Natasha Wills – the artist behind Mimi Goldfang

Natasha’s art excites, provokes and even divides opinion, but it is certainly memorable. When Tash provided me with written answers to my questions about her art, it was such a warm and flowing conversation that I have chosen this blog form to be just that – a fireside chat.

How did your love of art come about?

I am not a hundred percent sure. When I was little I spent a lot of time in the garden by myself apparently and then when I was a bit older I spent a lot of time exploring and playing in bushland near our house. The landscapes I grew up in were powrful and I’m a bit of a sensitive petal so I couldn’t help but be influenced by them. I remember drawing a lot when I was a kid, I was lucky Mum always had stationery around so I could and I guess I never really stopped.

What has been your journey through art?

It’s really just exploring internal landscapes and problem solving.

Do you prefer a particular medium?

Charcoal on paper has been a regular go to for a long time now. House paint, spray cans, pastels, watercolour, coloured pencils, textas…..sometimes all together. Depends on how I feel. I like collage a lot and sculpture creeps in from time to time.

Do you need silence, isolation, or music or a muse?

Sometimes silence, sometimes music, almost always some degree of isolation.

Where could we see your art?

In my home studio or my space at The Swamp Collective or instagram @natashaleewills

Phantasmic

Is your art for sale?

Some of it, yes. Occasionally I make a work that I want to keep, but that is a rare occasion. Mostly I need them out of my sight once they are finished and for them to have a life outside of a storage folder. On a wall in someone’s home or gallery space is always a pleasure and an honour.

How can we buy it?

Through direct messaging me on instagram @natashaleewills or email natashaleewills@ gmail.com

Are you working on any particular projects at the moment?

I’m plodding along with a few things. My favourite endeavour at the moment is a collaborative mail art project with an old friend in Melbourne. We currently have zines) and TShirts in the works as well as our regular art practice together. I always have a few things on the go at once. Variety helps the work have vitality because I’m not getting bored. I have a new headdress in the works, thinking about materials at the moment and a location to photograph it. Journaling most days which for me is a diary in picture form and working on large charcoal and paint drawings.

Skulking Spook

Where do you hope to take your art in the future?

My art practice has led me in interesting directions so far and I trust the process enough to know that it will continue if I keep showing up. Occasionally I find a wall where I am able to paint on a larger scale. Mural work is a new facet of my practice and something I would love to find more opportunities to explore.

Without the Sun the Moon

Tash’s work hangs proudly on our wall………..how about taking the plunge into the world of Mimi Goldfang. Or perhaps you have the perfect wall for her creativity to explore.

Weekend of Wonderful

You can’t beat Spring in any part of South East Queensland – and this weekend was a ripper!

Carnival of Flowers @ TCOF 2021 was a bit of welcome relief from lockdowns and restrictions for the almost 60,000 people who visited the Garden City for this magical annual floral spectacular. The year-long dedication by the Toowoomba Regional Council garden troupe in producing the Dinosaur themed garden beds at Laurel Bank Park and the magnificent colour palettes at Queen’s Park is nothing but extraordinary. What a wonderful team!

If it’s gardens that bees adore or the Grand Central Parade you want, then this is the place to beeee! We had been sneaking in window displays, special signature foodie dishes and markets, street lane art, pub trails and the Food and Wine festival since the beginning of September, but the pinnacle was the Parade. This year in particular saw many and varied mutlicultural groups participate. The floats and walking groups were all Butterfly themed and the beautiful images from Natalie Fogarty from @VigourGraphics show the colour and mastery which was produced to entertain the crowds lining the streets. What a wonderful start to the weekend.

Sunday was a long day driving out from Toowoomba to the Bunkers Hill Succulent Festival. I went very under-prepared. When I saw the others heading to the entry gate with plenty of cardboard boxes, I knew I was going to regret not thinking ahead. Sure enough, the little country plant market I had imagined was a HUGE celebration of all things succulents, herbs, planters, soil nutrients and knick knacks for the plant enthusiasts. Set in the grounds and hall of the local school, the festival was a well-organised and enticing display of this special plant family. Sadly I made mental notes about what to do for next year, and dragged myself away from the wonderful smell of the bbq to head down the Range and on to the next destination.

Walloon is a community only about 3 kilometres off the Warrego Highway towards Ipswich, where I was tracking down the newly opened and wonderfully different PhatBoyz Smokehouse. Set in the newly established phase of suburban estates about to explode the population out of the water, this is an amazing family enterprise. Run by dynamic duo couple Luke and Laurie-Anne Saggus, Luke is living his dream of being the best smokehouse cook in Australia. Judging by the numbers of meals served each day, the increasing number of staff and the wonderful media coverage, their dream will become a reality for sure! Only a short drive from historic Ipswich, and a hop, skip and a jump from Toowoomba, this is a foodie taste sensation worth the drive!

Then it was a quick pitstop to collect teenage grandchildren and head on down to Currumbin Beach on the southern end of the Gold Coast to catch the final day of the wonderful Swell Festival of beach sculptures. Despite the thousands of others who obviously had the same idea and who were all trying to find that elusive car park, it was a fairly painless experience to get there…..well thanks to the carpark about 400 metres away. A short walk past Elephant Rock and the jam-packed Surf Life Saving Club, then we saw the amazing sculptures both lining the sand for quite a distance and those along the roadside.

Creative minds and skilled hands had obviously been in gear to produce such a range of often perplexing and yet thought-provoking pieces. Teenage offspring were quite amazed at the sale prices – often commanding thousands of dollars. We each had our favourite pieces. With a good walk and the sand between our toes, we headed back to the car and piled in for our lunch destination up the Currumbin Valley to celebrate (or perhaps commiserate) with my youngest brother on the momentous 60th milestone. Wonderful to spend family memory moments!

It’s always nice to learn something new, and my SIL is a fount of knowledge, and so I learnt a shortcut back up to the highway – what a bonus. The long Sunday ended on a hard-boiled egg note over a great catch up natter and a sleepover with my Mum at Wynnum North. The perfect end to a wonderful weekend.

Park Yourself a While in Highfields

Carnival of Flowers highlights extend to the surrounds of Highfields……and on a mild Spring day in September it was easy to see why so many were taking advantage of the well-kept parks and walks and the Highfields Pioneer Village.

Billed as The Festival of the Big Cow, Highfields Pioneer Village boasts a giant concrete statue 7 times the size of the Ayrshire cow originally located on a dairy farm which was craned in thanks to generous sponsors, chief of whom was local philanthropist developer and ex Toowoomba Mayor Clive Berghofer. It is quite a sight as visitors drive along the entrance where ducks and geeses are foraging along the roadside, and the trees shade the impressive bovine.

Though not quite a parkland, the Pioneer Village offers visitors the parkland feel alongside its extensive historical buildings, American style windmill and huge machinery from times long gone – as well as the chance to experience the chores of milking and making butter as part of the visit. Being able to go up inside the cow is also a bit of an experience in itself. The quiet surroundings are a bonus.

Keen to stretch your legs and soak in the smells of the bush? Williams Park is in the heart of quiet sprawling suburban houses and a stone’s throw from the Highfields Shopping Centre. A short but vegetation-laden walk, this track was recommended by local community advocate Kim Cahill, owner and staunch promoter of the small and micro business platform http://www.ToowoombaDarlingDowns.com.au as the place to discover Arum Lillies growing in the shady surrounds or to spot feathered friends along this noted bird trail.

Perhaps most familiar to locals and to the many visitors who find their way out during the Carnival of Flowers drives is Peacehaven Park. Kudos to local volunteer groups, Toowoomba Regional Council and individuals inspired to transfer the seeds of ideas in to action, this parkland provides extensive grassed areas for picnics, and the design has encouraged wildlife to thrive.

The view spreads out across the valley and the surrounding communities of Gowrie Junction and Kingsthorpe, then carries the eye to the outline of the Bunya Mountains. What a peaceful expanse!

You need to keep alert to spot the rather small sign for the Park along Kuhls Rd, but once you arrive the park is a joy!

Sitting in the sun, sharing a picnic, families enjoying the well-maintained walking paths, or learning about the native tree and plant species, there is something for everyone here. Trying to spot wildlife on the ground or in the majestic trees, under the clear blue sky on a Spring day in September is truly special.

The story of The Stump is intriguing, as is the understanding of the start by Stan Kuhl of the Native Plant Nursery – closed when we visited, but hopefully such a venture is not closed for long. It wouldn’ t be Carnival time if there were not amazing floral tributes out in honour of Spring. These caught my eye.

The Stump signifies events over time and the changes life takes……an interesting piece of history to add to the serenity of the park.

It truly is Peacehaven!

Not far down the road to Cawdor Rd, and again using eagle eyes to spot it, is the Davidson Arboretum, a tree garden on one hectare donated to the Council in 2007 to ensure the future of the Tree Garden. This is another haven for locals and visitors alike with the Spring bulb plants like jonquils and daffodils a real treat.

Highfields is a wonderful Springtime, or anytime, parkland destination. Park yourself in Highfields!

Meewah Commemoration

For the fourth year, the Friends of Multuggerah, based in Toowoomba, have commemorated the campaign of this strong Aboriginal warrior whose resistance of colonial attempts to eliminate his people was never shared in the history books. Although COVID disrupted the planned event in 2020, yesterday saw a large number gather at Bill Gould Lookout in Tobruk Memorial Drive at Picnic Point to pay respects to what is known as the Battle of Meewah.

What a peaceful place to pay homage to the courage and strength of Multuggerah and to look out across to One Tree Hill, or Table Top mountain as locally known, see the quiet, non-invasive signs of the recent Wirrinya cultural burn on its summit and know that the culture and spirit of the Gaibal, Jarrowair and Western Waka Waka groups and the neighbouring Jaggera clan groups is alive in this place.

With Josh Waters as the MC for the program, he took the crowd of shared Indigenous and non-Indigenous supporters through the history of the campaign and Multuggerah’s impact. The theme of Righting Wrongs and bringing Truth Telling to all was reinforced by the ringing words of First Nations languages inviting the crowd to share the messages.

School students from Good Samaritan read the history, then students from Fairholme College laid a wreath, and paid tribute to the Year 4 students from Middle Ridge State School back in 2004, who were bewildered by the lack of recognition of this important piece of local history. Their own campaign to raise awareness and lobby the Council for recognition, has seen initial smaller plaques at three park areas grown in to the now dignified factual information walk at the Lookout.

Dr Mark Copland and Mel Waters from USQ shared the academic history and the journey of the Friends of Multuggerah to ensure recognition and truth telling, and friends were invited to join that movement.

Members of the Army laid a wreath in tribute to Multuggerah, and with the birdsong and gentle movement of the breeze in the trees during the Minute Silence, it was truly moving. The wreath was a tribute also to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women who have served.

A fitting finale to the service was the playing of Uncle Kev Carmody ‘s specially composed song Multuggerah. The haunting words and music from this giant of a song maker, echoed across the valley to One Tree Hill and beyond.

This has become a very significant annual time for gathering, learning and sharing together. Taking the Pledge together was very powerful.

Carnival of Flowers – 50 Years On

1970 was only a few years ago….wasn’t it? 🤪 Well for many of us it seems that way. Wonderful years of new world movements, freedoms of youth, funky fashions and community spirit…..and the much loved Carnival of Flowers in Toowoomba’s Garden City.

Why pick on 1970?

Well, a fun find under the old flooring during a renovation by local builder, Thomas Higgins, has given me hours of intriguing reading about that era. I remember 1970 so well, but these articles have reminded me of the changes the city’s iconic event has seen over the years.

For better or for worse? You be the judge. Enjoy the meander down memory lane – wrinkled, ripped and flimsy as the papers were found.

How about that- having a front page in colour……..while Workplace Health and Safety Officers have a fit!

1970 was the height of pop culture, and a fresh-faced Johnny (in those days) Farnham was crowned King of Pop. A progressive Carnival of Flowers organising team jumped on this ‘royal’ theme, and the year’s Carnival Queen, Anne Harber, was lined up with Whispering Jack as the King and Queen royals of the Spring Carnival.

The 1970 program and the full coverage in the local Chronicle shows how the entertainment has transitioned in to a diverse offering across gardens, displays, food and wine festivals, music, crafts, business features and family activities across the years.

The highlight back in 1970 was The Great Mardi Gras at Picnic Point with its much-anticipated fireworks. Some of the events have given way to gender equality and more general pursuits, and today’s COF has strict safety guidelines to follow – The Night Garden powered by Ergon Energy is a fairyland of fireworks without the smell of cordite. The addition of Sideshow Alley to the lower end of Queen’s Park these days still sees the nightly fireworks!

Fashion was very prominent in 1970, and the fashions were fun.

Some things have shown their staying power – with good reason – we all love the gardens, the tours of the magnificent parks, the magnificent indoor floral displays, and enjoy the competitions and the wonder on the faces of the children…….

1970 really does feel as if it was only yesterday, and as the COF 2021 springs in to action today, we hope that the Carnival continues in all its floral glory.

Pittsworth Springs in to Action

There is something in the air in this corner of the Darling Downs that has lured us back to Pittsworth. Spring is definitely on its way.

The Pittsworth Art Society is welcoming its new committee. Its local member artists were springing in to action to prepare for the influx of visitors. Members from other town societies and the general public are hoping to pick up a bargain at the annual Pittswort Art Exhibition which showcases a wide variety of art medium, jewellery and pottery from this long-established and vibrant group.

In the search for the Seat of Knowledge in our small, hospitable communities, Kim Cahill @toowoombadarlingdowns.com.au has the knack of drawing out the country feel and secrets. It was a real treat to share that visit with her. She has captured the heart of the upcoming September exhibition on her fb post – check out the wide variety of art types and the talent of the members on her facebook page. ToowoombaDarlingDowns. Our next visit will be sure to be on a day when the Chinese restaurant (said to be the best in the region) 0 llis open for lunch (closed Monday and Tuesday). However, our visit to Sweet Spot Cafe for a yummy lunch was just the trick.

And we couldn’t resist checking out Lilly Pilly Style (www.lillypillystyle.com.au) The delightful Tanya (with Tammy and another Tania) bring stylish fashion to the country. Woohoo, a new outfit for the Carnival of Flowers coming up. Hear her story in our coming blogs.

Just a short drive up the road from the Short Street gallery/Information Centre, is the The Grove Country Garden nursery owned and operated by Matthew Dolley. Matt has ridden out the tough times by digging deep in to his determination to build a rather specialist nursery which now boasts a huge number of salvias, and other exciting plants and trees, which attract increasing online sales. Matt has great support from his employees – his parents 😀.

Back home later and plenty of work to do to get these in to their Toowoomba home.

So it was on to Cook’s Soft Drinks and the very hospitable Brendan Cavanagh. With his love of the history of the factory and an enthusiasm for its future in the main street frontage, it was a delight to stagger back to the car with my favourite sarsparilla and some lollies from the Confectionary Factory. The blogs of the interviews with Brendan, Tanya and Matt are coming soon to ToowoombaDarlingDowns.com.au Stay tuned!

The Old Factory

Come for a drive – you’ll love this charming country town.

Top of the Range

PICNIC POINT

Yes, the view from the edge of the Great Dividing Range is probably the most iconic tourist image of Toowoomba, but Picnic Point is so much more than the view. Past generations of locals and weekenders have walked the parks, enjoyed a picnic, climbed the rocket, or laughed at the cans of fresh mountain air sold to gullible visitors. But what does Picnic Point offer in 2021?

The View east to the Lockyer Valley is a wide panorama, with sweeping hills and plains and dominated by the bald Table Top mountain with its single tree on the summit. Many thousands, including my mother and her siblings and school friends in the 1940s, spent weekends climbing the mountain. It hasn’t been until relatively recently that the history of Multugerah the Jagera Aboriginal warrior and the mountain (One Tree Hill) have become widely known……and the naming of the Second Range Crossing in tribute to this determined leader shows its important significance in Toowoomba’s history. You can find the fascinating, yet disturbing history at tr.qld.gov.au site or search for One Tree Hill history.

As you would expect, a place named Picnic Point indicates the casual al fresco meals or ice cream treats eaten at the many bench seats or rotundas or on rugs spread on the grass beneath giant hoop pines and native gums. There are so many picnic options to choose from that there is never any chance that families, young romantic couples, groups looking for a space to kick a soccer ball or the more sedate seniors or less mobile cannot find a suitable spot.

Looking for walking tracks or waterfalls? You are in luck! The view north along the track shows the Range Highway snaking its way up the 780 metres, though it is nowadays much less congested because the large trucks use the Second Range Crossing which diverts traffic to the north near Mt Kynoch.

Following the European trend of placing a lock to symbolise eternal love commitment, The Hitching Rail brings a smile to those who are heading to the waterfall. The track through this section winds around the base of the waterfall and is a very pleasant path any time of the year. Following the tracks around the edge of the escarpment allows walkers to check out the vegetation, birdlife and keep a keen eye out for small animals. You have earned your rest at the end of the trails.

For the less adventurous, there is the gentle stroll past the famous statue of ‘Puppy’ the terrier mascot of the Toowoomba Thistle Pipe Band; more stunning views; the rose garden; the huge Australian flag which can be seen from many kilometres away; the landmark white water tower or the direction dial which helps orientate your travel. Certainly works up an appetite!

Luckily you don’t have to look far for a great meal. The restaurant offers great food options and sensational views through the tree canopies, with both indoor and outdoor seating. Even your canine companions are catered for at the outside tables. The ice cream options are delicious summer treats. Of course the BYO picnics are always a favourite.

Or perhaps you are a Mum looking for a place to bring the little ones. The playgrounds are beautifully presented and maintained, as are the public restrooms. The different facilities are testament to the hundreds of volunteer organisations who have created such a wonderful area for many generations to come. Quirky play forts or contemporary versions of the Lions Park rocket slide and octopus are definitely child-friendly favourites! And there are many different swings and slides scattered around the area. All ages are catered for.

Wow! All this and you have only just reached the edge of Toowoomba! So much more lies ahead …….Picnic Point welcomes visitors and locals alike. Grab a sandwich and head on up!

Crows Nest

What an unusual name for a town, conjuring up images of the shiny black and beady-eyed bird. But not so in the case of this little town about 43 kilometres north of Toowoomba (or perhaps it is – who can know for sure). As you drive north from Tooowoomba, over the magnificent Second Range Crossing you drive on the section which has been named after Jack French VC. The Victoria Cross recipient is a proud son of Crows Nest.

The name of the town apparently comes from Jimmy Crow, a Jarowair Aboriginal man from the Dalla tribal lands, who lived in a hollow tree and gave directions to the early European settlers. That tree was known as Crow’s nest. It became a popular camping spot for the bullock team drivers who were hauling timber. Then came the farmers and settlers and the town developed.

The tribute to these early European pioneers is at the entrance to the town, and shows the conditions under which the town grew.

Located in an area of natural beauty, travellers need to make time to visit the Falls and the Crows Nest National Park a short drive to the east……not to be missed!0

In the town itself, the Old Crow hotel stands as a marker of those previous time when a cold beer was a fair reward for the efforts of the pioneers. The walk through the central park leading to the pub and the impressive Arts and Craft Centre is a lovely stroll. This beautifully maintained area yields fitting tributes to the services of those locals, like Jack French, who fought on distant shores for today’s freedoms. There are plenty of places to sit and reflect on their courage.

Tourists love visiting the eclectic displays of local art and craft makers, and of course it was too tempting! My winter wardrobe was enhanced. Lots of lovely goodies – and shop fronts and accomplished locals.

Although there are not many shops, they are a real mix, with some extremely popular ‘must visits’. The butcher, Meats and More, the cafes, the Op shop treasures, the Bookshop and of course the famous Crows Nest Softdrinks – well renowned even before the Landline feature with both old-fashioned cordial makers both in Crows Nest and Pittsworth to the West of Toowoomba. Who can resist a thick creamy Sarsparilla? Well perhaps my dear mother who thinks it has an atrocious taste.

Strolling along, even on a drizzly day, there was something to please everyone’s tastes. There will soon be even more to attract tourists when the old imposing Salt Antiques building completes its much anticipated transformation in to a cafe, patisserie and homewares showcase under Emeraude’s Amanda Hinds’ discerning eye.

In our search for the local Seat of Knowledge in each local town trip, Crows Nest has an abundance of places to natter and catch up on local doings. Only the trusty dog was seeking knowledge that day!

Of course my passion for all things ‘books’ meant a drop in to the secondhand bookstore AND the newsagent – just to check them out of course. Fibber!

What a great place to visit……..

What you waiting for ?

Down to URTH

When you find a family who are making delicious gluten free treats within walking distance from home it is a find too good to keep to yourself. Urth Cafe and Co (www.urthcafeandco.com) sits on the busy frontage of Hume Street at Number 195. Its location is perfect for the continuing businesses expanding in this part of Toowoomba, and has become a regular drop in spot for locals. It is an ideal spot for that quick breakfast business meeting over a coffee as much as it offers a relaxed atmosphere for friends meeting over a leisurely morning coffee chat or lunch.

When the lovely matriach and owner, Julie, knows the regulars by name and all the staff can recall their orders, there is that sense that this place really cares about each individual customer. When you feel valued you are happy to return time and time again. Out of towners from afar afield as Inglewood and Brisbane also make regular return visits.

Julie had been in the catering business for 20 years when, as a mother of four girls, decided to make their future security a priority. So the family-run affair began in Hume Street.

The difference between this and other local cafes or coffee spots is the homemade delicacies which jump out of the showcase at you. How great to have a daughter who just loves experimenting with the sweets selection!

Even more intriguing than the sweets cabinet is the origin of the name of the business. The name Urth came from one of Julie’s daughters and hearing it in association with the Kardashians of popular culture fame in the USA. The family had been really finding a name difficult, but this sounded homely, down to earth and fun and the name stuck.

The homely feel permeates through the whole place and the outside area is protected against Toowoomba’s cooler, rainy days. Though the rich hot chocolate certainly helps there! Family members also pitched in to make the robust furniture.

Juggling family life and a home-based catering business definitely seems to have suited Julie. Her calm and balanced approach to the pressures of a competitive food business, especially in times of restrictions, have seen the catering side really blossom. With regular orders from services such as the police and ambulance, and catering for special events like the charity Cabarlah Ladies Day it has become a big part of their excellent reputation. I can personally vouch for the quality, quantity and diverse range of the catering packs – as a coeliac, it was such a pleasant surprise and very yummy!

Last minute orders; community support for fundraisers and feeding the hungry in times of crisis like the 2011 floods are all taken in her stride, and have broadened Julie’s experience and reach across the city.

Julie’s goal is to make Urth Cafe and Co a Destination Cafe for Toowoomba – a place whose fine reputation has been hard won through the family unity and the strength of their food, their friendliness and sweet service. Get on down to Urth.

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Mossman

Heading north from Trinity Beach and travlyn one of the most picturesque stretches of coastline in Australia is a blessing. Yep – the bends open out to patches of beach vegetation and havens for camping, and the colours of the sea really do sparkle.

A detour to Port Douglas was almost mandatory, but rather than seeking out the glitzy shopping strip, we ventured up to Flagstaff Hill and Lookout to see more of that dazzling coastline. There was plenty to capture the sense of history, and the laneway to the old Lighthouse could easily have been missed.

The old courthouse and everyday local community facilities are in stark contrast with the ritzy accommodation offerings and the number of occupied marina berths – both co-existing comfortably to cater for wintering visitors.

Then it was on to Mossman. Cane fields and mango trees and tropical fruits rolled out, and the town itself had a couple of unexpected highlights beyond the typical colonial architecture of its pub, especially St David’s Church’s unique history or the touches of the Medterranean brought by the earlier migrant cane workers who settled the area.

Having heard much about the Mossman Gorge and its Centre, we were anticipating a great adventure. The Centre has been developed by the traditional local Bama people and it is a real treat. Tourist tours are on offer; the shuttle bus service to the gorge is efficient and frequent; the Visitor Centre displays local artists and their quality works and the cafe is hard to beat for its history information, its tasty food choices and its friendly service.

Environmentally relaxing walks accompanied by the background sounds of the water rushing over the rocks are well-designed to take visitors through the different types of vegetation and glimpse the different butterfly varieties. We managed to find plenty of fish in the still water need the banks.There were plenty of information boards and viewing platforms over the river.

A peaceful way to spend a few hours in that northern paradise.