Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Kilns and Cranes

I have been on quite an adventure over the last couple of weeks.
In fact I think I am on the start of a very exciting new journey.

It was brought to my attention that Peter Rushforth's
big old gas kiln was needing a new home.

I have wanted a gas kiln for ever!

I chose to put an electric kiln into my studio when it was built
as my studio sits close to the fence line and to our neighbours house
so I didn't want to be making smoke that would be encroaching on their lives.
However having any sort of kiln in the studio was a bit of a mistake
and it really should have had a shed of its own elsewhere.
Never mind, it is a great kiln and I am very glad I have it.

BUT….. a BIG GAS KILN has been a dream that I thought
I would never be able to make come true.

Not really thinking that anything would come of it
I contacted the Rushforth family
and arranged to go and have a look.
There is no harm in having a look, is there?
I suspected that it would be very difficult to move if not impossible
I also understood that it was very old and well used which would,
potentially, make its moving to my studio which is situated
down a narrow sloping driveway, most impractical.

Here is what I found.

               A big one like this.

and a smaller one like this.

Both were looking as though they had worked 
very hard for their productive master.

Peter insisted on taking me himself 
to have a look at them so that he could tell me about them.
He said the big one is the best. 
"Steve Harrison built it, he will tell you about it.
But you can't move it. It is too big."

However the new owners were 
keen for the kilns to be removed.

The two kilns were located 
in a little shed made of stone 
and recycled lead light windows.
The roof rafters were lower than the 
big kiln which sat between them.
This shed looked as though it had 
been built around the kilns.
The smaller one would have to be moved 
in order to get to the bigger one.

This move looked near impossible!
It seemed Peter may be right, 
too big and awkward to move .

I started by calling a removalist 
who I had used many times before.
He said he had moved several kilns before 
and felt confident that he could do it and
he would charge me the same to 
move two kilns as for one.

Unsure on how sensible it really was 
to move either or both of these old kilns,
I called on the thoughts of various friends. 
'was this madness trying to persevere
with a relocation?
Was it worth the effort for a very old kiln?
Would it be very costly to get it working again?'
The opinions were equally for and against.

So I asked the removalist to come 
and have a look in person.
If he couldn't do it then
 it would be decided for me.
He said,
"Sorry, this would need a crane. 
Two of us can move a grand piano 
but we can't even move this a centimetre"
We agreed that the roof of the shed 
would need to be removed 
in order to lift the kiln out with a crane.

It was looking grim.

I went home and picked up a phone book 
to see if I could find a crane service in the Blue Mountains
I felt sure that the quote would 
be so huge that it would be ridiculous to go ahead with it.
But before I could open the book 
the caretaker of the Rushforth property, Phillip Hay
called me to say that a rigger friend had just come around 
and he thought he may be able to organise it for me.

It seemed to have found it's own momentum.
This kiln seemed to have decided
 that it was going to be mine!

Excitement and terror took hold of me.
I spoke to Mick, the rigger, who had started 
dismantling the roof as we spoke.
He gave me numbers for crane people 
who he had worked for.

I asked the crane guys to come and check out our driveway 
which I thought may also decide that it was not possible.
But when he arrived with his ginormous crane he said, 
"aw yeah, we could do that ;)
Just trim off these branches and she'll be right."

It was all happening!

I collected all the kiln paraphernalia
loading my car to brim full and HEAVY!

I cleaned out the kiln a little and
that was when I started to have that feeling 
that I really was VERY excited 
that this old gal was coming to stay with me.

Phillip Hay built a fine wooden structure
inside the kiln to keep it secure in its travel…
for which I can not say thank you enough.


                                             The roof was  removed and ready for the crane


                                                          The smaller kiln had fallen to pieces when
                                                           moved and was taken to the tip.

                Our next job was to make a spot 
             (a granny flat)
                    for this big ol' gal to be put to bed 
                         in 'Lilli Pilli Studio'.

                    That's the trouble with projects like this….
        one job leads to another!

We cut down branches to allow access for the crane.

We dug out a thicket of bamboo

                                                                 put down road base

                                                                                    and pavers

                                                              (We are not the best at this kind of thing.)

                                                                                       All in two days!
                                                                     Exhausted but proud of ourselves
                                                                        Not perfect but it was looking OK.

                                                                                Today the crane arrived


                                                              The truck couldn't fit down our driveway
                                                             so the crane had to carry it down slowly
                                                            and gently swinging it under our trees.



                                                     Until it was in place!
                                                    Nothing broken or even bruised,
                                                    a perfect landing.

It will be a little while before she is working
I will need to save up for a roof, 
clean up the burners
 and then get the gas connected.
It all takes time and money
 to get projects like these completed.

But this is a great start!

For the moment she is wrapped safely 
in a heavy duty tarp. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Where Is The Grass Greener?

It is a funny thing how the mind works.
In the western society that I live in there is generally a
constant need in people to have what others have, even if it is not needed.
A pool.
A bigger house.
A better car.
A trip overseas.
New clothes.
The advertising agencies latch on to this element  of  desire 
and work at increasing peoples lust for things, 
making them believe that life would be better with more stuff
perhaps even unthinkable to be without it.

I try to stay mindful of this mind set, 
although I have caught myself getting hooked into it at times.
Mostly I just long for the simple life…
making art, gardening and enjoying grand children.


A few  weeks ago Peter Rushforths property went on the market.


I adore this man/potter , his wife and their life style .
My first thought was how sad that he had been forced to move from 
his little haven and how I wished I had been to visit him more.

Then the thought of who would buy this very special place 
and would they appreiciate what it was and had been?

A passion to contemplate moveing swept over me, 
driven by a desire to absorb the wonders of the peaceful 
and artistic life he had made for himself in the upper mountains.
Think of the kilns and the studio and the gallery space!

It was great to go and pay homage to 
this place of deep creativity and the simple life of a master craftsman.

I said my farewells to what it had been for so many years 
but I also knew that it was not my place.

I put my desires away and embraced my own life again.
My daughter looked at our flowering cherry and said
"that tree is my childhood"

Looking around I reminded myself 
of my mums ashes are under a magnolia 
that flowered for the first time this year.
The orchids from her garden are starting to look like 
they are at home and would never grow further up the mountains.
My dads ashes under the roses need my attention.
Here my husband can walk to work,
the kids can easily catch the train home
and my grandchildren love to play at our house.

I love my studio.

I am happy here and I plan to enjoy my own green grass.

(…..but a wood fired kiln does still lurk in my secret desire pocket….)

It seems to me that we can't be the people we admire. 
I think it is best to rejoice in having known them,
be inspired by them, then get on with being ourselves.

I had the same sence when my mum died.
She had spent so many hours in her garden 
it was her life and it was so hard to sell it 
to someone who may just pull it all up and put down a lawn.

(Which they did!)

But then I realised that a home is a very individual environment 
and it grows into the shape of its owner, 
somewhat like a pot shows the marks of its maker. 
The process of making that space is the important thing.
TheTHING itself is just the outcome 
and will change with who ever lives there.

So I have planted another cherry tree 
and continue to plan for a wood kiln.

Monday, 8 September 2014

An ever changing life.

                                           It has been an eventful few weeks since my last post.
                                           Spring is here and the garden is starting to bloom although 
                                           the rain has been relentless and the garden is saturated 
                                         and leaks that we thought had been repaired have been 
                                          revealed and repaired again. 

                                         Not much of my personal work has happened in the studio.
                                         We were a bit run down after all the excitement 
                                         of the open studio in mid August so it was not surprising
                                         to find ourselves down with bad colds and therefore
                                         unable to do much other than socialise with blankets, tissues
                                         and hot lemon drinks for a couple of weeks. 
                                          We are more or less back in gear now.
                                          I have started teaching beginners pottery classes, 
                                          here at Lilli Pilli Studio, two days a week 
                                          which I am thoroughly enjoying.
                                          It is a squeeze to fit students and their work into 
                                           my little studio, so I am only taking two per class. 
                                           It is very nice.
                                           Though a bit of a work in progress trying to 
                                            work out how to share my creative space with other 
                                            creative people.

                                            I have submitted a large bottle into 
                                            the Port Hacking Potters 48th National Competition
                                            and Exhibition which will run from 
                                            20th September -1st October 
                                            at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery.


                                            Our big news for this week is 
                                            the birth of our new little grand son.
                                            A perfect little compact bundle of joy.
                                            My fourth grand child. 
                                            Just wonderful.


So thats about it from us.
Keep your hands making 
and your heart giving :)

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Dreams and Farewells

The last few months have been a time for
hard work and organisation.
With the Australian Ceramics Open Studio
on the horizon, I have been in a machine like state
cleaning up, making and planning.
I am guilty of never feeling ready for such an event
and I never feel as though my work is good enough.

I decided to move my textiles down to a room in the house
which has proved to be a far more functional place for sewing.
The kiln was sending my needles and pins rusty
and I simply needed more space for pottery making.

The move allowed space in the studio as a
temporary show room for displaying my work
in my first ever 'Open Studio'.
The garden also received a face lift.

Last weekend it all happened
We had around 100 visitors to 'Lilli Pilli Studio'
and I had close to a sell out of work and the rain ….
well it kind of held off during the day
then it was wet on Saturday evening
and a drizzle on the Sunday

Thank you to all who came.
It was lovely to catch up with old and new friends
from the many walks of life I have had over the years.
Performance friends, textile friends, neighbours,
people connected with my children and my wonderful family.

My sister, Karin, was down from Wilcannia
for the week leading up to it so we had a
last minute raku day together.

It was a great boon to have her professional
and experienced advice in the setup of all the work.
Then to be able to share the Blue Mountains Community
friendship with her over the run of the Open Studio weekend.

It was not only my work on show.
I had hung my some of my brother Chris's photos in the studio.
Karin also had some of her work on display
and we had the book that she and the Western Heritage Group
have just had published for sale, 'Yamakarra'.
There was also my brother Mike's recent book on
Kimberley Rock Art 
and my daughter in-law, Suse,
also had her 'Special Tea' for sale.

It was a family affair, as usual,
I just can't get enough of my wonderful mob.

My 2 year old grand daughter Lillie 
helped me to set up the "CLAY PLAY" table
for aspiring creators.
Here,visitors were invited to 
get their hands into the mud
and see what they could make
either hand building or throwing.

If they made something they loved
I would fire it (for a small fee).

and YES I now have a shelf of creations to fire.

I also did demonstrations

It was great to see my 32 year old son have a go on the wheel 
for the first time and create a pot first go!
It must be in the blood :)

To  my surprise there was quite a few requests for classes
over the weekend and so, with some of the proceeds
from selling my work, I have purchased a new wheel
and I am getting another old one serviced and repaired.
That will give me three wheels in the studio.

I have started beginners pottery classes
on Monday and Wednesday mornings.

I don't have I lot of space in my little studio for students.
It is a castle for me but the space is limited when more
people are sharing it creatively, three students per class is my limit.

I was utterly exhausted on the Monday
when I received the sad news that my
 mentor /friend /2nd mum , Margaret Tuckson,
 had passed away on the Saturday.
 I wept buckets of tears.

I had seen her earlier in the year at an exhibition
she had had of her art collection.
The exhibition was good but I loved it in her house much more.
My parting words to her were
"I will come and visit soon"
but life got the better of me,
as is often the way with my busy family life,
and I didn't see her.
I miss her already .
Below are some of the photos my brother,
Chris Donaldson,
took of her in her house at the end of last year
when I took him to visit her.

On that visit, Margarets' dear friend, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott,
had just died and we drank tea from her mugs and
talked about what an amazing potter she had been.
I can't believe I won't be able to call in on her anymore.

                                           There is one of my raku pots on her dresser.
                                            She bought at our last exhibition.
                                           She was so supportive of our shows
                                           she came three times to the 2012 one
                                           and it was not easy for her to get around at 90!

People ask me what influences my ceramics 
and I have to say that Margaret's New Guinea pot and art collection 
had a profound effect on me.
She was writing her book and collecting pots 
at the time that I was her student.
I started with her at 15 and then left school at 16 
to do more classes with her and I continued until I was 18.
She was HUGE in my life 
though I don't think she ever realised it.

I had told Margaret that my dream was to be like her.
To teach and inspire people from my home studio
just as she had done for me when I was a teenager.
She informed my attitude to art and life.

As the request for classes came on the same day
as Margaret's passing,
I feel it is time for me to embrace teaching once again.
I can only dream of being like Margaret
but even if my classes are small it will be great to
share the love of clay.