Local hero: Blair Somerville, The Lost Gypsy Gallery

Blair Somerville
Blair Somerville
From the outside, The Lost Gypsy Gallery might just look like a house truck parked up on the side of a road in a tiny coastal town.

From the inside, though, it looks like a leap into the endlessly active and utterly fascinating mind of artist and inventor, Blair Somerville.

Originally from Auckland, Somerville has lived in The Catlins for a bit more than a decade and over that time he has gradually developed and expanded his magical gallery. Initially, the truck itself was home to his collection of hand-cranked automata machines made of found materials and other curious objects.

Since then, the collection has expanded and he's developed the Winding Thoughts Theatre of Sorts in the garden at the back of the truck, and there's now also the Little Rocket caravan cafe serving good strong coffee, which your brain might need after having been slightly blown.

There's no charge to wander through the truck, which is home to numerous small automata made from found and salvaged materials. While many people might see junk, Somerville sees potential in all sorts of objects.

A small train runs around the roofline of the truck, while the walls abound with things you can wind and watch.

The Lost Gypsy Gallery houses an extraordinary array of curious inventions.
The Lost Gypsy Gallery houses an extraordinary array of curious inventions.
For a mere $5, you can go and explore the garden out the back that is home to a lot of bigger sculpture pieces - where else can you see yourself on telly if you cycle an exercise bike fast enough? Keep an eye out for mystery buttons that set off unexpected reactions throughout the garden.

If you're not sure about spending a fiver, just stand outside the truck and listen to the howls of laughter and the squeals of delight as other people explore its offbeat offerings. That should convince you.

While he happily chats to anyone with questions (which seems to be most visitors), Somerville readily admits that he's happiest when he's tinkering around with new projects on Wednesdays, when the gallery is closed and things are (relatively) quiet.

The result of these days off is that there's always something new to see, no matter how often you visit.

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