A spinning Curtin Mayfield record booms in the foyer, as Michael Lelliot dawdles between portraits of Hells Angel bikers, religious icons and bottles of rum. Mike, as his mates know him, has a way of making chaos feel natural.
“Should we take the Rolls Royce out drifting?” smiles Mike. A contagious larrikin, Mike has the figure of an NBA star, wears stick-n-poke tattoos and maintains a bushranger’s swagger.
But why did Mike and his wife Kath decide to leave the cultural fireworks of Fitzroy for horses, Great Danes and a grumpy black cat?
“We decided we didn’t want to be in the city for another 20 years and become old Fitzroy people. I needed space and change..and horses,” his laugh has everyone on his side. “When I got here, my mind started ticking over and I started having thoughts like ‘what can I grow?’ Because you begin to notice things that matter, like the shifting colours of the seasons. In the city everything feels monotone.”
Just like his attitude, Mike’s career has no dull moments. He was instrumental in establishing brands like Knog, Crumpler and most recently Saint; where he helped construct and design the world’s strongest denim for motorcycle bandits and all-round knockabouts.
“At the time I was working on a fashion label called Saint, taking it from an idea to a reality. I feel more free here, creatively. I take whatever creative energy I have and apply it wherever I want to apply it. There’s no rules,” he points to a semi-constructed glasshouse, with tree trunks as structural posts. “I’m going to decorate it with nude sculptures then I’m going to illuminate them—with lights that glow from inside the sculpture.”
A champion of the old-school, Mike rolls around the Daylesford area in a beat-up Ford F250 pick-up truck, but his heart throttles in the garage; a heaving 1984 Harley Davidson Shovelhead. “I don’t think you’re ever alone when you’re on a motorcycle because you’re surrounded by all the elements; the air, riding across paddocks, the mountains, the trees, the smell of the road. You’re never alone. You’re fully present in the moment.”
Mike prefers to unwind with a motorcycle run that begins at Red Beard Bakery in Trentham, winds through Daylesford where he skulls a beer at The Farmers Arms, before drifting by the waterfalls back home to Sailors Falls.
Mike is a born-and-bred Melbourne boy who oozes creativity and Steve McQueen inspired cool. Having studied fine art at the Victorian College of the Arts, Mike weaves his painter’s intuition into commercial branding strategies - as long as it upholds his life’s mission; “to make beautiful things.”
“The creative epicentre is no longer in city spaces. It’s all over. Sometimes in the most obscure places. It’s about finding what’s going to push your boundaries.”
Mike’s farm backs out onto the Wombat State Forest, where he cultivates his artful energy. “The first time I went out into the forest on my own...it was so full of life; transitions, changes, different plants coming up at different times of the year, different animals,” Mike speaks with effortless soul, “You learn out here, that there’s a beginning and an end. And that’s ok. It happens with animals, it happens with plants, it happens with us. It inspires me to be more present in every moment.” Mike looks out onto his lake, before gathering his thoughts, “I wanted to push to the extremes, what it meant to be natural...what it means to be pure.”
As well as a forthcoming art exhibition at Bromley’s gallery, these days, Mike has distilled his spirit and surroundings into a new venture—Saint Sparkling.
“You get pretty obsessed with water out here; the presence of it, whether it’s not present, how much is flowing under us.” The new range of flavoured sparkling water is locally inspired, “I’ve been thinking about my surroundings. The way fruit and herbs grow. How I can use them. The way my wife cooks and preserves.”
By the veggie garden where the family’s seeds grow, you can hear the idling Chopper in the garage. Look out, and the horses gallop with their Great Danes across a field toward the lake. The collage of a shovelhead motor with splashes of rain across the rising lake— illustrates what Mike has found on the tracks out here, articulated in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; “If the machine produces tranquillity it's right. If it disturbs you it's wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.” It’s among these elements, natural and man-made, that Mike finds equilibrium.
Saint Sparkling Water - saintsparkling.com