03 February 2011

Magic Lantern Studio - Brunswick Street Fitzroy

One of the things I love about the beautiful city I live in are the secrets she keeps. It's the mix of cultures and contrast between old and new. And the amazing creative talent of her people. My mind kept wandering back to the Magic Lantern Studio in Brunswick Street Fitzroy after walking past it on Friday night, and so I had to return.

On Saturday afternoon I was lucky enough to chat to the owners and artists of Magic Lantern Studio, Gonzalo Varela and Lucy Parkinson. Lucy's father, Richard Parkinson, was the man I photographed on Friday night. It was a pleasure to talk to them - I am so thankful for the opportunities to meet new people.
They told me the studio has been open for about three months. They have another studio in Barcelona, Spain. The back of the Fitzroy studios will be open for a short period in March-April this year, featuring multidisciplinary art and animations by the couple and their friends.

The studio is a fantasy land of art and toys from years past. There are shelves full of pop up books, animation flick books, Viewmasters and slides, marionettes and play scenes. The walls display Magic Lantern slide boxes, paintings, masks made from found objects, and sculptures. A merry-go-round is the centrepiece of the room - marionettes hang from it, and customers are welcome to play with them.
There is admin desk behind a cutout wall, containing laptops, a printer and CD player, contrasted with a terrarium, art tools, dolls and a Pinocchio. A small record player sits to the side. Vibrant Spanish music plays, and Gonzalo sings along. It's another world. A happy world.
Lucy and Gonzalo are a beautiful couple, both visual artists, who met in Argentina seven years ago. Lucy is Australian and Gonzalo is from Barcelona. He has been in Australia for one and a half years. Some of their artwork is for sale in Magic Lantern Studio, others are unique pieces from overseas.

Gonzalo and Richard are starting to make marionettes. While I was there, Gonzalo was carving a baby's head from plasticine - a mould for copies from plaster to be produced. He showed me a Pinocchio head he carved. He doesn't know how long it will take him to finish the faces because he's just starting out and he makes up the details as he goes. Lucy is getting a sewing machine for her birthday and will sew the clothes for the marionettes. It's a charming artistic partnership.

I asked them why they opened up this amazing studio-store in Brunswick Street. It's an eclectic street of worldly restaurants, shops with racks of mass produced disposable clothes, bars, live music venues and blocks of housing commission flats.

"So many beautiful, old technologies get lost in the digital age", Lucy said. "We love protecting these art practices but not in a museum context. We want people to play with them."

While I was in the Magic Lantern Studio, several families came in, and children did play with the marionettes, and marveled at the toys on display - worlds away from their Nintendos and brand-name plastic chainstore toys. It was lovely to see.

Gonzalo finds beauty in the unexpected and discarded. He has made masks out of animal skulls and saucepan lids.  Here is an animal skull and plaster mask - you can see the horns. Below it is the back of the mask - the teeth of the animal protrude from under the plaster.
Perched on the counter is a rubber doll's head, with accentuated features, perhaps painted on. It sits in an old plastic doll's shoe, just like a Cabbage Patch doll's shoe I once had. Lucy told me that Gonzalo sweeps the streets on his bicycle, looking for interesting things to collect so he can display them or turn into art. His bicycle is called The Recyclinator. "In Australia, people put a lot of nice stuff in the rubbish", Gonzalo told me.

I bought an antique Viewmaster with Disney slides. It's Bakelight, and a good buy, the best Viewmaster in the studio, I was told. Before Lucy wrapped it up in brown paper and tied it with string, Gonzalo kissed the Viewmaster and said "goodbye, my Viewmaster," and went on singing and carving the plasticine face attached to a pencil.

Magic Lantern Studio
155 Brunswick St


  1. Great post! What a cool couple. I miss Melbourne x

    Thought I'd better check out/follow everyone who is attending the AusBlogCon. Pop over to bigwords if you get a moment x

  2. What an amazing place and such a talented couple.. thanks for the review Carly. x

  3. oooh what are your plans for the Viewmaster? look forward to updates ;)

  4. This stretch of Brunswick St was always a bit of a wasteland, so it's been great to see it developing recently. The Magic Lantern Studio is certainly one of my favourite additions to the neighbourhood. Kudos to the owners for pursuing such a wonderfully crazy idea. Owen


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