Friday, April 6, 2012

Callemondah: Heaven on Earth

I had the amazing good fortune of having my friend invite me to her family friend's art opening.  In heaven.  Well, not heaven exactly, but assuredly as close as it gets in Australia in my book--a property named Callemondah in the Calderwood Valley.

You see, this wasn't just any art opening; it happened to be taking place at the artist's incredibly lovely property nestled up against the escarpment about 25 minutes outside of town.  It's difficult to put into words just how enjoyable everything was about this experience--I came home and gushed about it, and then brought Sam and the boys back over the weekend.  I wanted to share it with them, yes, but really I wanted a chance to take pictures because in a moment of idiocy I had left my camera sitting idly in the drawer at home the first go-around.

And--this wasn't just any artist.  It was May Barrie, the 93-year old (you read those numbers correctly--93!) stone sculptor.  Sculpting stone, like, thousands of pounds worth.  Even after 93 trips around the sun.  After sculpting for decades, one of her pieces was chosen for the prestigious Sculpture by the Sea exhibition in 2009.  She was a mere 91 years old then.  

The art included May's work along with a number of her friends, some up to 20 years her junior.  I loved imagining this group of strong, independent, elderly ladies getting together and working with these heavy, rough materials to create such beauty--a wonderfully mangled hybrid between Thelma and Louise meets Cocoon, I suppose.

The property's buildings themselves were works of art, and inside each one was the type of space that you want to look at and run your hands along every single square inch, even the floors.  Every shelf and tabletop had something unique and handmade; I coveted everything I saw.

I'll let the pictures do most of the talking; I hope they capture a modicum of how special this place is.

I love this portrait of May, and my dream home would have a miniature wood stove just like this one in a reading nook with a cozy chair.  Even with the stone floors, this room was so inviting and homey.

I love all three of these.  LOVE.

One of May's sons built this section of the house as a young man; I could live very happily for the rest of my life in this one sunlight-bathed room with a view of the gardens.

One of May's daughters, Tori de Mestre, also an artist, lives in a building that formerly operated as the dairy.  The middle sunken section is where the farmers stood to milk the cows; I love the way that the original character of the building is retained but functions as a living space.

This small twin-pooled piece was my absolute favorite--the picture doesn't do the gorgeous rock justice, and it would look amazing in anyone's garden (especially mine!).

One of May's sons built this structure, modeled after South Africa's roundhouses, when he was eighteen.

Some of Tori's mosaic handiwork (for you, Aunt Nora!)

Inside Tori's studio...

I'm more drawn to the natural, rough-around-the-edges pieces, but this smooth, glossy one immediately won my heart with it's unmistakable stout wombat shape.

We brought a picnic lunch with us to enjoy under this perfect shady spot.

Perfection, all of it; everywhere I looked, and a definite highlight of my year so far.


  1. That is seriously amazing. I love how lived in and tactile the whole place looks!

  2. One of my long-time favorite books is "Handmade Houses", with pictures of homes built in the California forests during the '60s. This beautiful place reminds me of those.

  3. You're being Leibstered from my blog tomorrow.... Come over in the morning and check it out :)