Elsewhere Sauna was conceived and crafted by Selena de Carvalho, an interdisciplinary artist, and master ceramicist Nanna Bayer. Born and bred in Finland, the spiritual home of the sauna, Bayer had one in her home. After a fortuitous meeting, de Carvalho enjoyed a winter sauna-sitting while Bayer travelled in Europe, and the plan to create a communal space was hatched.
The whimsical name, Elsewhere, represents the fact that the sauna is mobile – indeed, on wheels (specifically 1950s wheels, found on Gumtree). The enclosed trailer previously served as a council mess room before de Carvalho and Bayer transformed it into a layered and textured space.
With a can-do attitude, de Carvalho and Bayer did much of the work between them, stripping it out first, then cladding the inside with low-impact radiata pine. The pair made tiles by hand, rolling slabs of clay in Bayer’s industrial pasta maker, creating a delicate patchwork of pastel and white tiles that went behind the walls of the wood fire, some of which are gold-flecked and handpainted. A golden circle of rectangular tiles frames the stunning rose-coloured porthole window, adding a warm, pink, otherworldly light to the space.
Design elements for the small space were carefully considered, including a knotted piece of driftwood that de Carvalho found on a river walk. This nod to the Japanese notion of wabi-sabi, the concept of decaying beauty, is now a balustrade of sorts between the recycled red cedar bench seats and the wood fire.
From the outside, the black box trailer doesn’t give much away, but stepping through the pine door will often elicit audible reactions from guests. “For people who have never come before, they’ll let out this little squeal of delight at how beautiful the space is. These utterances of joy and a desire to comment on our work are something I’ll never tire of,” says Carvalho.
Saunas are a known quantity, but the experience is taken up a notch or three when you’re close to a body of cold water. Tasmania’s Off Season is when Elsewhere Sauna comes into its own. “There’s a freedom to open the sauna door and run into the ocean,” says Carvalho. “It’s a phenomenal experience. I wait for the cries of delight as people throw themselves into the frigid water.”
During the cooler months, de Carvalho spends practically all daylight hours at Randalls Bay while revellers experience the sauna. “I get that flow-on pleasure of observing people have this really enlivening, embodied experience,” she says. There’s a group of women who have attended nearly every week since the sauna’s inception, and over time she has seen their relationship with each other deepen. More recently, their partners have started booking the sauna monthly. This group of men in their forties, fifties and sixties, many of them farmers, are having this type of bonding experience for the first time.
“For me, one thing that’s so joyous is witnessing all ages come together in intimate ways. People come to celebrate a birthday, or on the morning of their wedding. It’s a deep way of connecting with friends or strangers.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism Tasmania. Explore more wild, weird and wonderful experiences during Tasmania’s Off Season.