In a 1920s mansion on the outskirts of Blackheath, four young artists have made a home. Edith Rewa, a botanical illustrator; Georgia Blackie and Eloise Maree Crossman, photographers; and Caitlin Shearer, a textile designer.
Moving to the mountains affords each of the women their own bedroom and their own studio space in a large house with an expansive garden that opens out on to bush. “We would never have access to this kind of physical space where we each lived in Sydney,” Blackie says. Between the four of them, the rent at their enormous house in the mountains is equal to that of a small apartment in the inner city.
Two of the girls can work entirely from their new home, on freelance projects and developing their own work. The other half of the household splits its week between home-studio practice and commuting by train to jobs in Sydney.
The design of the house is classic Cotswold (an architectural style that originates from the English region of the same name). It has floor-to-ceiling timber panelling and multiple fireplaces. A wood-fire Bega oven governs the small and quaint kitchen, and a lounge area with large windows overlooks sprawling gardens. A winding staircase leads upstairs to a series of bedrooms – each with its own corner basin.
Rewa has set up her studio in the old sunroom. Here she creates intricately drawn botanical wonderlands. Some of her illustrations make their way on to silk crepe de chine scarves, as in her latest collection, Fossick. Others go into books, or cushion prints for Gorman. Her bedroom in the house came with a wild orange carpet, which she complements with her collection of fossicked natural oddities and Australiana. “I’ve dubbed it the desert room,” she says.
A fashion photographer and artist, Blackie’s images have featured in RUSSH, Oyster and NYC’s NYLON magazines. She was recently named Brand Ambassador for MTNS MADE: an initiative of Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise (BMEE). Its purpose is to drive economic development with local creative industries. Blackie has the smallest room in the house, but it makes up for it in character, vintage finds and modern art.
Crossman’s approach to photography is different to Blackie’s. She develops her photographs in the old butler’s pantry that she has converted into a dark room. By day she works at The Australian Museum, assisting with media production and visitor services. At home she spends her time developing her own photographic emulsions and experimenting with old photography techniques such as Tintype portraiture. Visitors to the Blue Mountains’ Roaring 20s and All That Jazz festival this month can experience this style of portraiture first hand at one of her pop-up photography booths.
Shearer’s “prairie-style” room is littered with drawings of lithe figures and plants. She combines her love for drawing and dressing through her label, Caitlin She. Prints and illustrations are transposed to garments and textiles. Shearer sews in a sunlit studio attached to her room and sells her pieces online. “I’m lucky to be able to produce enough that I can work from home. I worked hard to get here and now my days are spent exactly how I want them to be; sewing, drawing, gardening and walking up to the post office,” she says.
Although they haven’t been here long, the girls have settled in quickly. We share a cake from the Blackheath Bakery, a place the women can’t resist when they walk through town. The four artists also recommend Anonymous cafe, where the food is seasonal and the coffee is creamy. Later this evening they’re going to a party a few train stops away in Hazelbrook where they’ll meet up with other like-minded friends who, like them, made the move to the mountains.