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Inside Out - Yarra Valley Artists Invite Us Into Their Lives and Studios

Tucked up stairs above Miss Spelts on the main shopping strip in Healesville is YAVA Gallery & Arts Hub, the home of community arts organisation Yarra Valley Arts. On Wednesday I was joined in the gallery by three of the twelve exhibiting artists in the current exhibition Inside Out. The group of artists, who call themselves S.C.O.N.E.S (Social Creative Outlet Not Only Eating Scones) meet every Tuesday for catch up and creative sessions, where on more than one occasion have included the eating of scones. What is special about this group is that they have continued to be productive during lockdowns, meeting online each week on Zoom. Sometimes giving each other creative challenges. This exhibition came about after they discovered their works created in lockdown covered similar themes, particularly covering items or subjects around the home. They produced so much work this year that they simultaneously have some artwork across the road in Yarra Ranges Council’s Memo Gallery.

Almost a creative support group, their positive influence on each other shows in this exhibition. With many visitors noting that despite the negative feelings associated with remembering lockdown, the gallery space feels bright, comforting and welcoming. Each of the artworks and domestic objects or furniture have been arranged to replicate a house interior and garden. Rooms are evoked by sheer curtains amongst tables and chairs, a stack of jars and even a little fire place in the corner.

Denise and Bev hard at work in the gallery.

At MAVA Inc we are proud to discover that three of the artists are MAVA Inc Associate Members too. Bev Hardidge, Denise Smith and Pamela Gordon. I had the pleasure of meeting Bev Hardidge and Denise Smith.

Bev came in beautifully dressed in a dress and matching face mask that are a print of her painting Spring is here, also in the exhibition. A mixed media artist, she creates work that range from realism to abstract; dabbling in acrylics, ink, collage and watercolour. Her work is about curiosity and she often finds inspiration in her garden. She has entered many of her ceramics into the exhibition, some of which provide crockery for the kitchen table. I find it interesting that many of her paintings are brightly coloured whilst her ceramics are more detailed in muted tones of mostly of blues and orange.

Bev with some of her paintings.

When I asked Denise Smith what she was working on in the gallery, she said “birds of course”. Her work evokes her passion for native habitat conservation and animals using inks, acrylics, pastels and mixed media. When a lot of the works in the exhibition covered interior themes or garden themes exclusively, I was intrigued with her painting Outside My Window. Paint brushes at the window looking out to her garden. Her mixed media painting Native Garden Bee captured my attention as it combined realism and abstract with a bee exploring the pink, purple and yellow flowers.

Denise with her painting 'Native Garden Bee'

Nestled between a collection of jars and Mary Newham’s still life of jars Preserving Memories is Pamela Gordon’s oil painting Pears. It’s simplicity and the fruits’ bright tones makes this little painting stand out. Pamela Gordon is a former pastel artist who now spends most of her time creating works in acrylic, oil, watercolour and alcohol ink. Her aim to evoke memories has reminded me of country farmhouse living with her still life paintings. I look forward to discussing with her one day about her home and studio in a former local guest house. After viewing her work Time for a Cuppa, I took her advice and grabbed one myself. Next time I should remember to BYO Tim Tams.

Pamela Gordon's 'Pears' with the jars arrangement.

Christen Jo Stone has work in this exhibition too. Skilled in mediums including wirework, fibre and textiles she is a part of the MAVA Inc community too. Using both machine and hand stitching she has created some rock specimens displayed inside glass and wooden domes. I agree with one of the gallery visitors, that they are “an improvement on the pet rock”. They come to life with moss, flowers or fern like plants.

Kitchen table with Bev Hardidge's pottery and Christen Jo Stone's rock specimens.

Though not a member of MAVA Inc (yet!), Ian George’s wooden sculptures caught my eye as they sprouted across the gallery. He draws inspiration from the contrasts between surface and structure as well as shapes from the natural world. He has been working with wood as a sculpturing medium since his 20s. His work is organically shaped, many of them in this exhibition evoking themes of fungi whether by themselves or growing out of logs. Whilst the others talked on Zoom, he was often carving away at something.

Ian with his sculpture 'Bifurcate'

When I asked them what it was like being a part of Yarra Valley Open Studios, they said that they enjoyed meeting all the people coming by their studios, with paddocks used in some locations as a car park. A couple of years ago it was wet and a couple of cars got briefly bogged. Still, the weather and the muddy paddocks were not a deterrent to the hundreds of people that visited. Last year it was held online with workshops and talks held through Zoom. Ian laughed when he recalled that there were a few people who watched his wood carving demonstrations almost playing the game of “will he chop off his fingers?”. After so much time creating and chatting together on Zoom they are very happy to have returned to face to face sessions and are excited to be opening their studios again to the public.

You can visit these Yarra Valley creative natives at their studios for Yarra Valley Open Studios. Ian’s studio is open this weekend but you will have to wait patiently for Denise Smith and Bev Hardidge until March.

Inside Out is on until December 24. Open Wednesdays to Sundays 11pm - 3pm.

YAVA Gallery & Arts Hub

252A Maroondah Highway, Healesville 3777

Disabled access at the rear in Furmston Lane.

Yarra Valley Open Studios is on two weekends, covering areas of the Yarra Ranges including where some of our MAVA Inc members live such as Healesville, Hoddles Creek, Warburton and Chirnside Park.

11 & 12 December 2021

19 & 20 March 2021

For more information including the locations of each of the artist studios, visit the website

Yarra Valley Open Studios Exhibition is at Yarra Ranges Council’s Memo gallery until Sunday 12th December.

235 Maroondah Highway, Healesville 3777

Are you a MAVA Inc member with a special project, exhibition or event coming up? Do you have an interesting story? Let us know about it by registering your event on our website and sending us an email at

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