Sss-ensational ceramic snake graces new playground

Published on 19 February 2019

Mosaic snake photo

This children’s art, on a grand scale, is the talking point of the new $1.3 million playground at Civic Drive.

Eltham ceramic artist Mary-Lou Pittard, commissioned by Nillumbik Shire Council to create the work of art, worked with students at Diamond Valley Special Development, Apollo Parkways Primary School, St Thomas the Apostle Primary School and Diamond Hills Preschool to create the masterpiece.

Mayor Karen Egan is delighted with Mr Snake, as it is affectionately referred to, and is looking forward to the official opening of the precinct in the near future.

“This work of art is unique in that it represents the creativity of more than a thousand children on what is undoubtedly the biggest snake ever seen in the Shire!” Cr Egan said.

“It also makes art an everyday participatory experience to be enjoyed by the children using the playground as well as the community groups using the precinct.”

The Civic Drive recreational precinct comprises  tower play and boulder climbing units, accessible swing, ropes and a totem pole course, flying fox, spinner, inclusive sand play and musical play elements.

It also features a half basketball/netball court with a hoop which can be used as a stage, with tiered grassed seating creating an amphitheatre. There are picnic tables and BBQ units.

An existing building is being transformed into a community events venue which can be hired out and used by community groups. It has toilets and roller doors that open out onto the precinct.

Mary-Lou said decorating Mr Snake was the largest project she had ever undertaken.

“Over the final term of school last year, I showed the children how to cut diamond-shaped ceramic tiles and then how to decorate them with special paints. I then fired the tiles in the kiln, to ensure they would last forever,” Mary-Lou said.

Mary-Lou then glued the tiles onto the snake, which has since had non-slip treatment applied to the surface.

Because she encouraged children’s individual creativity, the tiles feature trains, boats, koalas, trees, lizards and many vibrant patterns.

“I told them their art will be there for all time and that one day they will be able to show their grandchildren what they created at the same age,” Mary-Lou said.

There are also many hidden secrets in the tiles. The footprint of Mary-Lou’s new-born grandchild, Charlie, and a Scottish flag to pay tribute to Scots-born Jim Armstrong of Eltham Men’s Shed, who made the ‘cookie cutters’ for children to cut out the ceramic diamond shapes.

Mary-Lou said the shape of the tiles also paid tribute to Diamond Valley and the history of the Shire.

The playground project was made possible thanks to $950,000 from the Victorian Government’s Growing Suburbs Fund.