Artist Tess Guinery's Quirky Queenslander

Images by Tara Samuelson & Tess Guinery


Tess Guinery’s life is one of whimsy. Captured here under the haze of film, we were lucky enough to catch a glimmer of the world she shares with love-of-her-life Caleb, three daughters, goldfish & two bunnies, Sunrise and Sugar & Sherbert. If her words read like poetry, it’s because they are - Tess has published two anthologies and a picture book - brought to life through technicolor paintings that act as a canvas for her expressions. Having lived in locations far and wide, for now her home and studio (a self described rabbit warren) lies in the idiosyncratic town of Murwillumbah, a place that has afforded, in her own words ‘a season of rest and restoration’. For this very special piece, we encourage you to take a moment to fully immerse yourself in its beauty, Tess’s tale is owed your full attention.

“We have called many places home, but more recently we have found a sense of place in the sweet and daggy little creative town of Murwillumbah. This blue and borrowed home was built in 1925 and sits gently on the floors of mountains, mountains that silhouette and make the shape of a sleeping giant laying gently on his back. We often say that the sleeping giant with his eyes looking up to the sky, is teaching us how to be here—a remedy of sorts, a state of rest, a pace to adhere to.

We have now lived here for three years and in that time I have learnt a little bit about the history of this beautiful quintessential Queenslander of a home. It once belonged to a man named Doug who was a renowned recluse, a home-body and artist that would paint on large sheets of silk in his art studio (the room that we now call our bedroom). 

“Our home is quirky in layout, I often call it ‘the labyrinth’ when friends come to visit or stay as I watch them somewhat get cuddled up and swallowed into one of the many many rooms the house beholds. This house is beautifully and wonderfully strange like that, lots of rooms and little nooks, high ceilings and low ceilings, secret french doors that lead to secret little balconies, rooms that connect to other rooms in a way that feels improvised and unplanned…

This home has held us so gently over the past three years, and we are so grateful to be residents of its beauty.

I learnt that Doug modernised the house in the 70’s and the current owners (who are the sweetest landlords) spent quite a few years restoring it back to its origins (which is what I love most about the home). I love the amount of light the old windows let in, the hardwood floors, the leadlight doors, the master bedroom with its own sense of 'quartership' and the beautiful french doors that open up wide to the garden. I love all the quirky little nods to its original era, the largeness of the kitchen and the windows that frame it, the size of the twins bedroom and its shade of pink, the eggshell blue exterior walls and the trees that fill the yard.

This home has held us so gently over the past three years, and we are so grateful to be residents of its beauty.

Artwork by  V.H. BERRY of Studio Espichel

“I really appreciate that our bedroom is its own little quarters. I love how it is connected to the house by a beautiful breeze-way that is paved with old European tiles and old French doors that open out to a little balcony. The bedroom is quite large, so large that it can function as a separate flat with its own entry and personal bathroom. We have actually used the space for multiple purposes—it's been a short-term flat for Caleb's parents when they came to stay for three months and help with my book launch (escaping the southern winter). It’s been my art studio for a season, facilitating generous space for painting and writing in the most wondrous of ways (with its own sink and cabinets for storing art supplies) but the majority of the time we have lived here, it has been our bedroom and haven. The bedroom itself has a really creative and calm feeling about it, with it’s soft mint green walls that are often drenched with light on a sunny day—our bedroom feels like my exhale at the end of a day— and after learning that historically it was created to be an art studio for Doug (one of the earlier owners), the feeling the space gives, makes so much sense.”

Tess's bed is dressed in a combination of Navy Gingham & Walter Stripe.

“Our home is an eclectic treasure chest full of gathered bits and pieces from various travel adventures (and local thrift hauls). I am a sentimentalist and my husband is a minimalist—the dichotomies that make us up, see us meeting in the middle as home-makers—this looks like having many treasures, but each treasure has its place. Everything in our home has a purpose or a tale or a sentiment. The most recent items that have become especially front of mind and special to me in the list of things I treasure in my home, is my handmade dining table and the striped timber sideboard Caleb (my husband) made for me for my 40th birthday. So much time and thoughtfulness is found in the details of each piece. He carefully sourced the timber, chose the stains and made it all by hand. I can feel his labor of love and his creative expression in each piece, pieces that we will treasure forever and pass down to our daughters, timelessly.

I am a sentimentalist and my husband is a minimalist—the dichotomies that make us up, see us meeting in the middle as home-makers...

“An eclectic curation, equal parts reclaimed, new or handmade. I love color and patterns paired with the simplicity of soft tones. Our home is filled with my love for old and new—it’s about having both represented, not one or the other—marrying the two and giving shelf space to all the eras, none excluded. I like to have beauty in reach, with that, you will find walls with several book stacks leaning against them that behave as shelves to collect ornaments, shells and vases—our coffee table is full of poetry books, biographies, novels and art, beauty is always in reach. Candles and lighting are really important. Recently I laughed with a friend because we shared how we were equally offended by bad ambience, and it’s true, you won’t see a single light on in my home—only lamps and candles.

“My longings to make art of my everyday life have been largely explored in the fascinating places we have had the opportunity to live—places we have made home for intermittent seasons due to my lover and his wild career choice to become a stuntman in film. Our dreams for the past 10 years have worked together harmoniously and I am so grateful for the rich experiences travel has gifted us, experiences that have sewn greatly into my practice as an artist.

12 years ago when Caleb (my husband) and I were only 2 years newly wed, we had this beautiful defining moment casually sitting on our living room floor one night. We literally typed our ideas into google and decided we would together pursue our wildest longings. With small pockets and big dreams, our two creative paths awoke united… 6 weeks later we packed up our sweet little life in our sweet little town (Mollymook) and set out to live our dreams…

Our dreams for the past 10 years have worked together harmoniously and I am so grateful for the rich experiences travel has gifted us, experiences that have sewn greatly into my practice as an artist.

Within the melting pot of my ever evolving expression as an artist and writer, I have had a strong sense of communion with dance and movement since childhood. As a former dancer and choreographer, the art I produce today reflects a beautiful intertwining where movement intersects and holds hands with many other mediums I am drawn to, behaving almost like an electric undercurrent in the way I find myself using paint, or in the way I write, or how I capture photographically. Dance has become the heartbeat that subliminally moves my art from a static dimension into something that has a sense of movement—acting as an anchor, a catalyst and a faithful point of reference for my expression as an artist.

“Growing up with dance front and centre of everything I put my hands to up until the age of 25, I intuitively changed creative direction upon falling in love spending my newly wed status and post-dance career studying design at The Karl Von Busse institute of Design. It was here that I learnt to execute my appreciation for beauty found in commonplaces with tools that allowed me to translate my findings through new forms of art and various visual mediums. This was an expansive time for me, giving me new ways to express my heart's longings outside and beyond my familiar lean in the expression dance. This was where I learnt that no medium is ever to be considered out of bounds.

My love for design opened up new worlds for me, a fast growing passion that became a great traveling companion allowing me to easily pack up my work and take it with me whenever we were flown overseas for a film Caleb was working on. Design jobs began to soar towards me in flying colours and I was given many opportunities to create some really beautiful work for some dream clients. During my 6 year cycle of pursuing design, I fell pregnant with our daughter who quickly became the world's best travel companion—nomadic by nature or nurture or both, she has seen more places than she can yet comprehend on a map. My freelance career as a designer gave me the right amount of flexibility to work from home, travel and be with my daughter full time. After 6 years in the design industry I decided to take a sabbatical, a bold and audacious pause to allow my inner artist some spaciousness outside the strict bounds of a design brief. This pause begot some of my greatest creations yet— my twin daughters and the improvised forming of my first book.

Design jobs began to soar towards me in flying colours and I was given many opportunities to create some really beautiful work for some dream clients. 

A book that was the catalyst to two more books, ones that formed over a series of 3 years, each unfolding as they needed in opposing seasons. One written from a place of play, another from a place of pain and my most recent and fondest book ‘The Stars Nodded’, a self-published poetry book dedicated to my three daughters.

“Discovered and published by Andrews Mcmeel Publishing after 2 years in circulation as self-titled pieces (due to a very generous kickstarter), the books soared brightly and rapidly all over the world (in a way that I was never prepared for) landing in hundreds of different geographical locations. Poems from the books have been printed on bed sheets and t-shirts and mugs and walls and tattooed on bodies and quoted in other languages, transcribed and published into Dutch versions—and I am so grateful for all of it.” 

Single beds are dressed in Pine Gingham & Pine Stripe from IN BED Kid's Collection.

"To my own dismay, I often find pleasure in protesting against my own defaults. I like to make a habit of sitting with my own sense of comfortability and asking myself if I need a little bit of a sift or stir. And with a curiosity within me that wouldn’t budge or negotiate—there was an undeniable feeling that the art I had created from these 3 books and their 5 years of circulation needed to take a bow, have a curtain call and be honoured with a timestamp.

One can not continue to ride on the art of yesterday.

And upon my inner-protest, at midnight, Dec 31st, 2022, I took down all the art off my website, discontinued it (along with my income) to take posture at the table—with nothing but the three books sitting as time-stamps as an emblem to the season that had been. 

It was the questions I began to ask myself that were the catalyst to this decision…

What is the art now asking of me?
Could I write for a living and stay true to the size of my nervous system?
Could I start from scratch and make an income again?
And the most vulnerable question of all…
Could I become a full time paid writer?

Which brings me to my now, mid-process, a quarter way there…sharing my bodies of work on Substack /  ‘Catching Shower Flowers’ as I work towards becoming a full time writer whilst sitting with other artists at ‘the table’ (my new offering).”

“Tenacious about growth, I am committed to being as water as I adhere to the ever-changing cyclical phases that come with choosing to embrace the creative process as a way of life. Creativity has always felt instinctive and in that I’ve adhered to the concept that creativity as a practice, is innately part of life rather than an extension of it. The pursuit of seeing beauty and being awake to it is the undercurrent and leading of all my work. I seek it through conversation and electric communion in my prayer life, it’s here, my eyes become awake to beauty and from this place, I create.

Ironically I am currently working on an inquiry (a written body of work) about ‘home’ and some concepts of curiosity that found me and my pen. The unfolding of this inquiry will be featured on my Substack ‘Catching Shower Flowers’. I have also just recently made available, ‘one-on-one creative sessions at the table’ available, a metaphoric and somewhat poetic way of giving language to zoom sessions aka creative consults where I hope to help fellow writers and poets and artists materialize their work through publishing and other tangibilities. I have already guided a few sessions and it feels like the most beautiful labor of love and hospitality, a privilege actually.

I’m very inspired by the art found in people watching, silence, being in the sun, the magic of night, my daughters, my lover, nature, travel, adventure and prayer. 

“Co-creations with fellow artists, daily observations, listening to what’s happening around me, introverting (my fuel), date nights, long evening showers in solitude, music, new experiences, writing, being around the table with friends, food, wine, music, convo, getting a roll of film back, making love, thrifting, podcasts and books, fashion—I have this folder on my phone labeled ‘Murwillumbah fashion’ it’s basically random captures from my travels about town. My town is medicine to the eyes, I love what people put together as an outfit here—and I’m mostly talking about the 50+ demographic, I’m very inspired by the art found in people watching, silence, being in the sun, the magic of night, my daughters, my lover, nature, travel, adventure and prayer.”

“What I love about Murwillumbah is the people, the creativity, the rivers, the mountains, the community, the artfulness, the pace, the school our daughters attend. All these things drew me to this town for a season of rest and restoration. It has been both those things and so much more.

"My local coffee spot is Keith. I love how I can pop in for a quick coffee and leave 3 hours later because conversation brings me into its vortex. Bistro Livi is the most indulgent local dining experience (we celebrate all important occasions with set-cream and dessert wine there). I love the many of our local beaches and secret water holes and rivers, the broad array of antique stores and thrift shops, Stain (a local art gallery and flower architecture space) that belongs to a dear friend along with the late Fable Bookstore (which has housed my heart since the day I arrived in this quirky little town).

“This year I’m looking forward to beholding new dreams realized, together, with my lover and daughters. Writing, making, co-creating, Writing, making, co-creating, repeat.”

Find our more about Tess's new one-on-one sessions at the table here
Her Substack ‘Catching Shower Flowers’ here
And her books here



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