Blog 234 Wlliam Ricketts Sanctuary August 2012

On another of our days out with Seraphina whilst I was still in the wheelchair we headed up to the Dandenongs and nestled away in a dense ferny glade along the winding Mt Dandenong Tourist Road we found one of Victoria’s hidden gems, few tourists or even locals knew about.

William Ricketts sanctuary is an absolute must see. William was born in Richmond Victoria in 1898 and In the 1930s he bought the four-acre bush block on Mount Dandenong and called it Potter’s Sanctuary. Word spread about the extraordinary sculptures that began to adorn the property.

William made frequent trips into Central Australia  from 1949 to 1960 where he lived with the Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte Aboriginal people, whose traditions and culture inspired his sculpture. He believed that all Australians should adopt Aboriginal philosophies, respecting the spirituality of the mother earth and all things in the natural world. Some of his works throughout the grounds also depict his feelings on the takeover and devastation of white man on the natural environment.

In time, the Victorian Government heard about his work and in the early 1960s, the land and adjoining blocks were bought for the people. Victoria Parks now own the Sanctuary but William lived on at the Sanctuary into his nineties and continued to create his sculptures until his death in 1993. There are over ninety kiln-fired clay sculptures carved into rocks, amongst the Mountain Ash and ferns. They depict the aboriginal people and indigenous animals engaging with the earth in a forest setting.

William took great pains to ensure each piece blended into its environment. They were made from white ball clay near Bendigo, the larger rocks positioned especially to create the walkways. William made a plaster cast of the rocks so as to model his figures to fit perfectly with the contours of the rocks. William built a total of three kilns on the property to fire his sculptures at 1200 Degs celsius.

To enter the Sancturary all visitors must pass by this pair (below), welcoming them. At this time in my rehabilitaion I could stand up but not walk, Kev took this photo of Seraphina and myself with no mist to seen. The mist only appeared in the photo so it may be William Ricketts ghost, the sancturary was reported to be haunted, so much so William moved his house further down the hill. Now it is a place of beauty and tranquillity, a place for quiet reflection, replenishing the spirit.

The sculptures lead you on a voyage of exploration and discovery of the gardens and it is easy to miss some of the smaller sculptures among ferns along the pathways. Over time, the moist and cool environment has allowed the sculptures to weather blending them even further within the surrounding bush. The last is a portrait of William Ricketts.

They create a magical presence. Ricketts wanted to express his respect for Aboriginal culture and foster a love of the Australian landscape with visitors via his artworks although he never trained as a potter. He is buried in his sanctuary under one of the trees.

It was one of the most inspiring and tranquil places on the mountain.


Next Up – Some Guzzi club runs









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