I was asked by Project Leader Geraldine Edar to write a piece for the Moyne Shire publication “Country to Coast” about my experience working on the Hawkesdale Mosaic project. I thought it would be worth really considering the project from what it came to mean to me. Here is how I put it all down…
As a kid I took in a lot of my experience of the country side through the car window, travelling the valleys of North East Victoria to visit family, snow fields and often just to take in the scenery. I realise now how this built up my sense of connection to that landscape, one that will forever make that country “home”. I moved to Warrnambool fourteen years ago and whilst I have raised my own family here I have struggled to recreate that sense of connection to this landscape.
An e-mail arrived from Youth Officer Geraldine Edar in my inbox in April this year. It explained how she had a Youth Council run mosaic project that was in urgent need of production if I was up for the challenge. The first step was completing the mosaic design. There were several images from a design competition that provided an initial guide. This was coupled with requests from the Hawkesdale Hall committee for the local farming landscape and wild life represented. They also asked that the wind turbines not be too dominant. I worked the design over four panels, and met with Geraldine, the Youth Councillors and the Hall Committee for approval.
The design now included swirling hay bales, dairy cows, sheep, corellas, graduating hills, soft white clouds, a few small wind turbines and the water reeds and wildlife that you might expect at the Moyne River. And of course, black cockatoos, the bird I consider my totem animal insisted its flock fly through these panels. One of the Hall Committee members indicated that the mosaic’s black cockies were a good idea as they were a sign that the rains were coming. How right she was. My first day on the job was also the first big rain of the year, deliveries were delayed and I found myself drenched as I pushed on turning the Hall’s stage into a work space. Over the coming weeks I would hear those black cockatoos in nearby trees.
As we commenced Hawkesdale College students came and worked on site, preparing panels and tiles as I constructed the timber frames and mosaic bases. Four weeks into the project we began to lay down the first tiles. The students worked on the swirling hay bales while I laid down the tree. One morning a Hall Committee member dropped in to ask if we might find a way to remember a much loved and missed community member Trish Henning. We agreed that a single yellow daffodil on the mosaic would mark her memory on the project. I was amazed by the community support and enthusiasm the whole way through, Geraldine had told me what a generous and committed bunch of people were out here and I found this to be so inspiringly true.
A mosaic of this size is a long slow process; it is like doing a jig saw puzzle that you have to carefully make up as you go along. Week by week I would drive out to Hawkesdale, collect the key from beautiful Julie at the shop, working with and without the students slowly, ever so slowly bringing the design to life. The project ran from May until the end of August with many Hawkesdale College students, the youth councillors and Geraldine Edar all contributing their time to its creation. By late July I found myself driving out to Hawkesdale many times a week, sometimes on the weekends and often before the sun rose to ensure that the mosaic would be completed (I even enlisted my own children and my best friend’s help too). During these drives the landscape that had seemed so foreign slowly became more and more familiar. I got to know the roads and even found a few short cuts.
I missed the mosaic’s grand opening as I was working on another art project at Macarthur Primary School. A couple of weeks later I took my own children and parents on a drive around the area, firstly to Macarthur, then across a back road to Hawkesdale to see the mosaic. I think I can finally say, that I have developed an actual sense of connection to this landscape. This special, ancient and beautiful region has seeped into my soul and one day may even feel like home.