Over a cup of Byron chai and the most exquisite lemon tart ever, we ask Paisley her full name. ‘Paisley’ she replies. Paisley? Yes… just Paisley. It’s a beautiful name and one that certainly matches the intricate, intuitive and passionate nature of this artist, mother of four, wife of fab local baker Andrew, and former elite Australian athlete… now enjoying the quiet hinterland life of Federal. Here she shares reflections of her childhood and motherhood, and the influence these now play in her equally beautiful artwork.
How did you come to be living in Byron Bay, Paisley?
We had been travelling overseas while Andrew worked on setting up internet service providers. The plan was for the family to live in France for six months, but we got stuck in Malaysia for nine weeks. That was nine weeks in hotel rooms with a three, five and eight year old… we all went a bit stir crazy. We needed a break and I couldn’t think of anywhere better than Byron. I knew it well from holidaying here as a kid. As soon as we arrived everything came flooding back… the smells, the sounds, the colour. Oh, the colour… even the kids noticed the colour… and the people… they seemed so free. It was like I could breathe again. It also made us realise we were over the materialism of cities. I didn’t want to leave.
You now have Abbey 15, Lily 12, Gracie 9, Remy 3 and Bowie the Border Collie 8 months. Can we safely presume you always wanted to be a mum?
Oh yes. I couldn’t wait to be a parent and prove to myself there was another way to bring up children. I had been brought up very traditionally… my parents were strong on control and discipline… they treated us (four girls) all the same… we could be seen but not heard… expression was not encouraged. Because I was so passionate I hated it… so I naturally wanted my kids to explore their full potential.
Is that what led you into teaching?
Eventually, yes. I always felt I had something to offer children and that led me to become an art teacher, but not before first trawling my way through secretarial school on the advice of my parents.
You are now an artist and much of your work depicts childhood themes. Is your art a form of therapy?
It is a way of dealing with that lost part of my childhood… the passion, playfulness and freedom I needed to enjoy and express. It is also a way of opening my kids up to the possibilities of life, not shutting them down. Because I work using visualisation and meditation, I’d like to offer kids’ art classes in my studio where they get to express creatively in a similar space… just by wondering… no programming… that’s also why I send them to Steiner school.
What sort of relationship do you have with your parents now?
A great relationship … they visit a lot and they love watching me parent. They love how our kids express themselves and how they relate to us. And I love showing them what can happen when you empower your kids. I did that in teaching too… I was always trying to instil confidence in the ones that struggled. I hate the idea of someone struggling. Because I’ve seen the other side… in sport, where you can be the best, but you’ve got to push a lot of people down to get there. I saw it a lot… I didn’t like doing it… it wasn’t me.
What sort of sport are you referring to?
Netball. I was at the Australian Institute of Sport. That’s where I met Andrew… he was a water polo player. We both hated the aggressive, dominating nature of sport. We much preferred to bring out the best in individuals without it being at the expense of others.
That’s quite a transition, to go from elite athlete to artist…
Yes it is. In sport you’re directed, but with art, I love not knowing where it’s going and the trusting that comes with that. Like the other day, I was wondering how I was going to pay an $800 bill, and the next thing you know I ‘m being told a painting has just sold. I love that.
Are you both trusting like that?
What happens is… when one of us is not trusting, it usually works out the other is… and because we both speak about it when we are, it’s a reminder to the other that it will be OK.
Trusting is difficult for an individual. How do you do it when you have four kids?
It helps living in Byron where material things mean less to us. Like we don’t do the worlds (Sea World, Dream World etc) or the big shops… they’re just hideous… we don’t seem to need much. For example, the kids are happy to op-shop and then create their own wardrobe. And we don’t do much from a food perspective either. We keep it cheap and cheerful, but good quality… say for dinner, we might go to The Cardomom Pod.
Speaking of food, how good is this lemon tart? OMG, it is to die for. Thank you Andrew.
I know… it’s good, isn’t it? Have you tried his pastries and pralines?
Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer, both do sensational lemon tarts, but you must believe us… this tart leaves ’em for dead. Real sorry there’s none left for you to try!
Oh god yes. He is the reason we have to walk the lighthouse more regularly…we keep sharing his pralines over coffee at The Top Shop after our walk. We’re so going to put on weight if he keeps baking them. How do you avoid putting on weight with a partner who is a baker?
Oh gosh, I have to remember to eat actually. I’m always busy feeding the kids and I don’t like to eat unless I’m calm…so being busy with them, I forget to sit down and eat.
So Byron brought out your creativity… is that when you started to paint?
Well yes, but as an art teacher I have always been doing something creative. I use to paint ceramics and do mosaics back in Perth, but Byron stimulated the desire to paint on canvas, big canvasses. What got me going was watching Lily… she has this energy that allows her to do cartwheel after cartwheel… she was always moving. I love that kid energy. I was the same, expressing through movement. So I’d replicate the movement and express the energy by pushing the paint around with a palette knife and in the background I’d draw children… but they weren’t the feature. Then I started to see all these gorgeous images… like the kids playing on stilts, or a kid on a trike. Since I’m not very good with words, I chose to depict all this beauty with paint.
What inspired your latter works, those that don’t feature children?
The Angelics… they’re more about capturing what I’ve seen when meditating. The intention is to expand myself, but to also connect with people and help them in their understanding that there is more. Whenever I paint for money… it just doesn’t happen… sure, I can paint a chair or something tangible but every time I paint like that… there’s no connection.
Paisley’s incredibly spacious studio! And samples of earlier and current works.
How is your art going in the Medicine Wheel?
Good, really good. When I put my energy into it and go there everyday, it seems to sell. Much of the work is child-like but it seems to resonate with a range of people. One woman bought a piece because it reminded her of her daughter, another because it was an inspiration to become pregnant. I love hearing the stories as to why people buy them. I’m told there’s an etheric feel about them that inspires fertility.
Do you ever exhibit?
No, I haven’t had an exhibition yet. I would firstly like to put the paintings into a book. I sometimes do energy readings and I would like to team the images up with the knowledge I have acquired from my readings.
What do your energy readings involve?
I originally started reading angel cards but at the moment I’m learning how to be with the person, being aware of what I am feeling, and trusting it. It’s all about trusting. We all know stuff intuitively but we’ve just got to trust what we feel and sense. Everybody has it, but the clearer and more open you are, the more obvious the feelings. The depth of the reading also depends on the person having it.
Has that awareness improved since being in Byron?
Yeah, but it really happened when we were in Singapore. I was reading and searching and thinking there is more, there’s more, there’s more, and things would happen. If you take yourself to a different place, a different country, stuff naturally comes up. There I learnt about manifestation and being connected, but Byron certainly supports that connection.
What do you believe is the source of that connection?
I don’t think there is an ultimate source. For me it’s about being clear and open… and in a neutral space… not being in your head, getting out of your thinking brain… it’s like stepping away from your body and being immersed in pure light and love. For me, the clearer I am, and the more hands-on work I do, like craniosacral, the more open and expansive I become. I also think the more you express creatively, the more you allow yourself to unblock and open up. That’s why I like to meditate before I paint… I get rid of all the mind stuff and allow myself to discover. Sometimes I have an idea before I paint but usually something completely different comes up… simply by allowing.
The references and influences of Paisley’s name
You have mentioned some of the joyful aspects of living here, are there any others?
We are surrounded by so much natural beauty and the people here are excited by it. It’s like living in a resort. We have whales passing along the coast… we have so much sacred indigenous land here and it is honoured. The people are expansive, they see beyond themselves…. and we don’t have high-rise buildings.
What do you find challenging about living in this area?
Oh gosh… there are too many things to do… all the self-development workshops and the number of passionate people prepared to share their passion… like bee keeping (laughs). I ‘d love to learn about that.
So even the challenges are ‘up’ for you. That’s what it was like when we were talking to Reine… her greatest Byron challenges were potholes and parking…
Yeah yeah, it’s so like that. When we lived on Skinners Shoot Rd there were potholes everywhere, but they made it fun when we rode our bikes.
We couldn’t believe Paisley when she told us she met her neighbours, thanks to Bowie bringing home their shoes. Bowie is simply too cute to be so naughty!
And what we say is…
We found Paisley to be one of the most positive people we have ever met. This in itself is a breath of fresh air and joy to experience. The beauty her name conjures is merely a reflection of what lies within; as too is her artwork, sharing with us her intuitive connection to the inner child and angelic realms. The phrase ‘as within, so without’ seems very apt here.
THE BYRON QUESTIONS
Now it’s time for the frivolous questions…What’s your favourite café or restaurant?
The Top Shop, of course! Did you know they have the best pastries there? (Lots of laughter here because Andrew bakes out of the Top Shop!)
What’s your favourite shop?
I like the Tree of Life for clothes, but I love the markets too. The markets are such a big part of the colour and culture here and you can get everything there… food, clothes, plants, furniture. Even if you don’t need anything, they’re fun to go just for the atmosphere and entertainment.
What would we find you doing on a typical Saturday morning?
My choice would be surfing with my kids… with them right there beside me on the wave.
Do you have a favourite blog or website?
Well, I like yours, of course. Actually, quite seriously, I really, really did like yours because we have such great characters in this area and it is fascinating reading about them. When I got onto your blog and finished reading… I was left wanting more.
What’s your local’s tip to a visitor to Byron?
I always say the lighthouse walk… but not up the beach… up the bush track… that’s the best. It’s quieter and you get the best of both worlds… bush, then beach.
Do you have a favourite time of year in Byron?
Oh, I’d have to say summer. Pack the family in the combie and spend most of the day and evening at the beach. Bliss.