The garden at the Giant's House in Akaroa is a sight to behold. When owner/artist Josie Martin first turned the soil at The Giant's House about 16 years ago, her initial digs produced shards of broken crockery from Akaroa’s early days.
"The china belonged to the heritage of the house, so I decided to try my hand at mosaic," said Josie, who had always held a desire to create on a large scale.
She began by plastering the pieces she'd found onto the front steps of her home, formerly known as 'Linton', a grand maison set on a hill above the township, originally built in 1880 of totara and kauri for Akaroa’s first bank manager.
From these small beginnings came her first large-scale installation 'Place des Amis', a town square with a fascinating ensemble of larger-than-life characters created out of sculptured cement and mosaic. The oversized figures surround a fountain, and watching a ballerina who dances on top of it.
“It took three years and lots of drawings and experiments with concrete and mosaics,” said Josie, who often wondered if she would ever finish it.
Josie describes her intriguing garden as “a continually growing, interactive work in progress.” It combines her twin loves for horticulture and the arts. Surprises abound: it’s an extraordinary mix of sculptured walls, mosaic steps, welded steel sculptures and other creations set amid roses and flower gardens, vegetables and citrus trees.
Her latest big-build is a five metre giant, which, no doubt, would delight the young child who looked up from the street below many years before, and declared that the maison it must be the home of a giant, thus giving her home it's name.
As a well known New Zealand artist, Josie has attended dozens of art residencies in as many different countries and regularly travels aboard. “I arrive home fresh with lots of new ideas of things I'd like to work on and it definitely inspires ongoing work.”
After a walk around the garden, now recognised as a Garden of National Significance, and an optional tour of the house, there's the chance to indulge in a deliciously light lunch or cup of morning or afternoon tea at the Artists' Palate Cafe, where assorted tables and chairs fan out over the courtyard.
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