✦ Francessca O’Donnell is well known in the Greater Port Macquarie region for her incredible mosaic installations
Francessca O’Donnell, a lady of many talents. She is well known in the Greater Port Macquarie region for her incredible mosaic installations including those found at Long Point Vineyard, various schools about the area including St Josephs and St Peter’s Primary Schools and at several children’s parks. In her rustic studio on the edge of the small country town of Beechwood, Francessca shares her creative talent teaching the art of mosaic to many. Creating visual art and mosaics makes her heart sing, she loves it.
ABOUT FRANCESSCA O'DONNELL
After graduating from Sydney College of the Arts with a BA in Design and three years in the Riverina, Francessca moved to the Mid North Coast in 1987 with her family and started Francessca-Louise Academy of Dance and Performing Arts which she ran for 25 years. Whilst she loved teaching students to dance, she always felt a loss for time to dabble in visual arts. Eventually, pushed along by her two sons, she started attending workshops in many visual art forms which began to fill an empty part of her creative soul.
A passion for mosaic that stemmed from her travels
In the late 90’s Francessca travelled to Italy and discovered mosaic, an art form at the time she knew little about, but inspired her to learn more. After her skill set grew she eventually opened Out There Design and Mosaic and is delighted to have had ongoing commissions since 2008.
Between private commissions, and teaching, she is currently creating mosaics for public display for the Port Macquarie Hastings Council, the Kempsey Council and the Lockhart Shire Council, in the Riverina.
Inspiration drawn from collecting
She is a person who collects, not just feathers, shells, driftwood and seed pods, but ideas, colours and images that inspire her. Most of Francessca’s artworks tend to have a story from nature, that is expressed in shape, line, colour or form. Often when she is working with a client the images for the design will come, sparked by a word or idea they mention. Sometimes it is simply just playing with a range of ideas and doodles that bring the final idea together. She admits that whilst she does draw designs up before commencing, the final rendition becomes pretty organic depending on the materials she is using, or the shape or focal subject inspires a little play with design execution.
What is mosaic?
A mosaic can take many forms in either 2D or 3D form. A traditional mosaic often uses hand cut, small pieces of tesserae including glass, ceramic, cinca and marble to create an artwork. Mosaic has a range of styles of cutting and laying these tesserae to form the design. Francessca’s personal favourite style of mosaic is the more contemporary style, using mixed media of a range of tesserae (materials) including, glass, ceramic, pebbles, millefiori, slumped glass, sea glass, found objects, hand made forms and natural pieces such as Echidna quill and unusual shapes and pieces from the ocean.
Mosaic is something anyone can do
Mosaic is one of those art forms that even a beginner can create something really special once they have a basic understanding of the techniques. It is ridiculously addictive and Francessca says her students often say how meditative and relaxing it can be.
You don’t need to be artistic or creative, you just need to want to learn and create and mosaics will give you the wings to fly.
She holds three mosaic classes each week, Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Tuesday evenings. Each session is three hours and each term runs for 8 weeks, roughly to school terms.
Normally she will also hold 4-6 weekend mosaic workshops throughout the year. With the constant changes with COVID-19 she has held off planning for the moment until there is more clarity and less restrictions. She also feels frustrated that her catering for the weekend had to be limited to wrapped individual snacks, rather than a more lavish spread of delicious dishes to choose from.
Over recent years, she has also travelled and taught in community mosaic workshops, both locally and in the Riverina and you can also find her most school holidays, at Port Central for a few days teaching children's art classes.
Not only teaching art and mosaic workshops, Francessca’s main business is called The Out There Collective, which includes both Out There Design and Mosaic and Out There Escapes, which is her picturesque property in Beechwood, in the hinterland of the Greater Port Macquarie region.
Out There Escapes includes five acres of beautiful gardens, majestic trees and stretches of lawn looking over Bago Mountain.
Special events like Boutique weddings and elopement ceremonies have been held in the past at the picturesque venue. There is also a luxe BnB and she holds numerous Retreats, special occasion creative workshops for businesses such as Soul Sister Surfing, Project Goddess and specially curated creative get togethers for small groups and friends like Girls weekends, Birthday celebrations, naming ceremonies and Baby showers etc. Having an in-house chef Gaye, from Infinity Co. Evolve, makes planning unique and individually fashioned events all the more easy!
Aerial View Out there Escapes in Beechwood - Photo Credit: Matt Gilligan
The COVID-19 Pandemic and the workshops
Unfortunately, during lockdown all classes and workshops have had to stop, but business wise, she has more students than ever before. As people have been made to slow down and the pace of life allows for us to have a little more time to think, many people have looked to find creative pursuits to add fun and inspiration to their lives.
Francessca dabbles in other art forms
She loves to paint, her style is similar to her mosaics, often colourful and lots of fine detail in lines and shapes. Sculpture and jewellery making have been an extension when the mood takes her and she has time to play.
Francessca’s son Tim is the resident Choreographer for the Milwaukee Ballet Company in the US, she has also had the pleasure of designing costumes, for a number of new productions the company has put together over the last seven years. It has been a long time in coming, but last year she finished writing and illustrating a children’s book which will hopefully be published later this year.
Involvement in the Wauchope Creative Hub
One of the artists/artisans and craftspeople involved in this exciting new adventure, she rents a space within the building to display both her artworks and jewellery. Francessca is on site most Mondays, this will resume once we come out of lockdown.
When asked did she think the Creative Hub is good for Wauchope she responded that she feels Wauchope is slowly becoming what Bellingen is to Coffs Harbour and Bangalow is to Byron Bay. A smaller creative community close to a larger Centre, where creativity thrives and is supported and nurtured, which becomes a tourist draw card and thus elevates the economic well being of the Community.
Wauchope is a little gem on the Mid North Coast as it is between the stunning coast and the breathtaking hinterland. For years we have had the best music scene on the coast with amazing musicians at Wauchope Arts. Visitors are drawn here as the creative and visual arts compliment the local natural and commercial icons, such as Rocks Ferry Reserve, Old Bottlebutt, Broken Bago, Cowarra Dam, Burrawan State Forest, Timbertown, Bago Maze and Billabong Zoo. The Wauchope Creative Hub will be another inspiring stop for visitors to enjoy!
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