Tootsie, at the entrance to Yass, is bright and cheery like its owner Cayla Pothan. However, until recently, the walls inside the revamped art deco garage were brought to life by community works but few of the mosaic artist’s own.

Many would assume an artist is always creating, but for five long years, Mrs Pothan’s energy has been invested in establishing the cafe and gallery and its impressive murals. Now she is reclaiming the space for her original creative passion.

“When I opened Tootsie, it was more about the community. I like community galleries and how other people are a part of them, but after five years they didn’t work for me. I was constantly having to do the white walls to make other people’s work look good; I couldn’t express myself because I was busy representing other people. Now it is about owning my space and having guests be a part of it, rather than the other way around,” Mrs Pothan said.

The exhibition is permanent like the gallery and cafe. It features mosaic paintings, a Calavera guitar and Violet – a life-sized female body adorned with a purple mosaic that represents Mrs Pothan.

“I made her when I was pregnant with my youngest and I had a two and four-year-old. I think a lot of stuff happens on the inside of people that we don’t see. When I was pregnant, I was wondering how I was going to take care of a baby and toddlers – what I would do when I went into the hospital and how I would get one to soccer and the other to swimming with a newborn baby – but then I would meet someone for coffee and tell them I was fine. Violet represents that many pieces make up a person,” Mrs Pothan said.

An overflowing studio and storeroom at Tootsie are home to the millions of pieces of coloured glass that eventually make up Mrs Pothan’s works.

“My husband calls me an organised hoarder. From the outside, it looks organised, but if you open the doors, it all falls out,” Mrs Pothan said with a chuckle.

“I am passionate about things not being thrown out and wasted. So if something is broken, it pops onto my radar, and because I do that, people drop off containers and buckets of treasure all the time.”

 

Her home is a bower of artwork waiting to happen, like a beach offering glistening shells, each piece stored in Mrs Pothan’s mind for the right moment.

“I have a photographic memory, and that is how I learnt. I never learnt at school through words or reading a book or the blackboard. If you show me something, I remember it. So when I put things away at home, I know where they are,” she said.

 

Colour is the language of artists and Mrs Pothan enjoys mixing contrasting colours that most wouldn’t, including blue and orange, yellow and blue. The Permanent Exhibition, as it is so simply called, showcases a myriad of blues discovered among recycled items and donated by a local stained-glass teacher.

Few works made by Mrs Pothan have been sold before now, with those that are, mostly commissioned.

 

“I create art because I love it, and I create to express what is going on, so I find it hard to sell myself and that expression. I think that is why it has taken me five years to create my own exhibition,” she said.

“I have made a few pieces to sell, but I have made them with that in mind.”

The Permanent Exhibition is open from Wednesday to Saturday, 9.30am to 2.30pm at Tootsie Cafe Gallery. Pieces range from $200 to $900.