We have spent our first week working on the wheel. It wasn’t a full week, it was mostly all half days. As we are starting from scratch, we are having to improvise with what we have. As we go along, it becomes obvious that we need better stools, a way to support pot boards next to the wheel, storage for dried pots before bisque, small pottery tools like ribs and turning tools. I knew all this, but couldn’t wait to get started while we made all these things. So we got stuck in with what we had at hand, just the bare minimum.
My students at the HazelHurst Arts Centre gave me a small collection of tools when I turned up to teach the Masterclass there in January. They knew I had been burnt out and thoughtfully had a set of basics there for me ready to go. I imagine that they all donated something to the set, but I have to thank my friend and past student Claudia in particular for organising everything for me. While I’m at it, I might just add that Claudia and her student Rochelle, together organised a ‘GoFundMe’ fund raising campaign for us and raised $60,000 very early on after the fire. This money got us through the first 4 months of clean-up, and allowed us to get stuck into the recovery effort without having to wait for the insurance company – who took 4 months to pay us, and argued the amount that they would pay for the whole time. So thanks to Claudia and Rochelle, we could afford to pay people with heavy machinery to come and do the clean-up and get us started. $60,000 sounds like a lot of money, and it is! It is over one years wages for us at that time, but it goes nowhere when you are talking heavy machinery and paid labour. You can pay over a thousand dollars a day for a machine and operator, so if you have two or three of them onsite, the money just evaporates.
We were very lucky to have an amazing friend in Ross, who loaned me his bobcat loader for 6 weeks, so I was able to do a lot of the work myself. In fact, we had almost finished our clean-up before others around us had even started, and we had our plans passed by Council and begun the site works for building the new pottery before the State Government organised clean-up team arrived in the Village. We were all done with cleaning by that stage, as it was half a year on.
So we have been so very lucky, we are blessed with good friends and resilient spirits. We are also so lucky that my fire protection sprinkler system worked so well under pressure. So I saved the house. I’m fully aware that there are others out there in the village who lost their homes are are still struggling. To them I send my best wishes!
I have to admit that I was a bit depressed after the fire, especially as this was the third time that we had been burnt out. I found that I was finding it hard to get up in the mornings, faced with such an enormously overwhelming task in front of me. Thankfully, my 2 best friends turned up as soon as the lock-down/curfew was lifted. Len Smith and then Warren Hogden and his partner Trudie turned up and spent the last of their Xmas holidays working here with us to get us started on the clean-up. I would have been months getting to that stage without their encouragement, inspiration and enthusiasm. Thank you! I thought that it would take me a year to rebuild, as that is how long it took me back in 1983/84, but I was so much younger then. It has taken us 20 months to get back to this stage so far, and I can’t see how I could have done it any quicker.
On a brighter note. It is one year now since we planted the new orchard and it’s grown well. The earliest varieties of fruit trees are already in flower and looking good. The orchard and the garden have really lifted my spirits.
The bees are working hard and the clover has taken well and established itself in the nutrient rich, charcoal and ash fortified top soil that we spent 45 years mulching with our compost.
So back in the pottery I made a wooden stool from firewood sticks. The seat slab ‘roundel’ already had a shrinkage crack in it from the seasoning out in the weather. It broke on the 3rd day and a big piece split out. I glued it back together and reinforced it with a long section of brass threaded boker bar. I think that it should last more than 3 days this time?
I also made 3 more stools, for the other older shimpos from other big bits of wooden slabs that survived the fire. Most of them were in the part of the barn that I saved, and so didn’t burn. Every stick of timber out side in the yard and other sheds all went up. There wasn’t anything left to burn on the ground. We are safe from another fire this summer in our blackened moonscape of a back yard. Some of the more resilient eucalypts have sprouted new branches from epicormic buds, and some others that were more severely affected and were killed, have shot from the lignotuber. Everything else is standing dead, just blackened trunks. However, it’s been a wet year and the new regrowth of wattles and grasses are turning the bush greener again.
I’m pleased that I was able to save the first stool with the idea of running a bolt through it. It’s just a fluke that I had the exact piece of brass threaded bar , complete with brass nuts and washes in the barn as well. As I’m not too sure if I’m allowed to go to the hardware shop at this time, or even if hardware shops are allowed to be open to buy one.
It’s nicely repaired now, and you can’t see the break.
I made a couple more with lumps of wood that I had in the barn.
Now we should have enough throwing stools to keep us going for some time!I had a text message exchange with a friend about the collective noun for a group of stools. He suggested a fool of stools. I thought that maybe a ‘bio-cycle’ of stools might do, or doos. Then he suggested an excrement of stools, which I though to be pretty appropriate, but maybe a butt of stools?
I have decided to make some mugs to get me started. Janine and I have decided to give everyone who turned up to help us a mug each as a thank you. That should keep me busy for a few weeks. I also decided to make a special series of 100 mugs marked with a large number ‘1’ to indicate that these are the first series of pots to be made in this pottery. The First Edition!
I stamped the ‘1′ on the left side of the handle, and then I stamped the number of the series from 1 to 100 on the right side.
This is definitely a one-off series. There will never be another ‘first edition’ of numbered mugs out of this pottery.