A few months ago I was at home having a spring clean in my studio and going through my mural paint, checking what colours I had. I had quite a lot, so I put a call out on social media if anyone had a wall I could practice a new design on. I had been painting bright landscape inspired works on small pieces of paper and wanted to see it translated to a larger scale. I hadn't painted a large scale outside of a commission or commercial project for a few years and I was itching to see this idea unfold. The only problem, finding somewhere suitable to paint. And then I met Alicia and Windy Acres.
I fell in love with the story of Windy Acres as soon as Alicia reached out to me. Being a follower of my work she informed me of them converting an old shipping container into a workshop for the upcoming opening of their family owned lavender farm and Apiary. The container needed colour.
Situated in Westbrook, just ten minutes from Toowoomba, the new farm started as an empty paddock beside their home just twelve months earlier. Alicia and her husband Craig had purchased the block from her parents who still live next door. The bees came first in November 2020 and then rows of tiny lavender plants started to stretch across the block as far as the eye could see.
With the rolling hills in the background the site reminded me of the view I had just left after living in nearby Greenmount for twelve months. After visiting the site and meeting Alicia and her family I knew I was in the right place.
It was clear Windy Acres and I were on the same mission. I admired Alicia's passion for education and her business's dedicated to using repurposed materials for everything from the material used for sewing wheat packs, to the jars they use to fill with honey, to the windows and doors fitted to the container to create their beautiful farm shop.
And then the most wonderful thing happened. Alicia's father, who lives next door, offered to supply his own collection of paint for the project, being a former house painter he had quite a lot to choose from. Together with my own stockpile I created a custom palette for my design and with a few sunshine filled days on the forecast things were looking good. The container was primed and ready to go thanks to Alicia's dad and I had free rein to paint what my heart desired. And then, the rain started. But what wasn't good for the mural artist was great for the lavender! And what is great for the lavender was even better for the bees. So after delays, lots of mud and Alicia (absolute legend and daughter of a house painter) joining me on the tools for the final coat, the mural "Close to home" was finished in time for their opening on the 12th of December.
The title "Close to home" was first picked as a direct reference to the proximity of Alicia's parents living next door and her raising her family side by side. But as I sat with the phrase over time, often in the sun with a fly net on my head and paint brush in my hand, I realised it was something much bigger. As I painted, Alicia brought me cups of tea sweetened with honey and she shared about her lifelong dream of having a lavender farm and how she grew up on that same land that they now have 6,000 lavender plants, in 4 varieties.
Seeing their first blooms in time for their harvest and their hugely successful opening, and the all the hard work, passion and love that has gone into Windy Acres, brought a few tears to my eye. It reminded me of my childhood and what it is really like growing up in a family run business driven by dedication and hard work. I am immensely proud of everything Alicia and her family have put into their farm and I am privileged to be part of their story; using what we have to create something wonderful together.
Images courtesy of Brent Vaughan and Katie Whyte
Learn more about Windy Acres lavender and bee farm on their website here: