The Melba Highway, home to our popular Alternative Taste Trail, winds its way through some of the Yarra Valley’s top food and wine spots, but did you know it’s also home to a collection of creative artists? Eight of them will throw open their studio doors to take people behind the scenes as part of the area’s Open Studios weekend (November 10 and 11).
We’ve profiled some of the top picks for the weekend – potter Ted Secombe, portrait painter Raelene Sharp and mixed-media artist Elizabeth Haigh. Other artists opening their doors are Bernadette Towan, Cathie Berry, Julie Merrigan, Margaret McLoughlin and Tessa Hubble.
Studios are open 10am-5pm both days, and entry is free.
Get your creative juices flowing and take a day or weekend to indulge in some top-notch food, drink and scenery while you’re there.
As you take the Melba Highway out of Yarra Glen, the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery is a must for all those with a sweet tooth. Free tastings are a gateway to the Great Wall of Chocolate, with 34 different types including Bush Tucker and kitchen garden-inspired delights. You can watch the sweet treats being made by expert chocolatiers, and if you just want to relax, the Chocolaterie is set on 16 hectares with expansive lawns for kids to have a runaround, and a café for coffee and meals.
Just up the road, the magnificent Alowyn Gardens awaits with a stunning wisteria archway and 1.5 hectares of space to explore. Wander through six different garden areas, grab a bite to eat at the café, or test your skills on the giant chess board. If you’ve got a green thumb, check out the nursery with its range of interesting plants.
Stop in for a spot of lunch further down the highway, in Dixons Creek, at the five-star James Halliday-rated Mandala Wines. If you’re a lover of Italian fare, the pizzeria at modern glasshouse restaurant DiVino, with panoramic views of the vines and valley, is ideal for a meal. You can also taste and buy their prized estate wines plus renowned single-site varieties.
And more wine tasting can be found just a stone’s throw away at De Bortoli. The Yarra Valley estate brings together its family philosophy of food, wine and friends, and Italian-inspired delicacies using fresh produce are also on offer. If you love cheese, you’ll be in heaven at the Yarra Valley Cheese Shop, which has a selected range of local and imported quality items.
Let your imagination run wild at the Melba Highway Open Studios weekend and share in the region’s creativity.
Profile: Ted Secombe – Porcelain, wheel-thrown
240 Bleases Lane, Dixons Creek
P: 0419 572 882 or 0419 004 448
Ted, a self-taught potter of 40 years, says the aim of his work is to “create beauty in the objects I produce in an honest and professional manner”.
Known for his graceful pieces with glazes including crystalline, his current work is inspired by his experiences exhibiting in Japan and India.
He says this work is “moving away from the constraints of perfectionism I pursued in my earlier career”, deconstructing some glazes to create gentler surfaces that are “more in sync with the natural world”.
Ted says he gets his enthusiasm and joy for the craft from “engaging in the new and unknown”, and he is also inspired by the colours in his garden. He invites you into his workshop and gallery.
Profile: Raelene Sharp – Portraits
105 Forest St, Yarra Glen
P: 0407 827 344
Raelene is a professional portrait artist, painting corporate, private and celebrity portraits. Her subjects have included chef Iain Hewitson, newsreader Jennifer Keyte, actor Gary Sweet, and Olympic athlete Raelene Boyle.
Raelene has been a finalist in most of Australia’s national portrait competitions, including the Archibald Prize. She won the Archibald Packing Room Prize in 2012 with her portrait of actor John Wood.
She also won the nation’s third-richest portrait prize, the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize, with a self-portrait, in 2006.
Her painting of Professor Suzanne Cory AC is hanging in the National Portrait Gallery Canberra.
Visitors can see Raelene’s works in progress and discuss her artistic processes, plus view some completed portraits.
Profile: Elizabeth Haigh - Painting, textiles, drawing, printmaking and digital media
29 Armstrong Grove, Yarra Glen
M: 0409 557 803
First-time Open Studios participant Elizabeth Haigh invites people into her creative space, where she will show her work and hold felting activities.
She says although she trained as a painter, she has incorporated textiles and hand-painted fabrics into her work.
Elizabeth, an art and design teacher of 20 years, says her aim is to create “wearable artwork that blurs the boundaries between art and craft”.
She is inspired by walking in the Yarra Valley, and often gets colour for her textile dyes from plants in her garden.