the Orara valley Tourist Trail map aims to help visitors discover and explore the hinterland gems including ‘Insta spots’ aimed to encourage visitors to slow down, stop, and snap a selfie with especially-created art installations SUCH AS NANA TWO TAILS.
The newly-installed timber sculpture ‘Two Tails’ by local artist Ian Watson (pictured with Alison owner of Idle In Cafe) is located at the Idle In Cafe and depicts the rare and mysterious two-tailed lizard of Nana Glen.
Artist Ian Watson says art really is therapy, and creating Two Tails for the Orara Valley Tourist Trail has been part of his own recovery from losing everything in the 2019 bushfires.
The seven month-long project was as rewarding as it was challenging, with Ian overcoming many obstacles to come to the polished, ‘Insta-ready’ sculpture you see sitting pride of place today.
As a direct victim of the bushfires, an accomplished artist and long-time local – Ian was the perfect choice to create the piece for the ‘Insta Stops’ trail designed to help promote the Orara Valley and aide in the local economic recovery.
“The landscaping and surrounds are in harmony with the sculpture, I want to share the story, especially about Nana Glen. It represents the celebration of where we came from and what we are now. Nana has a special place in my heart.”
However – it wasn’t an easy ‘yes’ for Ian. With his entire 300-tonne stock of Rosewood obliterated by the fire, no workshop or covered workspace and no tools, it seemed an impossibility.
“My first thought was ‘, How will I do this? I’ve lost all my timber stock, I have no workshop or workspace, and no tools.”
As fate would have it, Ian’s son was working at Sealands in Grafton when a client heard the story of what was happening. He had pulled some pieces of Cedar out of the river and offered them to Ian for the sculpture.
“So we went and got it, and in that load was the skink! When I saw it, I knew I could make it work and do this. There was movement already in the piece – it had this form that was…alive.”
Working with the natural movement of the piece proved a challenge. Ian worked outside in the elements (still no workshop) with limited tools and used nothing but his balance skills (no machinery or lift assistance) to help move the piece of wood as he worked on it.
“For 5 months, the bloody thing wasn’t working – I thought, it’s too fat, it’s not right, the shape is wrong – I was living with it every day. But sculpting really teaches you patience.”
It wasn’t until an unwitting accident that a mental block was removed, and Two Tails really took shape.
“I had these wings coming out of the tails, and I was rolling the piece one day, and one of them snapped off. I didn’t know what else to do but chop the other one off, too – and once I did, it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders, and she just really started moving ahead.”
Finding the perfect rock for Two Tails to sit on was another project in itself. Ian visited Wants Sand in Glenreagh once and found what he thought might be the one, to no avail. His second trip was successful, finding the perfect rock as soon as he walked into the yard.
“I had a friend help me get her onto the rock – and that was that! It was beautiful to see it all come together so perfectly.”
Nana Glen is famous for the ‘Two Tailed Lizard’, but Ian has a message for everyone as they come to enjoy the beauty of the Valley and Two Tails. “People need to think before using the word lizard – it’s actually a skink!” he laughed.
This unique piece complements the other colourful mosaic artworks at The Golden Dog, which both feature the heritage and environments of those areas. “People need to think before using the word lizard – it’s actually a skink!” he laughed.
“I know everyone says Two-Tailed Lizard and Two-Tailed Skink doesn’t quite have the same ring to it – but it’s a skink. Hopefully, it becomes a talking point so the young ones can go and do some research on the difference between a lizard and a skink.”
Café owner Alison Johnson is delighted with the sculpture, which encourages people to stop, take pictures and enjoy a coffee or lunch and support the Nana Glen town. Visitors will learn more about the sculpture via a QR code or read more about the artist here.
Funding for the ‘Insta Stops’ initiative was made possible by the Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery Grants, part of the Australian Government’s $76m tourism recovery package to protect jobs, small businesses and local economies.
Visit www.oraravalleytouristtrail.com.au, and plan a day trip to discover the Orara Valley.