News & Events

Maggie creating art one faded bloom at a time

September 8, 2020

Not everyone can see the beauty in fallen leaves or blooms let alone turn them into works of art.

But that is exactly what Rushall Park resident Maggie Birkett has been doing since the start of the pandemic. She has been collecting fallen flowers, drying them and then dyeing them onto fabrics and watercolour paper.

The results are astonishing and are Maggie’s contribution to the Creative Art Project that Lou Anderson has initiated across all Old Colonist Association of Victoria’s villages.

Maggie became a resident in the heritage seven months ago, just before the 150th Garden Party which showcased the gardens, residents’ artworks and the history of the Association.

The village was not new to her. She had visited Rushall Park many times when her mother was a resident, enjoying coffee at the kiosk on Fridays as well as lively conversations about current affairs.

“I loved the fact that the residents and volunteers were so active – and continue to be even with the lockdown – contributing to life in the village. The sense of the community is strong which is why I put my name on the waiting list,” Maggie said.

The real joy of Rushall Park for Maggie are the gardens which she says are full of surprises.

“Then in early Summer, the dark red roses were in bloom and when they had withered, they became a beautiful dye. The pink hibiscus turned purple when they fell to the ground and dried. They made a splendid purple dye,” Maggie said.

Walks along the nearby Merri Creek have also been a source of different shaped eucalyptus leaves.

This recent work has taken Maggie back to her childhood when she used to collect and press leaves and seaweed.

“Art has always been part of my life. I learnt ceramics and weaving at school. My interest in printing and eco-dying developed while living in Gippsland and when I gathered local materials and experimented with fabric eco-dyes.”

Before retiring Maggie taught for 40 years, the last 30 of which were at Swinburne teaching child care educators. Her interest in children’s art developed through teaching and visiting students in placement.

After retiring, she volunteered in an aged care facility assisting with art therapy. The group of residents lived with early dementia. Through OCAV, Maggie was given the opportunity to receive training in art therapy at Liscombe House, working with a trained art therapist and other volunteers. The arts therapy program is funded through the Perpetual Impact Program.

“It was practical and allowed me to explore the theories behind the practice,” Maggie said.

But for now, Maggie has been drawing on her supply of dried flowers to continue exploring the printing process on paper and fabric. The experiment – which she calls Faded Rushall Blooms – has been a life saver for her during lockdown as it has stopped her feeling worried.

“I am lucky to have a large veranda to work on, I have been able to connect with other residents who are working on similarly creative projects and when the restrictions are lifted I am keen to share these ideas with other residents.”


I love the ‘magimix’ of people who make up the community and that it is a safe and happy place to live. - Jo Portlock

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