31 January 2013

Art, food and freedom

Only one more sleep

This time tomorrow I will be back in Hobart thinking about returning to work. As usual, there suddenly seem to be a lot of things I didn't get round to doing. But I did manage a couple of little jobs today.

Grazing in Grassy

Liz Butcher is a talented artist who works in many different mediums; I particularly like her felt paintings. She is currently engaged with a far more ambitious project - a mosaic mural for the side of the Grassy supermarket.
just the wall for a mural
It consists of 288 individual thirty centimeter square tiles. Each is being painted with a different image and when assembled they will create a complete picture.

I painted two for her and delivered them to Grassy this afternoon. I could have left them here for her to collect, but I had an ulterior motive. 

Marie and her Corner Store
You see, Grassy's most incredibly well-kept secret is right there at Marie's Corner Store. The supermarket might lack the ambience of more trendy establishments, but Marie's home-made pies and pasties are definitely worth the drive. 

curried beef pie for tea - yum!

And she sells Liz's gourmet ice-cream which defies description, and didn't last long enough for me to photograph it. Forget the cheese factory – go to Grassy!

Restaurant with no food

If Marie's Corner Store has super food in a functional setting, Caroline's Boathouse Restaurant in Currie goes to the opposite extreme.

originally the lighthouse keeper's boathouse; now a totally silly

Currie is proud of the Boathouse – the "Restaurant with no Food". At any time of the day you might encounter a family who have brought a picnic, a couple enjoying the view, a gentleman reading the daily paper. They can stay as long as they like; there are no signs saying "tables for customers only". There is no pressure to order another latte or more scones and cream. In fact, there is no pressure to do anything at all because there are no waiters and no food to be served.

Caroline's pottery studio
The proprietor, Caroline Kininmonth, is one of King Island's Colourful Characters, with emphasis on "colour". She has a brightly painted studio in Wharf Rd and the equally brightly painted Lollypop Gallery in Main St as well as holiday cottages and no doubt other tourist-related businesses around the island.

She does very nice pottery and bright, competent acrylic paintings, just the thing for tourist souvenirs.

The Gallery and the Boathouse are crammed with kelp baskets, craypots, fishing nets and floats, driftwood, seashells, bric-a-brac and bird nests; bright, skillful sketches and paintings of the island cover the walls. The atmosphere is inviting and amusing, and the real hook is that they are open to the public but there is nobody in attendance. Should you wish to buy something, there are price tags and an honesty box. You take what you want and leave the money in the tin.

The Restaurant with no food
The Boathouse is equipped with barbecue, crockery, and utensils. Tables are laid with bright cloths, glasses and cutlery. Anyone who likes can bring their own food and make use of the facilities. It can be booked for special occasions. There is a box for donations towards upkeep.

garden at the Boathouse
People appreciate and respect this arrangement.
The community is small enough so anyone who misbehaves is soon found out; cars and houses are seldom locked. Islanders are open and friendly. Everyone talks to strangers (admittedly, strangers are usually tourists or itinerant workers bringing money to the island) and the people I have met all have very lively social lives.

They value the feedom of their casual existence extremely highly.

Et in Arcadia Ego

The vandals who set fishing boats adrift last Saturday night did more than wreck a half-million dollar boat and force a popular and well-respected family to give up their livelihood. A unique and important feature of island life is lost.

Security fences are to be erected at the harbour; no more strolling down to talk to the fishermen, drop a line off the end of the jetty or just admire the view.

Insurance companies have spoken. Despite their best efforts, King Islanders are being dragged kicking and screaming to face some of the unpleasant realities of twenty-first century life.

29 January 2013

On the Rocks - part 2

Currie Harbour with fishing boats in the right places

Up bright and early to hurry along the beach and inspect progress. And take photographs, of course.
Currie Harbour with fishing boat in the wrong place
There wasn't anyone about until we reached the top of the dunes where we encountered a police officer, two photographers and an emergency services person, all of whom were unnecessarily startled to see us. “How did you get here?” asked the police officer. “walked along the beach” we said. They all seemed nonplussed. Nobody walks here – they get in their cars outside the supermarket to go to the bank next door or the bakery directly across the road. However, the police officer recovered quickly from his shock and told us to go away. He didn't see any reason to stop me taking a photograph first, so I did.

The ruination of some perfectly good rocks (see previous post
for the "before" pictures)
Then we strolled obediently back along the beach to get on with the day's activities.

After lunch the person with whom I had spent a pleasant morning at Millers Bay came with me to see how things were getting on.

There were cars and spectators all over the place, and this time when we reached the top of the dunes we found quite a group of people, including the owner of the boat – the nice lady from the newsagency. She told us four fishing boats had been set free from the jetty. One had one of its lines still in place so was found at right angles to the jetty, but undamaged. Two had fouled their lines, which tangled around each other and they were also retrieved safely. And theirs was blown onto the rocks. Her son worked on their boat, which had been on the slips for maintenance for the last week and only just gone back into the water.

just about ready to move

the cables tighten - everybody - he-e-eave!

We watched until the boat was secured safely above the high-tide mark. Now it has to wait for insurance inspections, so it will probably be sitting there for a few days yet.

This time the police officer I talked to asked whether I had seen anything suspicious on Saturday night. I had to admit I hadn't; I was working on the computer with the blinds drawn. "We've noticed you work late" he said "the light's often still on about two in the morning." It's nice to know the constabulary is keeping an eye on me.

The ABC's report on it all

28 January 2013

On the Rocks

There is never a dull moment here! I woke early this morning to much traffic noise as an unusual number of vehicles assembled at the wharf but, being a polite person, I merely assumed it was none of my business and went back to sleep. When I did eventually emerge, however, I discovered great consternation and many conflicting rumours.

Boats had been loosed from their moorings overnight. Five, or three, or . . . two or three had been recovered; one or two had not. Boat owners were rushing to secure their dinghies. They were getting them out of the water and taking them home so nobody could get out to the fishing boats moored further out. I could verify none of this. What was quite certain, however, was that  a fishing boat, which the previous evening had been tied up at the jetty, was now stuck securely on the rocks close to Devil's Gap.

It didn't look too bad to a landlubber like me, but I'm sure those rocks weren't doing it any good. As I walked back along the beach a new rumour was circulating among the sunbathers – the boat was a complete write-off. It was taking on water faster than it could be pumped out and all they could do was cut it up. As the very polite young policeman who chased me away when I got too close had told me they were about to close off the area because they were bringing in heavy equipment, I hoped this rumour, at least, was unfounded.

And they did indeed bring in heavy equipment. 

Later, I walked out onto the breakwater to see how they were getting on. They had graded a track down to the foreshore and were busy with a couple of excavators. 

First thing tomorrow morning I shall take my morning stroll along the beach and inspect progress. It could keep me amused for several days. It is very strange being able to watch a salvage operation, albeit at some distance, while sitting at the table eating one's dinner.

Seriously, however, it is extremely distressing for the local community. This just isn’t the sort of behaviour expected on King Island where people seldom bother locking their houses, and leave their cars parked at the airport unlocked, with the keys under the mat, while they fly off to the Mainland for a few days.

This is the photo posted by the local newspaper – plus comments.

Meanwhile, here are some nice photographs I took of the harbour at evening while I was out there on the breakwater.

24 January 2013

Monster From the Deep

A pleasant excursion turns unexpectedly into a desperate battle with a deadly monster . . .

It was fine and sunny, so after lunch the three chums decided to motor to Stokes Point to paddle in the ocean and look at the lighthouse.

They paused along the way to admire rolling fields and picturesque lakes.

As they approached the southernmost point of the island, the road wound through mysterious sand hills. "What wonderful scenery!" Elizabeth exclaimed, trying yet again to get a good snapshot from a moving vehicle.

Further along the coast they were enchanted by a flock of small grey bushes grazing placidly by the roadside.

Most galloped away as the motor approached,

but one old bull stood his ground. The chums decided not to linger and they drove quickly by.

Suddenly Mary cried "Oh! What is that?" Off in the distance they saw a red and alien shape lurking among the rocks.

"Oh! no! I do believe it is a Net!"
At that moment two more friends drove up.
"Let us drag it in so that it will not be washed out to sea again when the tide comes in." they suggested. "Ghost nets roam the ocean and entangle innocent sea creatures. We must not let this one escape!"
Everyone agreed this was a matter of life and death and they must do whatever they could to defeat the monster.

 Excitedly, the chums scrambled over the rocks to inspect the Net.

"We'll drag it up there." Alison decided. "That should be far enough."

They tugged and tugged, but the Net refused to budge. It was far too big and heavy to move.
"We'll have to cut it up" Tim declared. "Has anyone brought a knife?"
Everybody searched their pockets, but nobody could find anything useful. For a moment they feared they would have to give up, but then Alison remembered she had some scissors in her car and hurried off to fetch them.

The scissors did the trick, but it was slow and tedious work cutting through the tangled strands of Net.

Elizabeth took her turn with the scissors

then she wandered off to take snapshots of rock pools and interesting boulders. There was so much to look at!

They all helped drag pieces of Net to higher ground. Even after it was dismembered the Net fought back. It was heavy and awkward, and inclined to catch hold of rocks, but the chums persisted and eventually they were satisfied it would never again return to the water.

"We can pull it right up to the road and take it away tomorrow." Tim said. Everyone felt very pleased with themselves. They waved goodbye to Tim and his mother and resumed their excursion.

Alison had a little paddle.

Elizabeth took a nice snapshot of the lighthouse.

Then they all went home for tea.
Next morning Tim took a big knife and went back to the foreshore. He cut the dried up monster into little pieces and took them away to the tip. The man at the tip said "you should get a medal for this. Or at least a photograph in the paper". "No" Tim replied modestly, "I would rather not have any publicity."

22 January 2013

Firing in the Garden

I have been initiated

Rising from the flames – my pot!
My first-ever raku glaze emerges from a bin
of burning wood shavings.

Today I was introduced to the alchemy of glazing and firing and other arcane mysteries of The Potter.

I'm sure this is a vast and complex field of study and I  don't know very much about it, so I'll just show you my photographs and the knowledgeable potters among you can snort at my ignorance when I give something an inappropriate caption, make some particularly glaring error in terminology or say something totally stupid.

Feel free to comment and correct as required!

Pots and Pizza 

This firing was the culmination of a pottery course which I had not attended. Kind participants gave me the choice of a few unclaimed pieces so I could join in with some experimental glazing. I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen but, assuming that leaving some areas unglazed might create an interesting effect,  picked a simple cylindrical pot. This provided a nice, smooth surface on which to paint some humorous animals with wax before dipping it into a metallic glaze and leaving it overnight to dry.

glazed and waiting for firing

Next day I turned up at Roger and Alison's house to watch proceedings.

The men had been up early building a kiln from insulated fire bricks and by the time I arrived everything was well under way with the first few pots fired and being cleaned.  

Pots are heated to a temperature high enough to melt the glaze, then they are removed from the kiln and the final colour depends on what happens next. Some are left to cool in the air. Some are plunged into water.  

Most, however, are buried red-hot in wood shavings which burn, enriching the colour of the glaze and smoking unglazed pottery to black. A good, hot burn uses up oxygen, reducing a copper-based glaze to its metallic components and producing a rich, dark, coppery sheen.  

As pots came hot from the kiln their creators made snap decisions, generally opting for reduction rather than air or water cooling. Pot after pot was thrust into a metal bin, quickly covered with shavings or gum leaves before a heavy lid was slapped on top to exclude air.

After an indeterminate time – that is, I didn't think to ask how it was determined – the lid was removed and the pots taken out, covered in ash and dust and sometimes wreathed in flames as the shavings flared up when exposed to the open air.

Left to cool, they were finally claimed by their owners who scrubbed off smoke and ash and smoothed off any sharp bits of glaze, exclaiming in surprised delight as the true colour was revealed.  

unfired glaze - the gum leaves have no relevance at all -
wood shavings were used to create the colours on this one

Variations in temperature are reflected in variations in colour, often on the same pot. In this case, they varied from pale blue to deep red-brown and dark green. Using fresh gumleaves instead of shavings gives another effect altogether.  

No doubt skilled potters who do this sort of thing for a living have it all worked out and can control everything from kiln temperature to reduction so that they know exactly how the finished product will turn out, but for us every firing was an adventure.

It was all very exciting – sometimes a pot exploded when placed in the kiln. One or two disintegrated when removed from the ashes. Almost all of them turned out a completely unexpected and astonishing colour, which continued to change as they cooled.

that wasn't supposed to happen

waiting for the last firing
A glass or two of good wine in the sunshine helped calm our nerves as the afternoon wore on, and finally it was time for the most keenly anticipated firing of the day – the pizza oven.

Results were greeted with as much, if not more, delight as freshly-fired pots.

  And my glaze worked beautifully, figures picked out in black on a variegated blue and red-brown surface.

From Tuesday you will be able to see some of these pieces, including my splendid effort, in an exhibition here at the Cultural Centre beside my current exhibition of paintings.

King Island Potters
Through the 2011 and 2012 school terms 24 local residents enjoyed working with clay under the expert guidance of experienced potter, Stewart Hoyt. Supported by the King Island District High School and King Island Cultural Centre and thanks to Joc Bowden and Eva and Martin Finzel who found glazes still on the island used by the Pottery Group from the 70's the results are full of colour, energy and beauty.
King Island Cultural Centre  22 January - 22 February 2013

With special thanks to Alison Milsom, Roger Banfield and Stewart Hoyt