Lauren Pearse Margaret River Region Open Studios Credit Tim Campbell Photo

Margaret River Region Open Studios is a rare opportunity to meet renowned artists such as Rebecca Cool, Leon Pericles and Fi Wilkie in their eye-popping creative spaces.

But this year something’s changed; a swag of youthful talent who might otherwise be travelling are joining the groundswell in Australia’s biggest art event instead. Meet three young artists participating for the first time in Margaret River Region Open Studios, which runs 11 to 26 September 2021.

Milliner Kimberley Box Photo Credit Tim Campbell
Milliner Kimberley Box.

Kimberley Box would be slinging hats out of a baby blue van whilst driving across Canada, if Covid-19 hadn’t got in the way. Lucky for us, she’s spent the last year living in Margaret River refining her skills and creating her brand VanBoxHead. Kimberley will swing open her studio doors to show us how she makes handmade fur felt hats in a shared creative space just south of Margaret River town.

Travel sparked her creative journey, which she’d love to turn into a fulltime career, “My hat journey began when I fell in love with my first hat purchased in New York City and then discovered an amazing hat maker in Los Angeles.”

Kimberley has always loved working with her hands and has endeavoured to learn this somewhat lost artisanal skill. “After receiving a ‘hat block’ as a present from a wonderful group of friends, I dabbled in the process experimenting with wool felt, learning new techniques and slowly understanding how to work with and manipulate felt.”

“After leaving Australia to explore places such as Morocco, Portugal and the United States, I wound up working in a hat store in Canada which truly solidified my love for hats.”

You can find Kimberley Box #steaminglikeahatter in Studio 01 at The Hive Art Collective, 24 Auger Way West, Margaret River (@vanboxhead).

My hat journey began when I fell in love with my first hat purchased in New York City and then discovered an amazing hat maker in Los Angeles

Chloe Abla MRR Open Studios Photo Credit Tim Campbell
Ceramicist Chloe Abla.

Chloe Abla followed her dream of becoming a practicing ceramicist after a trip to the USA in 2017. She met her auntie who is also a ceramic artist, and a love of clay now connects them across oceans as they share their latest creations.

Chloe works in education, following her creative venture after hours as it brings her “so much happiness.” On what drives her, Chloe says “it certainly isn’t money that has ever driven this dream, but the creative process, the challenge. It’s that final feeling when I place a finished piece on the shelf after weeks of effort and think ‘far out, did I really make that?!’”

Inspired by Geographe Bay, which is mere moments from her Busselton home, you’ll see hand drawn whales, sandy textures and ocean-coloured glazes in Chloe’s beautiful clay creations. Coming from a Ghanaian background Chloe is also inspired by African pattern and bright colour.

Chloe recently moved into her purpose-built shed in the leafy garden of her much loved 1950s cottage, and she’s busily adding unique décor such as hand basins and cupboard knobs.

She can’t wait to share her new space with visitors for the first time during Margaret River Region Open Studios, to complete the creative process. “Of course, the ultimate drive is when someone else finds happiness and individuality in one of my creations. I send it off, the shelf space is cleared, ideas flow to create something new and the process starts all over again!”

Meet Chloe Abla (@claybychloeabla) at 141 Bussell Highway, West Busselton.

Margaret River Open Studios
Artist Lauren Pearse.

Lauren Pearse was born by Cowaramup Bay and was always that kid who was last out of the water when all the others had gone home. Creative from an early age, Lauren’s parents didn’t approve of the paint stains on the carpet, but eventually let her paint murals on her bedroom walls.

Lauren spent her early twenties travelling Australia, trying different jobs hoping to discover her passion. Finally in a Far North Queensland share house with eleven other ocean lovers, she rediscovered the creativity she’d almost forgotten she had. “I slowly turned the busy house into an underground art gallery. People passing through the house started to purchase work straight off the wall and I was lucky enough to score some commission work as well.” With all this encouragement Lauren decided to pursue her art more seriously.

Moving back to Dunsborough, Lauren now raises awareness of ocean conservation and makes environmentally friendly art through her business Salty Sketches. “I feel so lucky to have found my passion in life and I’m super stoked to share that with others in all forms.” Those forms include murals, paintings on paper, she’s even been commissioned to design a whale shark tattoo.

Lauren can’t wait to welcome you into her home studio. Expect homely beach shack vibes, salvaged surfboards adorned with whale sharks or sunflowers, the waft of incense, freshly brewed coffee and plenty of art.

Meet Lauren Pearse (@saltysketches__) during Margaret River Region Open Studios at 17 Green Street, Old Dunsborough.

Margaret River Open Studios
Ceramicist Mieke Boerema.

Love these suggestions? Check out these other exciting lesser-known artists:

  • Ian Daniell and his awe-inspiring supersized sea creatures (think 2 metre orca fins!)
  • Vanessa Miller who paints psychedelic Day of the Dead inspired homewares
  • Ceramicist Mieke Boerema and photographers Scott Bauer and Lauren Trickett at Hardware Creative