Tootsie: a labour of love and vision

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ARTS: The Tootsie vision is to do something you love and are passionate about.

It’s been two years of hard labour converting a dilapidated, unoccupied petrol station into a fine art gallery and coffee shop, but now Tootsie Fine Art and Design is open for business.

Owner and ‘visionary’ Michaela Pothan said it represents a combination of all things she loves; “beautiful art, great coffee, a place to hang out with family and friends and meet like-minded people, and maybe somewhere to learn a new skill or art form”.

“It’s an art workshop/gallery space with great coffee, tea and cake.”

Various artists will run classes and workshops from the site next year and use the space to create, showcase their work and meet people, Michaela told Scoop12244447_1135638993133374_3577990625175231214_o

“Tootsie is a tribute to my late grandfather – it was his 1927 Chev that he gave to me when I was 10 as long as I followed my dreams and did something I loved,” she explains.

“He was excited when I had showed him photos of the run-down building two years ago and told him I was going to renovate it and turn it into Tootsie magic.  He sadly passed away last February at the age of 97 – so he never saw it completed.

“But it is a tribute to his love and belief in me making a dream a reality.”

From the outset she wants to distinguish it from traditionally “sterile” art galleries.

“It is not a ‘gallery’ as I find traditional galleries so sterile.  It is more like a home environment – where you can sit and enjoy the art while you enjoy some great coffee and music.  The not-a-gallery tag poses the question “well what is it?” but still puts it in the art box.  My answer is “it’s so much more…”

“The project was a dream of mine for a long time as I am a mosaic artist and my work was not accepted by many galleries or shops as it was ‘un-frameable’ and difficult to display.

“But I persisted with much encouragement and guidance from my great friend and mentor [the late] Kim Nelson, who encouraged the crazy idea that I could make this happen for Yass and also support other artists both local and from all over Australia.  I like the idea of bringing in travellers and showing them what a great artistic community we have as well as opening the door to other fantastic artists to show the Yass community what others have to offer our town when we hold the door open.” 12307429_1135640509799889_5191212411233883814_o 12304416_1135639379800002_7962606916147041254_o


The building was built in 1936 and opened in 1937 as the Hume Service Station.  Caltex purchased it in 1959 and did a modern renovation by removing the Art Deco front and adding the large awning. During the most recent renovation, Michaela had to remove the petrol tanks, and in doing so, needed to pull down the awning.  She and her husband then rebuilt the awning to the original plans from 1936.

“I have learnt to be patient – the two years of renovating has been a labour of love but a lot of hard work.

“I felt like it was such a great concept and was full of all the things that I love, so I guess I figured at the end of the day I could enjoy the space regardless of what others thought or said.

“There have been many who said I couldn’t pull it off, I was going to fail or not do well – but I trusted in my heart and the people who really supported me. I learnt that if you really want something in life – you just have to make it happen.”

The self-taught mosaic artist has been creating mosaics for the past 12 years. Many of her works now adorn the gallery and now features of the building, including a community Project Patchwork installation in the outside sculpture garden.

“This project is on-going and is an open door to creative artists from all over to take part.  Already there is a piece from the UK, France and New Zealand on the wall with many others still flooding in.  The patches represent people who are part of a community who have donated their time and skill and it has been lovingly put together by myself and my friend Kim Grant, who has also been a great inspiration to me as a mosaic artist and friend.  The feature stairs were completed by the two of us in a joint collaboration.”

She is overwhelmed with the positive responses she’s receiving from the community.

“There is so much love for the Art Deco in the building and to see one of the old run down places brought back to life and re-opened.

“I have been overwhelmed with support, encouragement and excitement for what I have created, it goes to show you what a bit of the magic of believing in yourself and doing what you love, can bring.”

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