Life’s a beach, especially if it is Wakanui

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By John Keast

Artist Elspeth McLean is an Australian who lives in Canada, but she is drawn time and again to Ashburton’s Wakanui Beach – it is its stones and their beauty.

Ms McLean’s intricate art sells around the world but had its genesis in Ashburton.

She lives now in Salt Springs Island, British Columbia, but comes back to Ashburton as often as possible to see her godparents, Robin and Joan Corbett.

Ms McLean grew up in the foothills of Perth, and expressing her imagination and creativity has been a life-long passion.

Her artwork includes Mandala stones, fine work created by hundreds of coloured dots.

That’s where Wakanui beach comes in: it is covered in smooth, round greywacke stones – the perfect base for inspired art.

Elspeth said every stone was an inspiration.

She focused intently on the centre of the stone, and the colours and pattern she would create came to her.

The artwork, initially, was sold at markets in Australia and Canada – she and guitarist husband Adam hopped between both countries for a while – and then she created an online artist’s page.

Then in 2015 a story about her Mandala stones went viral, with her stones viewed by millions.

Now they are big sellers.

Elspeth says: “All I need is the internet and a post office.”

To complete the artistic journey, Elspeth has also written a book, Jewels of Nature (the Mandala Stone Treasury) and it – the first place in the world – is available at the Ashburton Art Gallery (where she has exhibited before, with success) and at the Short Street Studio of the Ashburton Art Society.

And, despite Canada’s vast palette, Wakanui remains her favourite beach.

“It’s my favourite beach in the world,” she said.

When in Ashburton, she visits it as least once a week to find inspiring stones.

“I’ve always had a special connection with Ashburton. My first ever (art) show was here, in 2006. Ashburton gave me a start, and I won the miniature prize in 2013.”

And she said she dreamed of living here full-time.

The book was a four-year self-publishing journey, made possible with crowd funding through Kickstarter.

It includes photographs taken in Ashburton, some by local photographer Tegan Clark.

Each intricate stone artwork can take up to five hours, with the patterns made up of dots.

Ms McLean calls it dot-illism.

She said the book would not have been possible without the help and encouragement of the Corbetts.

And it was Robin who led her down the aisle when she married.