It’s a beautiful, overcast Summer’s day in Perth with alluring moody clouds filling the air as my good friend Trinity and myself made our way south. Soon enough we were navigating the backstreets through the various warehouses and businesses located in the Dunsborough industrial district. As we pulled into the parking bay, we exited the car to stretch our legs after a 2-hour drive. It was then I spotted a portable camping stove out of the corner of my eye. A few dents, a few scratches and a little dust, this small camp stove is well-loved and used.
As we entered the warehouse-turned-studio, we were instantly greeted with Mel’s work, beautifully framed and hanging elegantly on the wall. There was also a staircase leading up to a second level that filled me with intrigue. As we reached the main studio area, it became evident that the creative mind that occupied this space was simply brilliant. The room was filled with finished works, work in progress, shelves filled with knick-knacks, religious items, headless dolls, CDs, books, corners filled with vintage suitcases, and old window coverings – the centrepiece of the studio space being a beautiful printing press. It was a little space filled with massive inspiration.
By now it’s about time I introduce you to Mel. Mel Lamanna is a printmaker, drawer, painter, workshop extraordinaire and well whatever else she feels like putting her mind to at the time. Inspired by some of the great Spanish artists such as Francisco Goya, I can only describe her work as both haunting and beautiful. “Sometimes, my art is about the impermanence of things and the struggle we have dealing with the idea of life and death and the meaning of it all.” With this, Mel’s work can be perceived by some as too dark. I, for one, was utterly fascinated by what we could see.
Mel went to university initially to do a bachelor of education; however, she had some personal things going on in her life and decided to stop university altogether. It was a lecturer who encouraged her to enrol in an elective and not pull out of uni. Mel decided on drawing, thinking it would be straightforward, which turns out wasn’t quite the case. By the end of it, Mel fell in love with drawing and with another elective up her sleeve her lecturer suggested Mel attempt printmaking next. “I did that (printmaking) and loved it, and then just wanted to use all my electives doing art stuff. I ended up changing my degree so I could do more art stuff. All up it was about six years part-time as I was working, had two kids, wanted to go surfing and to music festivals.” Mel reflects on her time at uni as “enjoyable pain” which I’m sure anyone who has been to uni can agree.
By this stage Mel had put that old, loved camp stove to good use, the air was filled with the aroma of coffee as we ventured up the stairs, we entered a little room of curiosities. This was Mel’s brain hub where inspiration lived. Again, more bookshelves filled with books, ornaments, photos and small keepsakes. It was right about here where the day took an interesting turn. The focus soon turned from Mel, to Trinity and myself, as Mel asked so casually ‘do you guys want to try and make a print?”. Obviously, one would be foolish to refuse an impromptu workshop. So began a lesson in printing Monotypes from drypoint on acetate plates. I admit I would have loved to have spent more time ‘interrogating’ Mel about her inspirations, her thought processes, and what makes her creative mind tick. I’ve now got another excuse to head back down, drink a glass (or bottle) of wine or two, chat some more and create some more art.
Mel’s teaching style is so encouraging and helpful. Having never done any form of printmaking, Mel had nothing but patience. Explaining every step of the process so that artists (or budding artists, non-artists, you get the point) of any level could understand. It was a teaching method that left you feeling inspired like you could achieve anything you set your mind to. I can’t wait to organise a proper workshop with Mel, as this little taster has filled me with eagerness to have another go.
Photo of me (guy in black shirt) take by Trinity, check out her Instagram.