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Finding inspiration in unusual places - Elsa's story

Published 3 November 2023

Elsa with three of her recent works she exhibited at Gasworks Art Park

A graduate of the City of Port Phillip's Environmental Leader course last year, South Melbourne artist Elsa Thorp has continued to pursue her passion for art, nature and the environment. Here she tells her story of what inspires her and how she came to create this type of art.

Elsa's father is a plant research scientist specialising in exotic fruit production, so growing up Elsa was surrounded by plants and nature from birth. Starting in art school almost 20 years ago, Elsa has been inspired by wandering in nature capturing what she sees on black and white film. After completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts in New Zealand Elsa lived in Berlin for seven years, exhibiting her photographs around Europe.

She moved to Melbourne seven years ago. In Melbourne Elsa started creating botanical sculptures through a desire to work more hands on with nature using  naturally dried and fresh seasonal materials.  Immersing herself in botanical materials helps with her mental health and she loves to share the therapeutic benefits of crafting with organic materials in her workshops.

During a rough patch earlier this year Elsa's doctor encouraged her wild idea of flying overseas that week. With a few days notice and no plans she flew to Savusavu, known by locals as “the hidden paradise of Fiji”. Here Elsa visited the local farmers market six out of seven days, sometimes multiple times a day, to talk with the locals, take photographs and buy fresh fruit and vegetables to experiment with. The locals soon recognised Elsa as someone looking for the odd and unusual.

These visits enlightened in Elsa a passion for colour, where as previously Elsa was drawn to texture and form through black and white photography. This new interest in colour inspired Elsa's fresh seasonal sculptures, resulting in a series of photographs including four exhibited in her recent solo show at Gasworks Art Park.

Elsa is passionate about supporting local. Her process involves sourcing seasonal materials from local markets, direct from farms and a bit of foraging. She has developed relationships over the last seven years with farmers, visiting their beautiful properties and local stores. The hunt for unusual seasonal materials gives her work a temporal quality where it's ultimate configuration cannot be known until the very last minute. 


Photo artwork details:

On wall left "Phylica pubescens, Papaver somniferum, Banksia heliantha"

Phylica from Santospiritso Flowers, Opium Poppy pods from Anna and Ray's beautiful farm 302 Flowers in Gisborne, Banksia from a Banksia farm near Horsham.

On wall right, print "Punica granatum, Cucumus sativus, Alpinia galanga"

Pomegranate from Golden Dragon Asian Grocery at South Melbourne Market - from Adele the owners backyard. Cucumbers and Galanga from Frank’s Quality Fruit And Veg, South Melbourne Market. Robert at Frank’s hand selected the curliest cucumbers and has helped find unusual produce for Elsa. In a second hand Bendigo Pottery pot.

Living sculpture in a handmade vessel made of vines
Lemons from Gasworks Art Park resident artist Ben Storch's wife's mother's backyard in Vermont, Kumquats from a friend's backyard in Middle Park, Figs from South Melbourne church grounds, Almond branches from Vege Out Community Garden in St Kilda, Loquats from Park Street South Melbourne's street trees. Triple headed Pineapple, Plantain, Drumstick (vegetable) from Dandenong Market.

Upcoming events and details

  • Saturday 25 November to Saturday 16 December, 2023 (opening from 5 pm to 7 pm on Saturday 25 November): Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) is exhibiting three of Elsa's sculpture photographs for CCP x Hahnemühle Summer Salon 2023. 
  • Friday 8 December from 5 pm to 9 pm: Gasworks Art Park, Albert Park 'Summer in The Glade' Friday night market. Stall holding nature play art with kids under "Nature Art by Elsa Thorp".
  • Saturday 9 December 2023 to Sunday 11 February, 2024 (opening 1 pm to 5 pm Saturday 9 December): Linden New Art (26 Acland St, St Kilda) is exhibiting three of Elsa's artworks for Linden Postcard Show 2023 - 2024. 
  • Storehouse artisan store (100 Barkly St, St Kilda) is stocking Elsa's botanical sculptures in their Christmas range.


If you would like to see more of Elsa's work please visit www.instagram.com/elsathorp and www.elsathorp.com.