Whimsical wonderland

The signs start on the steep driveway: a series of sketches, arrows and messages painted onto the concrete encourage the curious to detour off a pretty suburban street in Akaroa.

Near the top, the surprises truly begin to unfold. What was once known as Linton, the first bank manager’s house in Akaroa, is now painted in vibrant candy colours, sitting atop a sprawling hilltop site that has been transformed, almost completely, into art.

Giants house

This is the Giant’s House: a testament to whimsy by artist Josie Martin.

To call this place a sculpture garden is an understatement. Terraces are formed with millions of pieces of broken crockery into surreal mosaic sculptures – people, animals,
plants – many towering several metres high, bursting with colour and a flamboyant sense of joy. On the front lawn sits a full size grand piano covered in mosaic tiles, its insides fi lled with succulents. Visitors can perch regally on enormous mosaic thrones or multicoloured tile benches on paths that wend their way between trees. Ceramic staircases twist gently past a life-size mosaic giraffe head, a trumpeting elephant and giant doeeyed anthropomorphic cat and dog, to the enormous writhing octopus emerging from a sea of parsley in the vegetable garden.

Josie has worked on the project for 15 years and her hard work has paid off. The Giant’s House is now recognised as a ‘garden of national signifi cance,’ attracting visitors from around the world.

Inside, the artwork spills through all areas of the house, including the visitor bathrooms – even the toilet is encrusted with colourful crockery fragments. And rather than frowning on graffiti as vandalism, markers are provided for scribbling on the toilet walls.

An adjacent gallery space houses Josie’s more fragile, less weather-proof works, including exquisite flower-painted ceramic busts, pale-faced with deep indigo eyes and hair – Josie’s self-portraits. The house also operates three unique B&B rooms – including one with the bed snuggled inside the frame of a sleek timber boat – for visitors loathe to leave this whimsical wonderland.

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