Monday, 10 August 2009

Free plug for the dreamer in us all

Most of us associate tattoos with bikers, pirates and bad guys and the tattoo parlor a sleazy shop hidden in the back streets that open after the pub shuts and closing just before dawn.
It’s an image that is slowly disappearing as “skin art” is becoming ever increasingly more popular especially with females of all ages.
Why am I writing about tattoos?
For that answer we have to go back when I first moved to the foothills of Dandenongs

(This is the part where the lines of words go all wavy and blurry to simulate a time differential)

When I first moved into the beautiful area I now call home I made a point of exploring the hills that I look up to (literally) every morning . This involved pointing the car in the general direction of the mountain and driving, usually with the wife, the kids and sometimes just me.

The old Willowwoods hut

It was on one of these trips I discovered the hidden treasure that was Willow Woods and it’s owner artist Jamin Swaneveld. Willow Woods was a little six sided hut just off the Monbulk Rd outside Belgrave . Like many before me I had often sped past it without noticing it, well , one day I didn’t and was rewarded with a shop of handcrafted treasures and other mystical trinkets dedicated to art and style of JRR Tolkein’s Lord Of the Rings, CS Lewis’ Narnia and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea and of course JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Inside the cosy little hut that doubled as Jamin’s “Reality Bubble” there was always something to catch the eye such as an Apothecary filled with old manuals and chemical bottles, wands, candles, ceramic mushrooms as well as wizards and warriors that were decked out with amazing detail. I’d often go up on a lazy afternoon where Jamin had made sure the small creek that ran beside the hut was kept in it’s usual immaculate condition. Something the creek didn’t really appreciate as it flooded the hut on three different occasions.
I would chat and look at the new additions and people would peek their heads in and be surprised there was someone in and they’d either buy something or join in the conversation or complement on the lovely stock.

Jamin before

More often than not time would pass so quickly I’d have neglected the other chores I was suppose to do that day like mowing , gardening, repairing something or even visiting the In laws.
About two years ago Jamin announced Willow Woods had to close. With the arrival of another child and the lure of working interstate doing his chosen profession as a builder becoming to attractive as well as necessary for his families needs– he couldn’t keep the business going because of lack of steady customer traffic – so I had lost my little escape from reality of modern life in the hills and Jamin had to suspend his dream of a Wizard’s Work Shoppe for a little while longer.

Well Jamin did get to carry on with his dream but this time he took it down another path and this is where we return to the present and tattoos.

(Cue: wavy lines)

In modern times the tattoo or skin art has become as common as ear piercing and big beards. It is no longer the domain of sailors and bikers, these days if you go to the Supermarket on a hot day you can see the amount of women of all ages supporting some kind of a design or another on their exposed skin.
Jamin had also had a love of tattoos because they also combined his three loves drawing, design and fantasy saw an opening.
It started with an idea to build a tattoo shop that would offend no one but welcome everybody

Jamin Now

Aware of the stigma tattoos and tattoo parlours had he wanted to get together with like minded people and create something different.
Something that was welcoming friendly and in a position that made people feel safe and comfortable.
So with fellow artist’s David Hall and award winning local tattooists Mik Szirer , Jamin created Last Frontier Studio in Main Rd Upwey.

Dave in the comfortable working/design area

What separates Last Frontier from other Tattooists in the area is the way Jamin has created a shop of wonders.
As you step in through the front door you can feel the air of creativity. At first glance one would think you have stepped into a design studio for a magazine or hip architect. Next to the door is an original HMV phonograph, which plays classic 78’s. The old Apothecary sits on the wall above the front counter and seems bigger and has more wonders inside. Bookshelves line the wall above where the guys draw out designs and are full of reference books of their favourite artists. Down the other side of the shop runs a faux laneway straight out of Harry Potter.

The alleyway

All around are some of the wonders and sculptures that once adorned the shelves and walls of the original Willow Woods, sadly not for sale anymore because they are the last of their kind.

Some of the old scultures and artworks

The Apothecary

The same friendly atmosphere radiates from the studio as it did with the little hut in Belgrave before and Last Frontier is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best places in the east to get some “ink done”
Morning openings have also made it available to mothers who would like to adorn their skins and judging by what Jamin has encounter women may become the majority of people getting tattoos in the future.
Jamin says that recently he did three generation of one family: Grandma in her seventies, mum in her forties and daughter in her twenties. Sometimes you think times are changing in different ways and how things that you were led to believe were bad have become quite acceptable but then I’m reminded of the fact that the great statesman historian and war time prime minister Sir Winston Churchill’s mother had a tattoo that surrounded her waist.
Purely for vanities sake.

The above piece originally appeared in the BBCN Feb 2008


just to make this more interesting here is a piece I wrote about Jamin and Willowwoods in its heydays... first appeared on Red Bubble July 2007

Recently I moved to the foothills of the Dandenongs. After living for years on a plateau looking across from the mountains, it was weird looking up at them and instead of a hazy green or shrouded in mist I could count individual trees near the top.
This also meant there was no excuse for driving around them anymore since the summit was a short 20-minute drive.
This opened up a whole new world of discovery for me, and it was a great to explore my new interest with historical and collectable items. There are some absolute gems hidden in that mountain as well as some beautiful picnic spots and it has an overall feel of bohemian charm and a certain hippie throwback feel about it.
The most wondrous gem I discovered was Willow Woods.

Nestled about a kilometre down the road from Puffy Billy in Belgrave, (if you blinked you’d miss it and that would be your loss) Willow Woods is the creative home of Jamin Swaneveld his “Bubble of Reality”, as he likes to call it.

It is here that I come on a week end afternoon with my son and talk about Dragons or Fantasy novels, It’s great to go somewhere and have an enlighten conversation that doesn’t involve religion, politics, current events or even family. We would also marvel at Jamin’s sculptures and woodwork as well as the many other pieces of creative artwork he has draped around his 6 sided cabin next the bubbling brook. Jamin with his laid-back manner and enthusiastic passion for all things mystical or mythical make it hard not to be drawn into his world and be inspired to become involved.

Because of Willow Woods I gained a better understanding of my own abilities and how much I missed making things with my hands and pretty soon I was building my own little reality bubble in the shed at home and shared my sons passion for Lord Of The Rings, where we both worked on models and dioramas from the movie. I‘ve got a lot to thank the move to this part of town, the mountain and Willow Woods for the way I look at things these days.




1 comment:

Nate Taafe said...

I just stumbled upon this. I knew Jamin was an awesome artist, but i never knew it went this deep!
Good work Jamin and family.. keep it up!