An Inside Look at Blair Sommerville’s Lost Gypsy Gallery in Papatowai, New Zealand

A few weeks ago I brushed over the Lost Gypsy Gallery when I posted about all the strange and silly sites in New Zealand, but when I came across this Vimeo documentary on Blair Sommerville, the owner of the caravan and an ‘inventor of sorts’, I knew I had to dedicate a post to how mesmerizing it really is.

The Lost Gypsy Gallery - Papatowai, New Zealand - Roamaholic

This remote area of New Zealand attracts visitors in hoards of campervans, buses and cars driving the ‘Southern Scenic Route’, made famous for its abundance of hikes, waterfalls, long sandy beaches and spectacular scenery. Despite the cold, wet weather, Blair made his home in rural Papatowai, with only one convenience store, the town’s main source of visitors come to see the Cathedral Caves, a main attraction on the road trip.  Shortly past the caves is where Blair can be found, in his green gypsy caravan, building his collection since 1999.

The Lost Gypsy Gallery sign - Papatowai, New Zealand - Roamaholic

He describes himself as an inventor of rustic automata, an organic mechanic and a tinkerer. He collects recycled materials and natural found objects and re-purposes them into contraptions, doohickeys, kinetic sculptures, and ‘fine acts of junk‘. His designs reflect a childlike sense of humour mixed with artistic genius; his inventions come alive, are interactive and are pure, fun,  entertainment.

Parent supervision required - Lost Gypsy Gallery - Roamaholic

The entrance to the main caravan is by donation; it’s small but can keep one captivated for hours with the seemingly endless amount of things to look at and play with. Outside the caravan, for a five dollar fee, you can enter the ‘theater of sorts’ where the largest and most intricate designs live.

He spends the winter months collecting, designing and building new pieces for his collection and is only open November to April, 10am – 5pm, closed on Wednesdays. You can find him off the main road, past the Cathedral Caves.

Temptations at the Lost Gypsy Gallery - Papatowai, New Zealand - Roamaholic

The fascinating part about Blair to me, is his remote isolation from the world, yet his artistic inspiration is so apparently abundant. He realized early on that he doesn’t need a lot to live; material possessions and money are not factors that play into his happiness, creativity, and well-being.

I think that as travelers we can relate to his simplistic lifestyle. We don’t need a lot of money or possessions, we seek inspiration in our surroundings and use the planet as our canvas. Art and entertainment needn’t be expensive, sometimes the most fascinating and wonderful things come from the most peculiar places—we are rich in experiences and possess knowledge more valuable than physical goods.

Curious? Check out the ‘Lost & Found’ documentary short for an inside look at the genius behind the Lost Gypsy Gallery:

Lost & Found from Joey Bania on Vimeo.


Inside the Lost Gypsy Gallery - Papatowai, New Zealand - Roamaholic

Finger Plucker at the Lost Gypsy Gallery - Papatowai, New Zealand - Roamaholic

Dual tea steeper at the Lost Gypsy Gallery - Papatowai, New Zealand - Roamaholic

Map at the Lost Gypsy Gallery - Papatowai, New Zealand - Roamaholic

Have you ever seen anything like this? I’d love to hear about it, I’m always on the lookout for fun and fascinating attractions!


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Photos: studio tdes, seth mazow

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