Scratch builder Ghostcat
Mike Beer, a carpenter from Birmingham, discovered in the rubble of the Christchurch earthquakes, his place among the vibrant collective of urban artists. With a lack of scratch-builders in Canterbury, Mike found a niche he knew he could hack, and Ghostcat was born.
Shadow Town, Ghostcat’s first exhibition, was a hit. The “worst toilet in New Zealand” miniature sold first to a wealthy couple in Merivale.
When reflecting on his exhibition, Ghostcat says, “The response from the public blew my mind and the most wonderful thing about it was creating the nostalgia that connected with so many people that came through the gallery.”
Motivated by conversations he had at his first exhibition, Ghostcat is delving into Christchurch’s pre-quake history for two projects.
The first is an art trail titled Leave No Trace. Commissioned by Toi Ōtautahi, he is scratch-building parts of at least 12 vanished buildings; this could be a sign, a door, or a façade and installing them onto street poles at their original locations for everyone to find and enjoy, like a throw-back treasure hunt.
Also, he is putting major hours into his Boosted NZ project, Ghosts on Every Corner. Ghostcat is making 10 tiny masterpieces that resemble Christchurch buildings destroyed in the 2011 earthquake. Among them, the Atami Bath House and Smith’s Bookshop (pictured). Each piece takes around two months to complete and are crafted with astonishing detail, apt lighting, and mini props.
They make you want to shrink to the size of a Polly Pocket and explore.
Ghostcat plans to show this exhibition late 2024 alongside the book of the same name, penned by Dr Reuben Woods.
The book will incorporate photographs of these scratch-builds in their original location, the process of building them, striking stories about the buildings from locals, and information about the history of the original building. Once this project is completed, Ghostcat and Reuben will hold a book launch with all the artworks created on exhibition.
As Ghostcat, Mike is discovering that this project will represent a diverse range of Cantabrian voices and together tell a rich story.
“While the new Christchurch city is being built up all around us, it is important not to forget the city we had, we loved and we lived in.”
He’s still on the lookout for more stories, so if you have fascinating memories of lost buildings, get in touch via Instagram @ghostcat_mb.
Scratch building is the process of building a scale model “from scratch”, i.e. from raw materials, rather than building it from a commercial kit, or buying it pre-assembled.
Image: Mike Beer with a scratch building of the historic Canterbury Jockey Club