I was in my 30s when I found myself a single mum with three children, too much energy and nowhere to go with it. I had spent most of my 20s trying to find myself. I’d looked for myself in marriage, in work, in study, in motherhood and finally escape.
Escape came in the form of a move from Sydney life to the supposed idyll of life in Utopia. With a three month old baby and half completed Diploma in Natural Therapies left behind me, we loaded up the old Valiant and headed to Northern New South Wales.
There at a border village we found ourselves a beautiful patch of rainforest with trees that climbed forever and roads as rugged and steep as they come. It was an interesting chapter with utopia being in reality more like dystopia. In time things went from bad to worse and we headed for the closest civilisation - Gold Coast 1989…. and it wasn’t good.
After some time spinning our wheels on the coast, we stumbled on Tamborine Mountain, arriving here in 1991. Back then it was still humble, but stunningly beautiful. There were real artists living and working on Gallery Walk and the air was thick with mist, bohemia and fires from kitchen wood fires.
I think being higher than the humid fug of the low-lands (as my friend Robert would describe Brisbane and the Gold Coast) means that the mountain range forged from the Mt Warning volcanic eruption some 20 million plus years ago is like highlands around the world… a haven for eccentricity.
Let me describe the Tamborine Mountain I knew when I arrived, fresh from the commune debacle, with 2 then 3 children to support to grow to become fabulous human beings.
Fabulous meant growing up with a warm close community
living in mist
three weeks of constant
overflowing water tanks.
An island in the sky.
Cabin fever and colourful friends.
The mountain a magnet for those
who dance to a different drum,
who go to their guitars
long bouts of card playing
neighbourhood music jams
black cockatoos reeling
riding out whatever nature
threw at you.
Nights of joyous gatherings
children running muddy and free through orchards,
wandering to this house or that.
Fabulous is to take a birthday party of 8 year olds
down the track of the national park
down twisted wet tracks
to the creek
to the forest floor
where the air was cool
down with the roots of trees that touched the sky.
Fabulous meant you could take 4 hours to go to the shop on a Saturday morning because you would run into everyone, have a chat to this one and then that one and then lo…its four hours later
many cups of tea had
many playgroups attended
much kitchen table philosophising
broken toys or arms
red dirt tattooed into little feet
busy in the garden
the avocado trees
limb gnarled and twisted.
Fabulous means a childhood making cubbies under kitchen tables, toys, books, craft activities, shows and cities open or half built in creative hiatus while little feet and big laughs echoed along the hallways.
Its a chapter I will get back to…
back to my first studio..
My good friend Kate said to me I should get a studio with her.
Till then I had been furiously drawing at kitchen tables and painting on the verandah
Then Kate casually drops this notion of a studio in my lap.
I remember interviewing Sue Lovell who had won a stint at the Varuna Writers residency in the Blue Mountains. I asked her what was the benefit of a residency at a writers studio. She said ‘most creativity happens in the spaces that other people leave you’. The writers retreat gave her permission to write, undistracted, uninhibited, un-interrupted..imagine that!
….a thought taken right through to its conclusion instead of being broken by requests for this or that….the appeal was instant.
So the first studio came to be.
Nestled next to an avocado orchard, it had a crumbling concrete floor, and walls I lined with cardboard that became covered in notes and ides for this or that.
and a roller door to shut out the world.
Kate sculpting, me painting
people dropping by
kids at school
drove each other crazy
and made art in the place
we carved for ourselves.
Time moves on and many studios later,
here I am
in my studio
listening to Joni MItchell
surrounded by maps, books, canvases
fingers sticky with glue and no respect for tidiness.
Typing out this reflection on creative-making spaces.
I realise that a studio can be more than a room
it can be a whole village.