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Maryjane O’Dell : Country Comfort Art-Making
by Karen Adler, ATH Asst. Editor of Arts & Art Therapy,
Diploma Transpersonal Art Therapy, Grad Dip Material Anthropology



Editor's Note from Karen Adler: Maryjane O'Dell would not consider herself to be an artist but the fact is that she is one. Her home, Ye Olde Bakehouse, in Stroud, Australia is one of those places where the creativity of the owner jumps out at you. Her joy in making and constructing things is evident everywhere you look and the result is a delight for the senses.

Stroud is a pretty little town nestled peacefully in the Karuah Valley, NSW. The verdant green and rolling hills surrounding Stroud are more reminiscent of England than of the wide brown land of Dorothea Mackellars’ poem, My Country**. Maryjane O’Dell’s house and garden in the main street of Stroud combines the quaintness of a cottage garden and a home lovingly and skillfully restored, with a quirky sense of humour. The result is a delight for the senses.

On my early morning walks to and from the community swimming pool when I lived in Stroud, one home in particular stood out. At the front of ‘Ye Olde Bakehouse‘, there is a bench with each slat painted a different colour, a mosaiced footpath and a bright red mail box made from an old milk pail attached to a piece of beautifully curlicued wrought iron. At the side of the house, tucked away at the back of the garden, is a wall of colanders, all proud and strange in their new environment. This myriad of tiny details are merely a hint of the vast number of creative touches that Maryjane has lovingly dispersed around her home. A few weeks ago when I dropped in with a friend, she commented that Maryjane’s garden was like believing in fairies when you were a child, that you discover yet more secrets and delights that emerge only upon looking longer.

As a child, Maryjane was encouraged by her father, a carpenter-builder, to use tools usually reserved for boys. At one stage of her life, she ran a firewood business, so is used to working with heavy machinery, which comes in handy when making pieces that require drilling, sanding, sawing etc. Her workshop is a vast space full of tools, pieces of wood and metal, materials from op shops and recycling centres, all ready and waiting to be made into whatever her fertile imagination can come up with.

Maryjane’s love of making things, of building and constructing, is evident in every nook and cranny of her garden. A main focal point of the garden is a pond and waterfall complete with its own lighthouse, a No Fishing sign and a lifesaver. The waterfall is constructed in part from old hospital bed pans. The latest addition to the pond is a frog made from bits and pieces salvaged from the dump and painted bright green. Maryjane’s ability to see possibilities in just about anything is indeed a rare gift.

A quirky sense of humour is evident in the wooden gate which was the entrance to the old chook [Australian colloquialism for hen] yard. The gate is actually an old wooden door covered with thongs of all shapes and sizes and can’t help but make you laugh when you first see it. Hanging from a majestic old willow tree, is a mobile made from brightly coloured kitchen implements: spatulas, a wine bottle opener, a potato peeler and the piece de resistance - a fly swatter in the shape of Australia. One of her latest endeavours is a TeaTree which is an old, dead branch adorned with tea-pots, cups and mugs. [The play on words may not be evident to those who aren’t aware of the existence of an Australasian flowering shrub or small tree whose leaves are sometimes used for tea; some species yield an oil valued for its antiseptic properties.]

Maryjane spends most of her spare time making things, creating new pieces to add to her garden.  Very little goes to waste in her world - most of her materials come from recycling centres, op shops, neighbours throwing things out, pieces seen at the side of the road. Every nook and cranny and niche is a delight for the senses and visitors come to know that around each corner is another surprise. Being able to make full use of one’s sense of play and exploration is one of the unexpected gifts of entering into the world of Ye Old Bakehouse.

Copyright: Karen Adler, 2013



** My Country is an iconic patriotic poem about Australia, written by Dorothea Mackellar (1885-1968) at the age of 19 while homesick in England.

The love of field and coppice,

Of green and shaded lanes.

Of ordered woods and gardens

Is running in your veins,

Strong love of grey-blue distance

Brown streams and soft dim skies

I know but cannot share it,

My love is otherwise.


I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty and her terror -

The wide brown land for me!


A stark white ring-barked forest

All tragic to the moon,

The sapphire-misted mountains,

The hot gold hush of noon.

Green tangle of the brushes,

Where lithe lianas coil,

And orchids deck the tree-tops

And ferns the warm dark soil.


Core of my heart, my country!

Her pitiless blue sky,

When sick at heart, around us,

We see the cattle die -

But then the grey clouds gather,

And we can bless again

The drumming of an army,

The steady, soaking rain.


Core of my heart, my country!

Land of the Rainbow Gold,

For flood and fire and famine,

She pays us back threefold -

Over the thirsty paddocks,

Watch, after many days,

The filmy veil of greenness

That thickens as we gaze.


An opal-hearted country,

A wilful, lavish land -

All you who have not loved her,

You will not understand -

Though earth holds many splendours,

Wherever I may die,

I know to what brown country

My homing thoughts will fly.


Dorothea Mackellar



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About the Author

Karen Adler, ATH Asst. Editor of Arts & Art Therapy, is a Transpersonal Art Therapist, an artist, writer and researcher. She is a firm believer in the inherent healing qualities of the Arts. She has run art therapy workshops for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction, self-harming behaviour, eating disorders, for post-flood and cyclone trauma and for people seeking to bring about positive change in their lives. Karen also uses Art Therapy to help in the resolution of her own life difficulties and is continually surprised by the insight it brings. 
Contact Karen at karenadler222@gmail.com or karenadler@allthingshealing.com.






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