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I’d need seven extra days a week to cover all of the studios in the Nillumbik Open Studios, so I went through their publication and chose three or four that appealed. I like a bit of mosaic. I’ve got a friend who has a little studio under her house where she mosaics.  She calls it her happy place. That summation fits it perfectly.  She taught me the art of mosaic there.  We had the best time together.  So when I saw that Shaaron Smith opens her mosaic studio out at Panton Hill, I thought I’d check out her ‘happy place’.

I wasn’t prepared for what I found. Walkways, buildings, pots, columns, all adorned with exquisite mosaics. Unusual forms tucked away amongst the prettiest garden, arrived at on paved and mosaic paths.  I started recalling the Rock Garden of Chandigarh in India, then Colettes Cakes in New York, then Alice in Wonderland, with emphasis on the ‘wonderland’. When I’m onto something amazing, I get goose bumps.  I’m getting goose bumps now just writing about it. If you can only spare the time to go to one studio in the Nillumbik Open Studio program, this is the one to go to!  

Shaaron loves working big…mosaics appear on the facade of her studio. She was quick to tell me her secret.  The structures are created by her partner, Akira Takizawa (Aki), sculptor, builder, landscape artist extraordinaire.  Aki develops the structures for Shaaron to mosaic.  What a team.  Both intrinsically creative souls who just live to make stuff…beautiful stuff… in tune with nature.  Aki abhors a straight line, pointing out that there are no straight lines in nature, so walls are curved and collumns deliberately crooked.  I took way more photographs than are shown here.  The challenge was not to work out which photos to include, but which ones I could bare to leave out.  

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Shaaron lets the piece dictate it’s own direction.   She’s very selective about the ceramics she uses. She recently went through all of her tiles and ceramics and got rid of the ugly ones, the ones that don’t fit comfortably with her aesthetic.  She loves blue…so blue abounds.

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Just prior to arriving at Shaaron’s studio I dropped my camera and jammed the lense cap into the barrel of the lense.  On telling Shaaron  that I had probably broken the lense, she went off to find her son’s lenses to see if they would work with my camera.  While she was looking, she told Aki of my mishap. Five minutes later he arrived with these red roses to cheer me up…It worked a treat.

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Shaaron is particularly proud of this piece of work (below).  It represents the world and her attitude to the sacred character of mother earth.  She tells me the scandalous amount of soil and rock that must be dug up to find just one carat of gold.  She has a firm belief that the recent earthquake is mother earth’s protest at human’s general lack of reverence for her.  It’s hard to argue against it. As you can see, Shaaron embodies the beauty of a creative spirit. 

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‘Working big’ in her own bathroom (below) has led to some bathroom commissions.  Shaaron loves this work.

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Thinking about the Rock Garden of Chandigarh and the thousands of tourists who enjoy it everyday, my mind went to the question of what makes a national treasure. I decided that you don’t have to go all the way to India to find one.  Panton Hill, just north of Melbourne will do it.

You will find Shaaron’s studio at  270 Cherrytree Road, Panton Hill on April 30th-May 1st.

For more information about the Nillumbik Artists Open Studios go to their website.