The Strathewen Mosaic Letter Boxes and The Beautiful Memorial Tree

Strathewen Mosaic letter Box

Strathewen Mosaic Letter Box

The Strathewen Mosaic Letter Box Project was launched in August 2010 and began three months after the Feb 7 2009 fires which decimated the township of Strathewen. Victoria experienced severe fire weather that day which resulted in a firestorm in which 173 people died. Two of the Major fires were experienced in the Kinglake region and in the Marysville region. Strathewen is near the Kinglake National Park, on Feb 7 2009 23 residents died (from a population of 200) and 80 houses were destroyed.

Marion Oakley, a mosaic artist from Strathewen, provided a space for the people of Strathewen to come together, grieve, talk and construct new mosaic letterboxes. It was important to her that they put some colour back into the blackened landscape. Over time others joined the project from outside the community to also help make mosaic letterboxes and contribute in  rebuilding the Strathewen community.

Mosaic Letter Box - broken-plate-mosaic-belt-buckles

Strathewen is an apple and pear producing area which also hosts some small wineries.  It’s not really the kind of place you would pass through to get anywhere and the people who lived there liked that about the place.


Strathewe- broken-plate-mosaic-belt-buckles


The typical letterboxes in the area looked not unlike these ones that I photographed on my way into Strathewen.

handmade mosaic belt buckle

I inadvertently disturbed this fella when I stopped to photograph the letterboxes!

handmade mosaic belt buckles

Having seen the Mosaic Letterboxes when they were on display after the completion of the project. I was interested to visit Strathewen and see the letterboxes around the community.

mosaic belt buckles

handmade mosaic belt buckle

Strathewen is still in the process of rebuilding, even though it has been over five years since the fires.

I found these three beauties outside the newly rebuilt Strathewen Primary School

unique handmade mosaic belt buckles


unique handmade mosaic belt buckles primary school

unique handmade mosaic belt buckles primary school 2

This one was perched up higher on the hill

unique handmade mosaic belt buckle

The devastation of the fires is still apparent in the landscape

unique handmade mosaic belt buckle



unique hand made mosaic belt buckle 2

And it felt very appropriate to be paying my respects to this area on Anzac Day.

unique handmade mosaic belt buckles 8

unique handmade mosaic belt buckles 3

unique hand made mosaic buckles 4

unique handmade mosaic belt buckles 7

unique handmade mosaic belt buckles 5

The Peter Avoca Memorial Pavillion at the Strathewen Recreational Reserve was also the site chose for the

Blacksmiths Tree.

unique handmade mosaic belt buckles tree

The Blacksmiths Tree is an extraordinary piece of community art which was developed as a gift to all of the communities who were impacted by the Feb 7 2009 fires.

The Blacksmiths Tree was erected on February 14, 2014 and was five years in the making. Hundreds of blacksmiths from across 20 countries around the world forged leaves for the tree.


unique handmade mosaic belt buckles tree 3

The Blacksmiths Tree is 10 metres high and is made from stainless steal and copper. It looks like a dead, fire affected gum tree and it is very beautiful. It fits perfectly into the landscape which surrounds it.

There is also a memorial park to commemorate the 23 lives lost in Strathewen on Feb 7 2009.

unique handmade mosaic belt buckle memorial

unique handmade mosaic belt buckles memorial

Lest We Forget.



Escadaria Selaron


Having missed the amazing mosaic steps when I was in San Francisco… I was not planning on making the same mistake on my recent trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Escadaria Selaron (Steps Selaron) are the work of a Chilean born artist, Jorge Selaron, who, in 1990, began renovating the dilapidated steps that ran along the front of his house. He initially used pieces of blue, green and yellow tiles because these are the colours of the Brazilian flag..





Initially he used whatever materials he could find from construction sites and piles of urban waste from the streets of Rio – tiles, mirror etc.. Gradually he began to add his own original pieces (depicting a pregnant  African woman) and the colour red because, he claimed, “there are certain colours, particularly red, that bring joy wherever they are.”




People began to hear about his steps and to bring tiles for him to use from different parts of the world…





Slowly the steps transformed into a whimsical mosaic cascade. No sooner was one section finished that he would begin work on another section, constantly changing it so that it was an ever evolving piece of art.




IMG_9126 IMG_9125

There are 250 steps and they are now covered by over 2000 tiles from over 60 countries around the world. The steps have now been featured in a number of ads, magazines and video clips (Snoop Dog and U2). Sadly Selaron was found dead on the steps earlier this year. It’s unknown as to whether he was murdered or if it was suicide. His tribute to the Brazilian people lives on, however, and he will not be forgotten.



Mosaics and Open Studios


If you live in Victoria and you are interested in mosaics, or other forms of art, you might be interested in the Nillumbik Open Studios.
It will be running over two weekends in November – 17th and 18th, and again the following weekend -24th and 25th November from 11am – 5pm.

There are 38 artists and 25 studios open with a range of disciplines including painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, jewellery, textiles and photography. (I’m quoting directly from the website now).

An artist whom I am looking forward to visiting in her studio is Shaaron Smith. She looks like having some really interesting mosaic work.



The Nillumbik area was deeply affected by the Feb 7 Bushfires in 2009. If you are in the area you might also like to check out the mosaic seat outside the St Andrew’s hall. It was made by a group of women, many of whom lost their homes during the fires. The seat was made to tell the story of Feb 7 and beyond and to commemorate the event.



Another display of mosaics in the area, which you might like to have a look at, is the Strathewen letter box project. This was another initiative, after the fires, which was started by a local artist, who didn’t lose her house, and who wanted to support her community and all those who had lost so much. The town of Strathewen was substantially destroyed during the fires but these mosaic letter boxes bring a spark of hope back to the town.


So if you have a day free there is much to explore. That’s the plan for my day at least. I’ll post some photos if you can’t make it.

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