Interview with Elsa Thorp for CCP x Hahnemühle Summer Salon 2023

Photography by Elsa Thorp

In celebration of CCP's x Hahnemühle Summer Salon 2023, we talk to creative and multi-media artist Elsa Thorp. Elsa's artistic journey began in art school nearly two decades ago after being surrounded by plants and nature by a scientist father specialising in research of exotic fruit production. After earning a Fine Arts degree in New Zealand, she exhibited black-and-white nature photography across Europe during her seven years in Berlin.

Seven years ago, Elsa relocated to Melbourne, where she transitioned to crafting botanical sculptures with naturally dried and fresh seasonal materials. Beyond artistic expression, this art form serves as a source of mental well-being for Elsa, and she now shares the therapeutic benefits through workshops, fostering a community that appreciates the healing power of crafting with organic materials.

Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus, Solanum lycopersicum, Brassica oleracea, Trichosanthes cucumerina, Momordica charantia (2023)

Artichokes and Romanesco from Faranda Farms, Werribee South purchased from Marcello at Vege Out Farmers Market, St Kilda. Tomatoes from Georgia / Maree Flowers, Wattle Glen. Snake Gourd and Bitter Melon’s from Queen Victoria Market.

Hi Elsa, tell us about yourself, your background and how you ended up in photography.

I am a New Zealander born in Corsica. After completing my Bachelor of Fine Arts at Elam School of Fine Arts in mostly black and white analogue photography I moved to Berlin for seven years, where I exhibited my photographs around Europe. I have been living in Melbourne now for almost 8 years. My parents were very encouraging of me being an artist, surprising me with a home darkroom set up for my 17th birthday after seeing how much I enjoyed photography class at high school.

What is the story behind your submitted works?

During a rough patch earlier this year, my doctor encouraged my wild idea of flying overseas that week. With a few days' notice and no plans I flew to Savusavu, known by locals as “the hidden paradise of Fiji”. Here I visited the local farmers market six out of seven days, sometimes multiple times a day, to talk with the locals, take photographs and buy fresh fruit and vegetables to experiment with. The locals soon recognised me as someone looking for the odd and unusual.

These visits enlightened a passion for colour, whereas previously I was drawn to texture and form through black and white photography. This new interest in colour inspired my fresh seasonal sculptures, resulting in a series of photographs including three exhibited at CCP x Hahnemühle Summer Salon 2023.

Four were exhibited in my solo show Botanica Sculptilia during Craft Contemporary Festival 2023 and two in rePRESENTING the PAST group exhibition during Craft Contemporary Festival 2023.

Tell us about the subjects in your photographs:

I am passionate about supporting local. My process involves sourcing seasonal materials from local markets, directly from farms and a bit of foraging. I have developed relationships with farmers over the last seven years, visiting their beautiful properties and local stores. The hunt for unusual seasonal materials gives my work a temporal quality where its ultimate configuration cannot be known until the very last minute.

Which is stronger to you, the influence of people, or the influence of place?

I am all about place. A space linked with experience and memory.

What ideas or themes do you want to explore next?

My life will always revolve around art and nature.

I am slowly working towards collaborations with other artists, including Shibari (Japanese rope art) of the body, natural materials and sculptures, rope in a photographic series and performance.

What are you working on next and where should people follow you to see more of your work?

I plan to be overseas for European spring, hopefully, an artist in residency in at least Corsica. However, you can shop my botanical sculptures as part of the Christmas collection at Storehouse in St Kilda.

I also have a couple of exhibits coming up:

Linden Post Card Show 2023—2024
9 December 2023 to 11 February 2024
Linden New Art, St Kilda

Small Works Art Prize 2024
6 January to 19 January 2024
Brunswick Street Gallery, Fitzroy

For more of Elsa's work, follow Elsa on Instagram or visit

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