Bagni di Lucca cat does meerkat impersonation

March 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Our very own, famous Tiggy May on holiday with Debbie and Jim, while we visit our friends in England. So gorgeous!

Bella Bagni di Lucca

We are cat sitting at the moment. Meet Tiggy May.


She has made herself at home and has decided that the view of the village from our window is fascinating. She spends hours watching the goings on from our couch.


Something happened which really appealed to her and she needed a higher vantage point.







The funny little thing stayed like this for quite some time, obviously enthralled by something, possibly birds flying past. How I wish she could talk so I could know what was going on in her little pussy head.

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Jacob Cartwright, Guy Dowsett and Henna Kaikula performing ‘Reflections’ at La Rondine Gallery

September 17, 2012 § 2 Comments

Henna Kaikula, Jacob Cartwright and Guy Dowsett

Piano and clarinet burring insistently, drops of sweet notes like water tinkling in a bowl, a little bit sad, reflective, pensive.  Her body rises and falls like a pendulum, seductive with the same graceful fluidity of a cat, her contortions elevated to a beautiful dance, a body without boundaries.  The performance of music and contortion by Jacob Cartwright, Guy Dowsett and Henna Kaikula, at La Rondine Gallery a week ago, was one of those events that leave you breathless and profoundly delighted.  The gallery space is not huge and Henna needed a large amount of it.  Her audience squished in as much as they could to get as much of the performance that was allowed them.  It left us all as high as kites and the energy was abundant afterwards, with us all celebrating way into the night.

If you would like to see more of the performance click on the following link:

Jacob and Guy, composers and musicians

Henna Kaikula

Henna Kaikula

Henna Kaikula

Henna with photo by Jacob Cartwright in background, ‘Quarry Pond’

La Rondine – a new gallery in Ponte a Serraglio

August 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

Swooping through the air, their forked tails and pointed wings in silhouette against brilliant blue skies, they arrive in spring and leave in autumn, busy all summer long, tending their babies and devouring the myriad of insects floating over the fields and waterways, chirping socially through the balmy twilight evenings on top of their nests under the eaves or on the boughs of leafy old trees. The swallows.  Joyous and free they still observe the rituals of season as do we artists, out and about in this bountiful haven in the warm seasons and gone to other warmer climes as the winters grow cold.  We have called our gallery in Ponte a Serraglio, La Rondine – The Swallow.

Opening at la Rondine gallery

Massimo Betti,(mayor), Michael Cartwright and Kevan Halson

at the opening

At the opening

One week ago the mayor of Bagni di Lucca,  Massimo Betti, opened the first exhibition of La Rondine Gallery, ‘Atrophy’, a series of photographs by Kevan Halson. Living in the hills above Bagni di Lucca, in a lovingly restored old villa, Kevan, talented in many fields, includes photography and printing in his repertoire of gifts.  He is often to be seen, laden with his camera equipment and a bunch of keys loaned to him by the commune, as he enters old buildings owned by the commune who have not the money available to them to restore or keep the buildings intact.  Bagni di Lucca with all its history and all its potential, is one of those special towns that needs a great patron to preserve it.

‘Atrophy’ is a series of small intimate photographs of the forgotten story of the Bagni di Lucca area, interior shots of tumbling villas and houses, old and decaying, snippets of another life, long gone, bits of rubbish left on old shelving, rubble up a staircase from a fallen roof, old tiles.  The colour of each of these works is beautiful.  Each photograph is almost a burnt black and white with one extreme colour standing out abstractly, a delicious turquoise, an apricot pink, patterns created by the lighting that create another level of resonance above the story of decay.  It’s a strange insight into Bagni di Lucca, but it is a true one.  Bagni di Lucca, so rich in history and patrons and beautiful buildings, has declined sadly and graciously; one by one the great old villas falling into themselves, relinquishing the life of the past, not much to remember them by except for a little wallpaper snippet or delicate engraved and broken glass, elegant staircases strewn with rubble from the toppling floors above.  Kevan’s photographs record the vision of a broken past, yet are poignantly beautiful art works in their own right.

La Rondine is manned by the exhibiting artists, so the opening hours are operated individually according to the exhibitor.  The casual nature of our agreements has allowed us to open the gallery doors.

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Our next exhibition on 24th August is by Jacob Cartwright.

Golden light

July 21, 2012 § 8 Comments

It’s hot and the woods are golden in the summer light. Every evening we make our way up the mountain on the old vespa delighting in the verdant cool archway of trees over the narrow road. Pieve dei Monti di Villa is a haven, its deep mountain quiet, a complete rest after full on days in the studio or foundry in Pietrasanta.

Mike’s dear dad died a couple of weeks ago.  We went back to Australia to attend the funeral and to be with family.  We shared stories and cried and laughed.  He felt like a big man in life.  He had big bushy eyebrows, bright blue eyes and was handsomely craggy and always elegant and charming in company.  Never afraid of an argument, his household was never quiet around him except when he was painting.  He had huge hands that were capable of the most meticulous work, painting beautiful small canvases of the sea, and at the same time building houses and restoring furniture.  He was tireless.  He had so much energy to do and create, still perching himself intently on a stool for hours on end painting the bay he loved up until a few days before he died.  He had always suffered ill health, but never let it get to him, patiently subjecting himself to endless examinations and operations and medications, succumbing in the end to his original nemesis, the polio he contracted at 17.

Peter at Blackrock beach

He shared memories before he died, of that year as a young man spreadeagled in bed on a rhomboid wooden structure that his father lovingly made, that kept his legs apart and feet up, arms and legs strapped down while he slept. His recovery saw him in the sea at Blackrock, brought down the steep sandy banks on the back of a young bushie from Wodonga who placed him gently into the waves where his weightless body could perambulate and slowly regain the strength he had lost. But the exhausted nerves of his body stole his strength again at the end and one night he peacefully left it alone on the hospital bed. On his way, he came to France again where Michael and I were visiting the quaint medieval villages he loved to paint; and he visited Tom, his grandson, surfing at sea and came in the form of a whale that played nearby; and he went on to the Canadian lakes where Sollai, another grandson, was taking a nature retreat and he came there in the form of a black bear before his being floated away.  Those thoughts at the end are what we like to believe as some of our family felt his energy passing by and felt it symbolized in the things they saw at the time….

Peter and Margaret, married 61 years

Margaret and Peter, Mike’s parents, always an elegant couple

Now we are home again in Pieve, with all our memories. I am sitting here in the late morning, hearing nothing but the song of  birds and the persistent chirping of their babies up under the eaves of the roof.  The light is bright and hard on the stone walls all about us and the shadows are deep and welcome under the ivies and trees in the gathering heat.  Our little house is monastic, we come here with nothing to remind ourselves of busyness, just a few books and old videos played and replayed forever on the old television when talking seems irrelevant. And this little nest with its lack of material possession, its lack of needs, its very wholesomeness, somehow halts our own eternal lusting for outcomes, for things, for achievements, and we find ourselves with a feeling of plenty and we let go and remember how connected we are to all of life, to the birds, our sleeping kitten, the old cotto floors, the ancient walls, the breath of air cooling as it enters the shadows and touches your skin.


The Murray River

February 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

I love the rough Australian landscape.  I love its rawness. I love its sound.  I love it for my work.

River Captain

We had the amazing good fortune to have a river boat on the Murray river for three fantastic days, (My cousin has Moama on Murray holiday resort with luxury house boats for rent). Michael was our River Captain and other than a sharp learning curve steering this great unwieldy ship around bends and boats and people swimming in the water and trying to park the thing on muddy slides and to coax her out in the mornings doing his courageous three point turns between the audacious graces of skiers whizzing by, he was great, taking us up river from Moama to the Barmah Forest.  The boat itself was a luxurious beast, sporting incredible kitchen and dining, leather lounges and 5 star beds, an upstairs deck with barbeque and spa, definitely meant to be partied on. Just us and Jake and Jaqui. Prosecco and beer in the spa, listening to the scratchy last shrieks of the cockatoos, before twilight sinks into the oblivion of night.  Walking in the morning through the rough bush, getting lost when making a detour, ending up on some other bend in the snaking river, upon following it, finding us an hour down the track, further than the five minutes we had accounted for.


The bush a mess, filled with the debris of people’s grog filled camps.  Tins and bottles everywhere, the whole bush a toilet, paper floating aimlessly, caught in twigs and spider webs.  Everywhere in the day was noise pollution, full throttle engines, burning up and down the river, agitation in ourselves, longing to get this hulk way up into the upper reaches of the Murray, away from so called civilization and its mad delinquency.

Jacob and Jaqueline on the upper deck

The Murray was amazing to see.  It seems so long since we had seen it with any water in it, the drought has been so bad for so many years.  I think, sometimes, that the Victorian bush and landscape of Australia is an acquired taste.  Its reference isn’t to spectacular vistas of high horizons, of verdant greens or special atmospheres or turquoise rivers.  The Australian landscape as I commonly know it to be, is rough.  The trees, when they are not part of a rainforest, are squiggly raggedy yearning growths whose leaves hang despondently in the warmest shades of olivey green, in fact there is so much red in the green that the shade is not refreshing.

River bank

Cockatoos on the river bank


The great old red river gums, their powerful limbs rolling out around them, are often broken under their immense weight and lie at the roots, nests to untold animals and lizards and snakes.  The horizon is low and the sky is huge and open and the light is so clear that it hurts your eyes.  Little seems able to grow from the tough old dirt, though of course there are beautiful farmlands, yet the bush is dour.  From within it, live an astonishing array of character birds; cockatoos, parrots, lorrakeets, kookaburras, magpies, currawongs, chuffs, whose strange calls resemble the scratchy, yet also harmonious, harsh texture of the bush.  And here on the Murray, the brown muddy water sweeps around the clay cliffs, eroded and exposing the roots of trees and the inevitable falling cascade of their trunks down into the river.  It is an acquired taste, I am sure, but to see it, I love it.  Its earthiness, and its struggle to live, is like a tired old body, that has loveliness in its wrinkles and constancy, its colour, warm, in a monochromatic way.  I love it for my work, the scoured, pitted earth a texture to record and use.

old river boat

Emmy Lou

old river boat


February 18, 2012 § 6 Comments

Blackrock beach

Mountains of spray spiraling in the threshing wind. Running, screaming, laughing, captured  by waves as they leap over the pathways, dripping in wet, tramping eventually in soggy sand in dusk, dusk exacerbated by gloomy clouds sitting on the last of the sunset.

We have been in Australia for the last month and today we extended our stay for another week as Peter, Michael’s father, was admitted to hospital yesterday.  We saw him last night after he had spent a long day in the emergency ward.  He was exhausted and grey and drawn.  His long rangy body looked tiny in amongst all those beeping machines. Since having polio as a child, he has been beset by health problems, and they have returned in force as he has grown older, and yet he shrugs them off, more irritated by them than concerned, turning to all his doctors with the utmost good faith that he will be cured.  And we have no doubt that he will again leave his hospital bed to immerse himself in his paintings of the sea, which are obsessing him now more than ever.

Blackrock beach

At the moment we are staying at Blackrock and daily we walk on this lovely part of the coastline.  Sometimes when the wind is up it is so wild and mad with the waves pummeling the boulevard and sending spray right up onto the upper walkway.  Other days, it is as gentle and reflective as a mirror with as many as 50 black swans feeding off the reefs.  One picturesque, gentle evening, we had the best fish and chips on the beach at Half Moon Bay with Pete and Marg.  The light was exquisite washing over the water and the young life savers practicing their laps to the buoy, the cliffs golden, the ‘Cerebus’, an old submarine-battleship, a black silhouette outlined in silver, people picnicking in the sand, the air balmy, a great sense of wellbeing given to all of us there.

Flowering Gum in Blackrock

In enormous visual contrast we have also stayed in the country with my parents and gone camping with them too.  One such camp was near Marysville, with Mum and Dad and Jake and Jaqui, up in the mountains in the Howqua valley, in a meadow called ‘Sheep Yard Flat’ and alongside a beautiful fresh clean stream that we could swim in with its depth at about 7 ft and could drink from too.  Each night we had a fire under the great black sparkly sky, eating wonderful stewy feasts out of the iron pot on the coals and drinking tea from the billy we made from a large fruit tin, our stories and laughter in gentle harmony with the great quiet that filled our beings.

Beautiful Howqua River, Sheep Yard Flat

Jake at the camp fire

Castlemaine, where Mum and Dad live, continues to be a lovely place to visit.  It is an old gold field town, so has many stately old buildings and cottages with pretty gardens and shady old trees.  There are good coffee shops and restaurants and fantastic eclectic clothes shops, galleries, antique shops and markets.  It has its own lively culture for music and the arts and does not seem to miss the brighter lights of Melbourne, though probably every young thing has to go out and find this out for themselves as our own boys did when we lived here too.

A peaceful read

Now we are preparing for our home in Italy.  When we stand at the edge of the sea on Port Philip Bay, looking out toward the Antarctic, all about us the low horizon of a worn out land, we feel we are on the outer reaches of the planet.  We are a long way to the central belt of life that gives enough sustenance to artists and dreamers and makers of dreams.  I know when I leave Australia that I have not touched its ancient primeval heart.  I have not become the deep red of the dusty earth or understood the consequence of being here and taking from its old bones the source of its life.  I still feel like a barbarian that is ignorant of the richness that lies here, superficially touching the land and its mysteries, an equal one of the destroyers of this country and its original people, and my urge is to leave it alone and then I would honour it more.  Now our hearts yearn for our own studios and our own space.  We are nostalgic for our adopted Tuscan landscape of rich verdant mountains and cascading streams, of villages on the highest reaches and misty dragons in the valleys, of all the textures of life and culture engrained here and touching our civilized hearts.  I know this is where I come from, where my true heritage lies.

Thank you 2011

December 28, 2011 § 3 Comments


It has been an amazing year.  We have loved it.  We have been living in Hong Kong for the most part of it; Thailand for a month, Italy over the summer and autumn.  Our boys have accomplished great things, placing their feet firmly on their journey and our art has thrived and we have some great new collectors of our art work.

Lost in the Cosmos

Early this year, we were invited by the Yew Chung Education Foundation to be artists in residence at the Yew Chung Secondary Campus in Hong Kong and Beijing.  This foundation has been a real patron to us, enabling us to live and create abundantly throughout the year.  We have created some interesting projects there.  Michael had the opportunity to do his first mosaic,  2 metres X 2.5 metres for the entrance to the school, using beautiful traditional glass tiles, called smalti, to create ‘Lost in the Cosmos’.  He has also completed a large 5 metre triptych of ‘Setting free the Golden Carp’, a really lovely sunset on water painting.  Shona had the opportunity to create one of her ‘Harvest’ series and was able to donate the complete bronze edition to the school’s charity fund, called ‘Seeds of Hope’, for building schools in underprivileged areas in China.  She has also been asked to do a 2.2 metre sculpture portrait of the founder of the school, Madame Tsang, which she has begun.

Setting fre the Golden Carp

Some doors closed and others have opened.  After 8 or so years, representation of Shona with Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery in Hong Kong, finished this year as they made the decision to concentrate on Asian artists.  Meanwhile, DeeM, owned by Debra Little, interior designer, has opened a shop on Hollywood Rd in Hong Kong, featuring the work of Debra’s favourite artists, (Michael, Shona and Jacob included), her own designed furniture, ornaments and fixtures, as well as the furniture and lighting of really great designers of the last 50 years.  We are in great company and the exposure for us here has been wonderful already.

While we were in Italy this year, we did lots of work on our old properties and now have a gorgeous apartment and studio to rent on the river of Bagni di Lucca.  Our little mountain house in the village of Pieve di Monti di Villa, has a new roof and a new chimney and our studios are getting better and better.

Over the year, Shona had the good fortune to have two of her sculptures placed in public collections in Regional Galleries in Victoria, Australia, with a third sculpture pending, through the generosity of a private collector of her work.



In the meantime, Jacob and Jaquelene have been living their dream in Bagni di Lucca, Italy, with Jacob writing lots of music and working with new music collectives in Europe.  Together, they have been learning the ancient art of working a traditional olive farm in the hills overlooking Lucca.  Jaquelene has continued with her internet and bookshop, Jaquelines, and in their spare time they have clambered over the mountains with Jake taking beautiful photos of the area, which he is now selling in Hong Kong.

In the clouds

Quarry series

After his Tuscan retreat, carving marble in the mountains, Sollai found work in the huge mechanism of the back stage manoeuvres of the production, Zaia, of Cirque du Soleil in Macau.   While thus engaged he became very distracted by a lovely young trampolene artist, Danika, who is now his sweetheart.  Sollai lives in a wee little Portuguese cottage in the heart of old Taipa, the tiny old space strewn with Sollai’s paintings and drawings, paints and tools for sculpture. Danika is teaching him circus tricks so the two of them can perform together.



It has been a very lucky year for us all.  We are surrounded by great and lovely friends and family wherever we have gone in the world. We have all thrived in our working life.   We have great good health and we are all growing into an even better year next year.  We wish you in the year 2012, fortune and happiness and abundant growth.

Lots of love to you all,

Shona and Michael

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