking photos for professional and personal use since he was able to hold a camera.  He has thousands upon thousands of photos in his personal collection chronicalling his life from behind the camera. Professional credits include print media, advertising shoots, as well as many photos featured on google earth.  He often gobsmacks me with his ability to see images that I’ve missed.  I dont think I have ever seen him without a camera of some description close at hand…you never know when that great shot will be in front of you.  (I couldn’t help myself on the day, so some of these photos were taken by me.)

He is also responsible for the layout of isiiad.  He has his own graphic design business, Image-fx, and is available for website design and other graphic design work and of course commercial photography.

Mobile ph: 0412 795 804

Land line: 9844 0597

Image-fx website.

My sincerest thanks go to Hamish for so generously allowing us to bring you these photos and this story.