Following the February 2009 bushfires, and the devastating effects they had on the town, a group of women from St Andrews came together in a mosaic class.
The idea was initiated by artist Chris Reade, who started the mosaic project as a means of using remnants of crockery, glass, tiles and bricks salvaged from the fires.
“For most women, being displaced by the fires, coming to the group each week was a way of reconnecting to the area, friends and neighbours,” Chris said.
“As the months went by, the idea of creating a gift to the community together was born. The women wanted to artistically express their memories of what they had experienced before, during Black Saturday and beyond.”
This is how the Lasting Memories Mosaic Seat was created. That, and two years of hard work by a group of 20 women.
“Creating the seat had so many benefits,” Project participant and Panton Hill CFA volunteer Nan Oates said.
“A lot of the women had never mosaicked before so throughout the project, they learnt new skills. It also provided a comfortable space for us to share our stories of loss and grief, as well as to share some simple highlights.
The seat is located at the St Andrews Hall, opposite the pub where the popular St Andrews Market is held every Saturday morning. It depicts St Andrews before, during and after the 2009 fires.
“I do not want to dwell on the fire, but on the miracle of rebirth and renewal for us all. For our Mother Earth, for ourselves and the community,” one of the women said about the seat.
Nan added to the story of renewal within the seat and pointed out some intricate detail, including the Belladonna Lilies (Naked Ladies) – the first flower to reappear only two weeks after the fires.
“(Being involved) really brought home to me the challenges faced to rebuild your life from this scale, and to start again on a piece of land where you may have lived for years, but which is now completely bare of any shelter or shade and any recognisable features of your past years there,” she said.
Nan pointed out that some of the women involved were still, today, living out of sheds, and added that creating the seat was both symbolic in honouring and remembering the loss from Black Saturday and the path ahead.
“Over the time of having been with this group, we have celebrated a new baby, the arrival of five new grandchildren and a marriage,” Nan said.
“For me in particular, it has been such an enriching experience of caring, sharing, laughter, tears, healing and swapping information on all sorts of topics and skills.
See a video put together to showcase the Lasting Memories Mosaic Seat on YouTube.