Margaret River Region Open Studios shines the spotlight on several South West creative hubs, including one in the charming town of Witchcliffe.
Just south of Margaret River you’ll find the intriguing little town of Witchcliffe, home to a community of passionate artists who practise and share their craft with an ever-growing number of visitors.
“It’s definitely a creative area… I think it always has been,” says abstract painter Ange Brewster. “There are quite a lot of creative people living here.”
Witchcliffe resident and photographer Lauren Trickett agrees, saying: “Witchcliffe attracts a bit of an eclectic mix of residents and creatives. It’s always been a little bit outside the norm, so I think people tend to gravitate towards it.”
Gravitate they do. Lauren, who shares a studio space along the Witchcliffe main strip with fellow artists including Ange, has seen the town’s popularity grow over the past five years.
“Four or five years ago it was a pretty quiet, sleepy town,” she says. “But now it seems to be a destination that people come to; it’s chock-a-block up both sides of the street most days of the week now.”
Take a leisurely drive past grassy green vistas, towering forests and through Witchcliffe’s quaint township and you’ll quickly discover why. The town’s rural surrounds, teamed with its quirky shops and cafes that are housed in old timber buildings and hand-built sheds, is enough to inspire any creative mind or South West wanderer.
Contributing to the town’s increase in popularity over the years is the Margaret River Region Open Studios. Over the past seven years, MRROS has seen a collection of Margaret River-based artists open their studios, homes and galleries to the public, giving visitors a unique insight into each creative’s artistic practice.
“Art is a funny thing,” MRROS Chairperson Jim Davies says. “It’s not everyone’s thing. Some people like it, some people don’t, but through MRROS, we’re trying to make sure that we can get more people involved and enjoy it.”
Jim says the idea for MRROS was pinched from England, where open studio events exist all over the country.
“We have one of the highest concentrations of artists anywhere in Australia, simply because of the beauty of the landscape and the inspiration that that provides down here,” he says. “Often their studios are in places you would never get to visit.”
Places, Jim says, that include old ice cream factories, sheds at the bottom of people’s gardens and studios hidden in the middle of the forest. Most people don’t even know that these spaces exist, let alone where they can find them, but thanks to MRROS, they now know where to begin.
The Open Studios event has and continues to shine the spotlight on these otherwise unexplored homes/studios/galleries, and in turn has encouraged a number of creative/artistic hubs, like the one in Witchcliffe, to form across the Margaret River region.
Along with aiding the development of these artistic hubs, MRROS also acts as a support system for artists who not only get the chance to sell their works to new and returning audiences, but to also receive feedback and to exchange ideas with likeminded creatives and art lovers in and visiting the region.
“I was part of Open Studios last year and had such a great experience that I decided to do it again this year,” Ange says. “I just really enjoyed all the conversations I had with people that came to have a look at my art and also the feedback that you get from people as well; it’s just nice to be part of an event where you get feedback from people from all over the place.”
“What encouraged me to be part of MRROS this year, honestly, is my co-workers who do it year after year and have a fantastic response with lots of visitors coming through, touring around,” says Lauren, who will be taking part in the event for the first time this year. “In previous years I’ve always been a visitor. I love the idea of going through other artists studio spaces – you learn things about people that you wouldn’t otherwise learn if you haven’t seen their books and their music and their tools and the environment they’re in. That’s always really cool to get to see.”
Margaret River Open Studios runs from September 12-27, 2020.
Don’t miss a visit to these Witchcliffe artists’ spaces:
Known for her colourful animal paintings and drawings, Ange Brewster explores colour through the use of oils, charcoal, soft pastels and watercolours. This year Ange is experimenting with abstract works, which you can view alongside her figurative and wild life works at the Hardware Creative.
Hailing from South Africa, Anthony Debbo couldn’t help but be lured to a region that combines prime wine country with the ocean and forest. Based out of winery Si Vintners, Ant works with timber and ply to create interior furniture and sculptures. Ant is currently working on a large playground whale for the winery, which you’ll be able to see during Open Studios.
Lauren Trickett is an award-winning professional photographer who is inspired by the ever-changing beauty of the Capes region. Expect to find dreamy underwater fine art images, lots of beautiful local shipwrecks, some epic lineup shots from around the South West, and a few of Lauren’s favourite music and skate pieces on exhibit at Lauren’s studio and co-working space the Hardware Creative. Visitors will also get the chance to experience live photoshoots in studio, which visitors can watch or, if they are feeling like some fun, join in with.
Do make the beautiful drive down to Patricia Negus’s mudbrick studio, Swallows Welcome, where you’ll discover many of this lauded botanical and watercolour artist’s illustrations, which feature the region’s diverse species of mushrooms and fungi, its birds and wildflowers.