Magic Carpet Journals takes you to visit Australia’s William Ricketts’ Sanctuary

Heather and Barry Minton want to share with you the legacy of a famous Australian potter and sculptor, William Ricketts.

Story and Photos by Heather and Barry Minton
Australia's William Ricketts' Sanctuary

About an hour’s drive north east of Melbourne lies the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges, a lovely area for a day trip or an extended holiday.

The Yarra Valley is famous for its wines and in the Dandenong Ranges there is the famous Puffing Billy steam train which travels 25km from Belgrave to Gembrook through lush native forests and tree ferns. You can also stroll through the little villages of Olinda, Sherbrook and Emerald and browse the local crafts, antiques and cafes. Also, Healesville has the world-renowned native animal sanctuary where over 200 species of native animals roam in natural settings.

While on a brief visit to the area for a wedding we took the opportunity to visit the William Ricketts Sanctuary which is set high on Mt. Dandenong and nestled in the natural old-growth eucalyptus forest and tree ferns.

Portrait of William Ricketts by R. P Rossner (or Russner)
Portrait of William Ricketts by R. P Rossner (or Russner)

William Ricketts (1898-1993) was an Australian potter and sculptor of the arts and crafts movement. Although not of Aboriginal blood he had a deeply felt spiritual connection to the Australian landscape and animals. During his life he spent time in Central Australia to live with the Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte Aboriginal people whose traditions and culture inspired his work. Many of his works are also on display at the Pitchi Ritchi Bird Sanctuary in Alice Springs.

William Ricketts Sanctuary, Australia

He also spent two years in India at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Spiritual Centre, in Pondicherry acquiring knowledge of the Indian people and their philosophy. In 1934 he settled on Mt. Dandenong and living quietly in a small cottage with his mother, he began creating the sculpture park that bears his name.

The Sanctuary is set on a steep hillside and as you stroll the paths through the eucalyptus trees towering above, and the dense tree ferns all around, you chance upon ceramic sculptures of all sizes, of people and animals nestled among the foliage.

The little cottage in which he lived is now a display area and his workshop displays some unfinished pieces. You can also watch a short video describing his life and see him discuss some of his work.

The Victorian Government purchased the sanctuary from William Ricketts and made it a public park although, he continued to live there until his death in 1993 at the age of 95.

June 26, 2021: Word comes from Heather and Barry in Australia, that a recent severe storm swept through the Dandenong mountain range in this area and several tourist destinations suffered extensive damage. The exact extent of the damage at the William Rickets Sanctuary is not known, however some buildings and sculptures were damaged. The sanctuary remains closed for public safety. It is expected to remain closed for a number of months, through this winter. Anyone planning to visit next summer would be advised to find out if it has reopened again. mmg

Story and Photos by Heather and Barry Minton

Last updated June 11, 2021 by Matthew George – Webmaster

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