Skip to content
19 Oct 2019

Unmissable Artisans in the Gardens

Artisans in the Garden is an unmissable annual showcase of Australian artists and makers, and in its 19th year it's bigger than ever, writes Sue Wannan.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie would surely have approved of this year’s Artisans exhibition, spreading as it will along the footprint of one of his beautiful legacies. In 1810, shortly after he arrived in the colony, Macquarie started the construction of an elegant carriageway beside the government farm and domain, flanked by an imposing sandstone wall, and planted with swamp mahoganies.

It made a delightful, private route for his wife to drive to her favourite harbourside lookout. Today that lookout is known as Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, and the remnants of the elegant carriageway and wall are still seen in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, stretching from The Terrace on the Domain to Lion Gate Lodge. Macquarie was a visionary (and one given to pleasing his wife), so the annual sight each October of a range of statement sculptures along his charming carriageway might please him!

Floating Dish by Mallee Design

Jen Mallinson, whose organic corten pod ‘Liquescent’ pictured below, is inspired by the fluid, organic forms of marine vegetation she sees on her daily walks in Pambula, where she is based. A full-time artist for more than a decade, Jen’s work is in major private collections, including that of architect Phillip Cox, and Terry Snow’s growing collection at Willinga Park in Bawley Point.

Broadcroft Design is also well-known, regularly showing in garden shows around Australia. You might even have sat on their bespoke ‘love bench’ in the U Space healing garden in St Vincent’s Hospital. Vince Vozzo, a noted multidisciplinary Australian artist famous for his monumental stone and bronze sculptures, whose work has been included in dozens of exhibitions, including eight selections in the prestigious Wynne Prize, will be sending four marble pieces.

Liquescent by Jen Mallinson


Whatever your budget there is something for everyone.
Sandy Crichton, Artisans Curator 2019

Desirable and collectable

As always, Artisans is not just about the spectacularly sized. You’ll also see the small, the new, the quirky, and a lot in between in jewellery, sculpture, ceramics, textile art, wall art and decor from some 40 artists. New Curator for 2019, Sandy Crichton said "We want everyone to feel involved. Whether your budget is $20 or $20,000 or something in between.”

Artisans regulars will welcome the return of Arenaria’s chubby little sandstone wombats, this year accompanied by a frog, a lizard and some birds. Julianne Smallwood’s raku-fired magpies will this year be joined by a school of fish; and Jim Hamilton, the popular agapanthus artist, brings more flowers this year, as well as a fountain that will be lit up on opening night.

Last year the work of Queensland mosaic artist Jane du Rand was snapped up on opening night. Look this year for her plastic and ceramic hanging bud lights, her ceramic plants and birds in glass cloches, and her numerous hanging planters and concrete mosaic pavers.  

Posy vases by Nicole Ayliffe
Posy vases by Nicole Ayliffe

Also look out for 

Steve Sheridan, a ceramicist who specialises in blue and green celadon glazes. Look for his tea bowls which feature turtles or frogs swimming in the pooled glaze inside.

Linda Haigh, who makes what she calls ‘pebbles’ – hand-built clay works, 20-30cm across, that are sanded, then brushed with layer-upon-layer of milk paint to achieve a glowing smoothness. Each has a little well containing tiny river pebbles, miniscule feathers, weathered shells and the like.

Set by Studio Enti

Barbara Heath, whose business, Jeweller to the Lost, reflects on the mystical and historic derivations of adornment and fashion. Most of her work is commissioned, but she will bring rings, earrings, necklaces and sculptures to Artisans.

James Blackwell, of Lost Bear Gallery in Katoomba, who makes delicate, origami-style wall pieces. He says he uses “natural materials gathered from the bush, reconfigured into grid-like, three-dimensional formations with the use of textured and handmade papers as a support.”

Angela Lober, one of Australia’s outstanding botanical artists, who also makes jewellery, including an enchanting jelly-baby necklace made from resin. 

Julie Paterson, whose textile work you will see on the seats of NSW’s new fleet of intercity trains later this year, is bringing her exquisite little bird portraits engraved on metal-coated board, tinted with watercolour.

Shellie Christian

Nettie Sumner, who uses wire and clay to create ‘pods’ – fresh and delicate hanging pieces which “reflect nature’s reproduction and germination through seed pods and seed dispersal.”

Marina Lindsay, whose ‘succulent jellyfish’ gardens may or may not make it. “These plants are very slow growing, and they need to cover the upturned bowls to achieve the magical floating garden effect I’m after.” says Marina.

Order for later 

For the first time this year, missing out on the night might not mean missing out for good. “Typically on opening night we have huge sales and disappointed people,” says Stephanie Chambers, Exhibitions Project Manager.” So this year, we’ll have information from selected artists regarding the number of items they can reproduce in the next few months. If what you want is sold, you can order it with us, and it’ll be delivered before Christmas!”

Make a day of it 

A food stall pop-up offering sandwiches and salad bowls will join the traditional homemade cakes, tea and coffee that will be available every day, from 11.00 am – 2.00 pm. And don’t forget Growing Friends Plant Fair on Saturday 26 October, 10.00 am – 4.00 pm. 

A limited number of bromeliad ‘garden art’ pieces will be available alongside the nursery’s bumper range of hard-to-find plants. 


As seen in the Spring 2019, Issue 122, Foundation & Friends of the Botanic Gardens Magazine. This article was written by Sue Wannan, Member of Foundation & Friends.


If you are a journalist and have a media enquiry about this story, please click here for contact details and more information.