Environmental fellowship

We have had a Danish potter staying with us for the past month. He won the Environmental Ceramics Fellowship for for 2016, but for both of us it was just too difficult to complete it last year, so we postponed to this year.

He is a potter from Denmark who is interested in sustainability and new ways of exploring how to make a living in this new digital age. He has his own web presence in Denmark where he markets Potters wheels, kilns and clay bodies, as well as making his own work. He is a digital native. Whereas, I am, on the other hand, a dig-it-all-native. Making everything myself from the ground up – and that is what he is here to learn.

We crushed porcelain stone in the big jaw crusher to make single-stone porcelain body. We made clay tests to investigate unknown clays. We worked in the gardens and orchards. Ate all our own produce. Cooked up some wonderful meals. Lauge is a great cook, so that helped. We went on a geology excursion to look at some of the local stone deposits. Harvested the shiraz grape crop and made dark grape juice from the grapes.

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All in all, the month flew by and it all went too fast, leaving so many things un-explored. A month just isn’t enough time to experience everything that we do here.

Janine and I are planning to do some volunteer aid work overseas soon. So we are working towards this by making clay tests out of the local clay that has been posted over to us to process. Our Guest lends a hand in everything that we do.

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We decide to go exploring and looking at a few rocks for making glazes. Then, to complete the true ‘Australian’ experience, we take him to the local micro-brewery and have a meat pie with tomato sauce, accompanied by a tray of the brewery’s sample beers for lunch. Fantastic! I haven’t eaten a meat pie since I was a kid, so it was an experience for me too!

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You have to look closely at the image of the analcime basanite deposit above to focus on the small figure in the foreground.

We cook and eat what is in season in the garden this autumn equinox. An autumn garden risotto, a fresh garden salad of shaved beetroot, cucumber, raddish, quince. Served with wasabi rocket, lettuce, beetroot tops, chilli and crunchy pan-roasted almonds.

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We also make an alternate version of okonomiaki, using some very firm, third pick, red cabbage, our own home grown eggs, garlic, chilli and shiso. Everything from the garden. Red cabbage is too slow to cook straight off as a cabbage pancake. So I pre-cook the cabbage to soften it down before I blend in the pancake mix and all the other ingredients. It’s not really a traditional Japanese okonomiaki. It’s an improvised Aussie OKA-nomiaka. Served with mayonnaise and Japanese okonomi sauce. Topped with bonito flakes and some Japanese pickled ginger.

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We finish the meal with fresh figs and soft white cheese. We do this desert a lot at this time of year while the figs are coming on. We try it with all manner of different soft cheeses. Boconcini isn’t the best, but you don’t know these things until you try them out. We’ve tried it with blue cheese, fetta and soft white goats cheese which was best.


Lauge helps me finish off the internal fittings for the 8 little dalek kilns. These are now  almost all delivered, leaving space for me to start welding up my 2nd kiln job of the year. There is just enough room to get both jobs in the factory at the same time, but it takes a little bit of planning and maneuvering to get everything into the tight space.

Now the shed is almost empty, with the big new frame gone off to be galvanised and all the little ones gone to good homes:)

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Writers Week

Janine and I managed to get all our work done and we spent last week at Writers Week. As always it was a thoroughly engaging time. So many great stories and discussions. 84 sessions to choose from, so many topics and so many books, so many writers. We find ourselves entertained, inspired, engaged, and challenged.

A thoroughly rewarding week out of the workshop and into the realm of ideas.

This year there was a lot of discussion about the death of the book, it cropped up again and again in different forms and forums, but that was the steady undercurrent this year. I’m not too worried. I believe that the book will survive in all its various forms for a long time to come. I’m sure that it will see me out.

I’m not digital native, so I still like to handle the thing in itself, to feel the weight, the smell and the texture of paper and ink. but then again, I’m very old-fashioned. I stubbornly insist on writing letters on nice paper with ink and a fountain pen. Sure its old-fashioned and out-dated, but so is making pots out of clay! Plastic replaced ceramics last century for all intents and purposes, but pots still persist as an art form and a better quality product. So that is how I see the book. Invoices have all graduated to electronic form, as have cheques and banking. Email has replaced most letters and fair enough. Electronic books are OK, but not for me. Not just yet anyway.

The book as an art form will persist for a very long time. I even attended a session on ‘The Book’. I even bought the book on ‘The Book’! and it’s a beautiful thing, as I also have his earlier book on some lesser known typographic characters.

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You can just imagine the Sumerians saying,  “I don’t get these Egyptians, I can’t see papyrus catching on. I just love the smell of clay, and the texture and weight of a good clay tablet!

Exterminate! Exterminate!

I walk down to the kiln factory and see a posse of Dalek like wood kilns all ready to surround me on their little wheels and steam punk chimneys. After all I am The Doctor!

My first job of the year is almost complete. These kilns are almost ready, just a few minor finishing touches and internal fit-out to do, then a sweep, clean and polish. I hope to have my tardis small sized workshop back to begin the next job.

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I have had one of my customers down to do the first firing of these new dual-fuel models. It went well. We fired to cone 10 down in 2 hours, with a temperature distribution of cone 8 to 10. All very good. We used 2/3 of a 9 kg BBQ bottle of gas. At $20 to $25 per bottle, depending on where you buy it. That’s a $16 firing to stoneware in reduction. I’m very happy with that.

A very nice little project


The kiln works out to be 130 litres volume with gas and 90 litres in wood fired mode.