Friday, 22 March 2013


I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my glaze tests. I was very nervous before I opened the kiln. In fact I walked around the block twice, drank 3 cups of coffee and waited for 6 red cars to pass by the window before I dared open the kiln. 
Not bad. Quite pleased actually. BRT was the winner for me - textured and speckled, but a little dark if you're not careful. We also tried some tests in a reduction firing, but to be honest, it didn't really do it for me - too dark and shiny. But I'll give it a go with larger piece later on. (Maybe I'm just used to seeing how they look in oxidation.)

 I used BRT and white raku clay to build larger pots and had some lovely pots out midweek (electric). I'd be happy to put them in any show. WHAT A RELIEF! In fact, I'll repeat that. WHAT A RELIEF! They are now in the Sturt Gallery Shop. I know I was selected to do this residency, and I make some pretty good pots from time to time, but I still think it's reassuring for people to see the real thing, rather than just taking my word for it! Makes me feel better too.  Feel a little more secure now...for now. I can relax a bit, and get on with some new work. Or can I? I've only got 6 weeks to go!

 New developments are in the pipeline.....

Meanwhile...raku workshops with the Thursday groups with Simon. Simon Bowley's workshops continue to flourish. T.A.F.E. (technical and further education ) courses have closed recently, similar to our F.E. & H.E. courses. Madness and dilemma for students who have nowhere to go. How lucky they are that Sturt Craft Centre is here. 3 new 10 weeks classes have started in the last 4 weeks, ie throwing and handbuilding. They have 3 hours and then 3 hours extra access time in the studio. Great idea. I love ceramic students - you're never alone while they're around. For more info on courses, have a look:

This week also saw my attempts to upload videos. Think I'd better keep my day job. For some reason, I'm struggling to upload my videos onto this blog. So if you want to see them, take a look at my Facebook business page, ie www.facebook/ Internet access is very slow here, and often cuts out, so I'm afraid I'll have to continue with videos on FB for the time being.

I had a fantastic bush walk this week. (Remind me to tell you about them another time. I found a local bushwalking group who go walking on Tuesdays, so Tuesday is the new Sunday!) We did the Manly Coastal Walk from Sydney. It was spectacular. You just can't beat the sand and blue/green sea, the smell of salt water, waves lapping....well, I'll only make you jealous if I carry on....It was a luxury just to paddle in shallow waters without getting hot aches. (For those of you who don't know, hot aches is what we call the searing pain which shoots up your legs when you paddle in the cold North Sea, a common complaint with Skeggy tourists). We started from Spit Bridge. This walk gave me a whole new perspective of Sydney, away from the high rise, and traffic. Amazing views of the harbour, yet in bushland at the same time.

Most of my companions at some stage had lived in Sydney many years ago, and had fascinating stories to tell. They moved to the Southern Highlands to escape the traffic and humidity of Sydney. I've been to Sydney several times before and never guessed there was such a beautiful walk at its side. If you ever go, make sure you do it. It's a gem!

I've got a lot of photos of this trip, so think I'll put them on my Facebook page, ie rachelwoodceramics. They include aborigine carvings. Beautiful gentle plants in such a harsh environment. We caught the ferry back from Manly (magic), then train back to Mittagong. Those bushwalks are my lifeline - they set me up for the week.

More good news. I've got wheels. Will save on shoe leather, but tricky uphill with flipflops.

I had a health scare last night...

...THE BIGGEST SPIDER I've ever seen in my bedroom last night. I didn't want to kill it, so went for a glass and paper to throw it outside. But its leg span was wider than the diameter of an Ikea cafetiere! It sped and hid behind the mirror. Apparently they can jump too. And I can believe it. I'm sure it gave me deadeye! So I slept with the bed in the middle of the room, with my socks on! I have it on authority that it was only a Huntsman and harmless!

Crikey... it's bedtime. Wonder where it is now...

Friday, 15 March 2013

The Gib

I had a visit today from Australian potter, Peter Wilson. Peter is based in Bathurst, NSW, and specialises in crystalline glaze as well as being head of creative arts at Charles Sturt University. Great to see him. I met Peter when he was a 'resi' at Rufford Craft Centre, Nottinghamshire, a few years ago ( I was working there at the time delivering outreach projects. (A great place to work as you got to know all the resident potters who came from all over the country and the world. Hopefully they may start again some time.)

Anyway, a keen and fit cyclist at the time, I used to take him out on the mountain bike around the Sherwood Forest area on beautiful golden summer evenings. I think he came here to get his own back!

However, still keen, but no longer fit (me, that is), we went for a walk instead. So I took him up Mount Gibraltar, locally known as Mount Gib. The Gib is the highest point between Sydney and Canberra, and Mittagong nestles at its feet. Mittagong actually means 'rocky hill' in aboriginal language. It is the spiritual home of the Gundungurra People (known as mountain people) where lies a plaque:

Burringilling ngununggula
(People of the Dreamtime belonging to here.)
Mittagong was originally called 'New Sheffield' due to the promise of the industrial future for the Southern Highlands in the form of the Fitzroy Iron Mining Company. So Mittagong is the site of the first iron ore quarry in Australia - its remains now lie under the car park of Big W and Woolworths. In the nineteenth century, people used to escape the heat of Sydney and come to what was known as the sanatorium of the Southern Highlands, a place where the wealthy could avoid the humidity and heat of Sydney. That still applies. Bowral, a neighbouring town, is home to many Sydney professionals, as well as a popular tourist attraction in the summer, reknowned for its natural beauty, flora and fauna.

The Gib was quarried over 100 years for its microsyenite, a particular type of trachyte unique to this mountain. Apparently, the only other place you'll find it is Moscow, so my sources tell me. The mine is now closed and The Gib is now being developed as a heritage site under the careful TLC of the bush care group which has been working hard for the past 20 years to restore its original flora and fauna. A mammoth task is weeding it!!!! ie pulling out all the ivy, and non-native plants/trees to bring it back to its natural bush state. I've been lucky enough to meet 'Geoff Gibb' through the bushwalking group, and thanks to him I've developed quite a fondness for The Gib. In fact, thinking about it, it's thanks to Geoff that I nearly trod on that copperhead snake as he was telling me to look up at the quarry!  Here he is, the main man, and some more photos of The Gib for you taken on this morning's walk...

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Photos of Byron Bay

View from Byron Bay lighthouse

Surfing dudes at Byron Bay

Path up to lighthouse

Robin & Ruby

Aborigine watering hole

The R.W. Factor

I think you may know that Robin Welch has been a great influence on my work in the last few years.

I think you may also know that Robin and his family worked and lived in Australia in the 1960's & 70's and he continues to draw inspiration from this massive continent. Rousing, rich and stirring work that raises my heartbeat each time I see it.

What are the chances of us all being in Australia at the same time? Pretty slim I would say. But we are! Perfect timing. His daughter, Samantha, kindly invited me up to visit the family home in Byron Bay where Jenny and Robin have been staying for the last few months. It was great to see them all and have a Welch fix. How lovely to go paddling in the sea without getting hot aches!

I feel very privilieged to have known Robin and Jenny these last few years, and value so much their support and friendship. Thank you. Samantha is also a very gifted lady, and runs her own sculpture school from Myocum. Take a look.

Curiously enough, Les Blakeborough, creator of Southern Ice porcelain, and former Director at Sturt, paid a visit to Sturt workshops last week in preparation for his exhibition next year. He was chatting about his days at Sturt as an apprenctice to Ivan McMeekin, a great advocate of the Leach philosophy. Lo and behold, one day later, Robin tells me he knew Les, and that he built a kiln with Les at Sturt in the 60's. Such a coincidence!

Here are some photos from the weekend.