photos DESTINATION CENTRAL COAST BY JAMES HORAN
Vibrant and dynamic, with a rich creative community at its heart, the New South Wales Central Coast is a hub of culture and creation, no matter the time of year.
Just 90 minutes north of Sydney, abundant with dreamy waterfalls, unspoilt beaches and art galleries galore, it could just be the perfect destination for a rejuvenating weekend away to kickstart the creative spark. One such local who felt the pull of the Central Coast is Pi Williams, a textile artist who uses textural yarn and wool, mixed with tulle, leather and raffia, to create sculptural pieces filled with whimsy and wonder that reflect the coastal landscape around her. Living in Ettalong Beach, Pi knows her way around the area from the makers to the bakers so we picked her brain for how to spend a creative weekend in the region. From her favourite cafes, places to stay and things to do, here’s her guide to the best the Central Coast has to offer!
Tell us about yourself…
I’m a mother of three energetic boys so my days are filled with constant activity and a fair bit of mess. To keep up with the chaos, I like to work my way through a wide range of beverages throughout the day, starting with coffee in the morning. I enjoy the variety of switching between a cup of tea, some hot chocolate or a chai latte to keep my taste buds satisfied.
When I retreat to my studio, my creative sanctuary, I’ve got a go-to list of music to help me get into an artistic frame of mind but, a lot of the time, I find comfort in listening to podcasts. The conversations and stories in these audio adventures can have a calming effect on me, helping me set the mood and letting my thoughts flow freely while I’m creating. There are times, though, when I need a change and that’s when I switch to music. The beats and melodies inspire movement and bring out a different kind of energy.
It’s these moments of personal enjoyment and peace that recharge my spirit and help me navigate the world with a fresh outlook.
For me, my studio time is not just about creating art; it’s also a valuable form of downtime. Engaging in my creative work acts almost as a meditative process, allowing me to find a sense of inner peace and tranquillity. And, when the little ones are finally tucked in bed, my husband and I have our own relaxation rituals. We will usually unwind by watching our favourite shows or a movie together. More often than not though, I’ll get too relaxed and just doze off on the couch halfway through, much to my husband’s amusement.
In the whirlwind of being a mom, it’s these moments of personal enjoyment and peace that recharge my spirit and help me navigate the world with a fresh outlook.
What drew you to textile art?
I embarked on my creative journey in 2015, right after becoming a mother for the first time. Despite having a background in fine arts, I hadn’t tapped into my creativity during my early working years. I was determined to rekindle my passion though and I began attending various workshops, exploring ceramics, printmaking and weaving. It was during a weaving class that I was introduced to the fascinating world of wool – its incredible variety and textures. Traditionally associated with older generations, I challenged myself to give this craft a modern twist.
With a whole stack of leftover wool from my weaving adventures, I sought out other creative outlets and stumbled upon punch needle embroidery. I decided to give it a shot and familiarise myself with the process and it was an instant love affair. Creating with punch needle embroidery became my daily routine, even more so when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we found ourselves in lockdown. The process not only brought me immense joy but also served as a source of solace during those challenging times.
After a year of working on my artistic journey, I realised that I wanted to share this craft with others. I hoped that by doing so, I could provide them with the same creative outlet and sense of focus that it had given me. It became clear that becoming an artist wasn’t just about expressing myself creatively; it was also about helping others and finding a renewed purpose in the process.
How long have you called the Central Coast home and what do you love the most about it?
It’s hard to believe that it has already been three years since my family and I settled on the coast, and I can honestly say that every moment has been nothing short of delightful! Our home in Ettalong Beach provides us with the perfect proximity to beautiful beaches and we take full advantage of it. We’ll often be found on beautiful coastal hikes through the nearby Bouddi National Park or scaling the (not so high) heights of Blackwall Mountain, just around the corner from our house, immersing ourselves in the breathtaking scenery.
Living on the Central Coast has genuinely enriched our lives and I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about leaving the city!
Exploring the various areas and parks along the coast has become a wonderful pastime for us and we’ve been able to discover great little cafes and restaurants along the way. Living on the Central Coast has genuinely enriched our lives and I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about leaving the city!
How does being in nature influence your creative process?
Gathering inspiration from the world around me is an integral part of my artistic process. I find invaluable creative fuel in the landscapes we are surrounded by. The treasures I stumble upon during beach walks – like coral and shells – and the botanical wonders that surround me during hikes. When it comes to my artwork, the abstract elements often mirror the beauty of landscapes, rocks and mountains. Additionally, the patterns I stitch into my pieces are a direct reflection of the intricate patterns I discover in shells, coral or native flora.
Tell us about the creative community based on the Central Coast… Why do you think it’s so special and what do you think draws creatives there?
Since moving to the coast, I’ve had the incredible fortune of crossing paths with some truly remarkable creatives. From the moment I arrived, I wanted to connect with local artists, makers, bakers and other creative business owners. To my surprise, I’ve met most of these talented individuals through social media and have even had the opportunity to meet them in person. Following their journeys on social media has been both inspiring and enlightening.
The Central Coast is bursting with a wide variety of gifted artisans and creators. It’s one of the reasons why I find myself drawn to the local markets and galleries time and time again. The breathtaking coastal scenery, tranquil walks, majestic mountains and thriving food and maker culture all contribute to the magnetic pull that attracts people to this vibrant community.
The breathtaking coastal scenery, tranquil walks, majestic mountains and thriving food and maker culture all contribute to the magnetic pull that attracts people to this vibrant community.
What are your top tips for making the most out of a creative weekend on the Central Coast?
The Central Coast Creative Hub is a haven for artistic souls, offering a plethora of options for creative workshops (make sure you pre-book online). What’s even more exciting is they have recently partnered with Alberts Line (located in Gosford), a haven for boutiques. You won’t be disappointed with the diverse range of offerings and the opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant creative scene.
One experience that I highly recommend is taking a walk through Bouddi National Park to get to the picturesque Pretty Beach and Little Beach (short, easy walks) or the amazing Maitland Bay (a bit longer, a bit harder!).
Little Beach holds a special place in my heart, as it has become my go-to destination for a relaxing hike. Just a short 10-minute walk away, it’s easily accessible, making it perfect for the little ones in tow. One of the things I love most about this beach is its peacefulness and lack of crowds. It’s a hidden gem where we can always count on discovering an abundance of tiny shells and washed-up corals. Without fail, our visits to Little Beach often turn into impromptu picnics and cozy naps under the sun.
Before setting off, make sure to make a pit stop at MamiGato in Ettalong Beach to grab some takeaway treats. Personally, I like to bring along my sketchbook, watercolour pens and a selection of Posca markers on a day trip like this. And, of course, don’t forget your swimsuit! You’ll be relaxed, inspired and possibly a little sweaty, but absolutely rejuvenated by the end of the day.
The following day, head into Gosford and pay a visit to the Gosford Regional Gallery. It’s a wonderful place to spend the day, especially with the charming garden where you can feed the fish – a highlight for kids! Also check out Alberts Line, which offers a boutique selection of handmade gifts, workshops (this is where I hold my occasional workshops) and events. If you plan your trip in advance, you might even be able to book a spot in one of their available workshops.
If you prefer to stay closer to Ettalong Beach, I recommend visiting Bay Gallery, a delightful little gallery right in town. Another option is to have a go at a clay workshop at Centred Ceramics in Umina. Centred Ceramics also houses a quaint gallery called Public Gallery, which hosts exhibitions every two weeks.
No matter which path you choose, there are plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in the local art scene and create lasting memories on the beautiful Central Coast.
PI’S PICKS FOR THE BEST PLACES TO STAY, EAT AND SHOP!
The Boathouse Hotel, Patonga
Bells at Killcare Boutique Hotel, Killcare Heights
Base Holidays, Ettalong Beach
Alberts Line, Gosford
Run to the Sun, Ettalong Beach
Goddess by the Sea, Ettalong Beach
Smoke on the Water, Ettalong Beach
Lords of Pour, Ettalong Beach
MamiGato, Ettalong Beach
Margarita Daze, Umina Beach
Fisherman’s Wharf, Woy Woy
Coast 175, Ettalong Beach
The BOX on the Water, Ettalong Beach
Distillery Botanica, Erina
Chica Chica, Ettalong Beach
Bar Toto, Ettalong Beach
BMX Burgers, Umina Beach