Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Thanks To Winifred West

A bit of background information for you. This weekend marked  the 100th anniversary since the visionary Winifred West set up Frensham school for girls in Mittagong ( She was headmistress there till 1941. Winie was aware of the significance of relationships between individuals and community, and the development of meaningful connections between the two. This philosophy, together with an appreciation of the value of arts and crafts for the holistic development and education of the girls, led to the start of Sturt Craft Centre (as it is now) where young people could develop specialised skills. She aimed to provide children and the community with additional resource and education in the areas of crafts, drama and music. In a nutshell, that vision led to the formation of workshops for wood, weaving, jewellery and ceramics as we know now. There's a real sense of history and creative significance here, far-reaching beyond the boundaries of New South Wales. I hope that original philosophy, in addition to individual academic achievement, continues to flourish.

This weekend also coincided with the opening of Adam Rish's exhibition  'Misanthropolgy' in the Sturt Gallery (www.adamrishcom). The unique Mr Rish and I will both be doing a talk at Sturt on April 23 at 5.30pm. I'm quite looking forward to it. As part of the residency, resident artists are required to this presentation to Friends of Sturt and supporters.

 I should mention there are also other artists on the Sturt site - they include Kay Faulkner, who is the resident weaver here (, and David Upfill-Brown, the resident woody,  as we say ( Kay and David are both here for a 1 year term, and oversee their workshop as well as teaching here,  and continuing their own practice. I'm certainly in good company. Wouldn't that be great to be here for a year! I feel like I'm just getting to everyone, and now with only 4 weeks to go, it feels like I'm on a countdown. But let's not talk about that right now...I'd also like to mention the lovely Julie Pennington who is also a resident potter here for 8 weeks (

Have to admit it's been quite hectic in the workshop this week as excitement grows as the anagama kiln is lit on Monday morning. It reached temperature Thursday morning. We all took a stint at stoking the kiln, with Simon and Alex at the helm. If I'm honest, my loyalties were split between the wood-firing and studio work, as I was just getting into the groove with  my new work, so felt a little disjointed. But it's always great to join in. The students loved it - their first taste of pyromania.

Wood preparation

Packing the kiln


I'll have some results for the next blog post. In the meantime, these pots came out of the electric kiln. As usual, I wasn't sure how I felt about them at first, but now I'm really pleased and excited by the results. I'll get some decent photos done of these. I like the way they hang together as a group, and lean slightly. I've been force drying the surface of the clay to create exaggerated cracks on the surface which the slips and glaze can then skim across. I've started making some larger versions (these are about 30cm high) and see where it leads.

Bush walk this week was in the Kangaroo Valley. This walk was on swampland and so the bush here is shorter and more open. Fantastic views of escarpments. Most of the path is on firetracks but we did do a spot of bushwacking on this prickly route. Never seen so many red bull ants.

Fitzroy Falls

Termite hill

On a recent walk on The Gib, I came across this fire precaution unit. You often see these trailers left on road sides for use in the event of bush fire. 

In fact, 2 weeks before I arrived, residents of Mittagong and Bowral were given catastrophic fire warning phone calls. This meant bush fire was a real threat and all residents were warned to leave their properties. It's a bit scary to think that fires can rage like trains through areas at 100km/hour and sparks can fly over 10km to set areas alight. The 2009 Victorian bushfires were the worst bushfires in Australia's history, and are often the topic of conversation when these threats are raised. I confess to having a couple of restless nights when I'd just arrived here. I'd heard frequent comments about Mittagong's catastrophic warning. I had no phone at the time and had visions of waking up one morning and wondering where everyone had gone to! Would anyone know I was still here? Hallo! Anyone at home? Conversations such as what would you take with you, were common - Alf said they'd leave wearing their best clothes; Geoff on the other hand said he'd be wearing only his scruffy clothes as he figured there'd be plenty of work to do if your house had burnt down. Graham said they'd just take relevant documents at hand. Not sure what I'd do. Can't imagine.

The spider's still here!


  1. Make sure that doesn't get into your suitcase! Has he got a name yet?

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  3. The landscapes are stunning - so many different contours!
    I do hope you can bring some of your pots home (but leave Hank where he is and I do hope that toothbrush isn't his!) so that we can see them in the flesh. They look really good as a group, yet each has its own character too. Get busy!
    Judy A.