Potential investment of pottery supplies

Finding a good art supplier takes a lot of research. Prices can look quite reasonable online but once you’ve spent a good hour or so navigating a website, creating a cart of potential purchases, the freight charges can change the investment from a creative hobby to a financial risk pretty fast.

It felt like Christmas the day my first order of clay and glazes arrived from Decopots. A momentous day.

I had decided on 20 bags of clay. 10 wood brown stoneware and 10 cream stoneware. Both great for sculptural and wheel work. If you commit to 20 bags the price is reduced. I topped up the pallet with a couple of glazes and a brush, making the most of the freight charges.

Now that we have relocated to Whanganui, I am only an hour away from Palmerston North, the home of Decopots. While my mother (also a potter) was visiting, we thought it would be fun to have a little shop.

What I didn’t realise was that they aren’t open to the public, however they kindly showed us around their factory. This was such a treat. A behind the scenes experience.

We watched as clay was pressed through a rather large industrial pugmill.

We watched as ceramic blanks were reproduced in moulds and set to dry on shelves before heading to the kiln for firing.

Although we left empty handed, we would soon be putting our orders in.

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Whanganui Art in the Garden

Pretty excited to be part of this year’s Art in the Garden.

Whanganui artists spent the Friday setting up their displays. Work included ceramic sculptures, glass ornaments, metal work and paintings. I decided on a bushy part of the walkway to display my lady sculptures, tikis and hearts, then disappeared.

The event is held over the weekend, with purchases sold as ‘cash and carry’. So hopefully there isn’t much for me to pick up on the Monday!

I took the family on the Saturday to spy on my work. Even though the weather was a bit dodgy it was good to see plenty of people wandering around the stunning garden venue, at QT Nursery on Papaiti Rd. The Whanganui Pottery Club were giving raku demonstrations throughout the day as displays started to show some gaps as fantastic pieces of art found their new homes.

 

Testing the kiln

Studio, clay and a kiln, it was time to get creating. I set to work making Christmas ornaments in star, fish and heart shapes. After a week of drying, I was ready for my first fire. Unfortunately the kiln’s automatic cone firing schedules did not work, and instead of stopping at 1040oC for a bisque fire, the kiln when all the way to it’s top temperature of 1280oC. This meant my ornaments could not have a second firing with glaze applied.

It took a couple of firings for me to realise that I was going to have to find schedules for bisque and glaze firing of stoneware clay and to enter the program manually.

With the firing under control I could now start testing my glazes. Having my own kiln gave me the freedom to experiment without fear of failure.

#littlekiln

Now that I have my very own space dedicated to my creativities I went on the search for a kiln, refreshing my Trade Me search daily. I eventually posted a wanted ad on the local Facebook page, where I was offered a small 60cm x 60cm F.E Kiln for $350. It was perfect for my experimental ceramic attempts.

luluslist lulu okoia whanganui open studiolittle kiln fe AOS art ceramic clay pottery

I enjoyed meeting people and sharing knowledge while being a member of Raglan’s Pottery Club however depending on the firing of a community kiln was a pain. I’d leave a piece clearly labelled for firing, and yet week after week I’d find it still sitting there patiently waiting to take its turn on one of the kiln shelves, while others seem to take priority.

I was still trying to discover how clay and glazes worked, and was excited at the possibility of being able to dabble without risking other peoples work.

I have had the shame of having a piece drip glaze onto an unfortunate piece below

I have put on the safety glasses and earmuffs to grind a piece off the valuable shelf that had suck fast by a thick runny glaze

I have had to vacuum the empty kiln after a piece had exploded due to trapped air

All my little kiln needed was a new pyrometer and a new controller… plus the electrician to install these pricey parts.

$1300 later I was ready to fire!

luluslist lulu okoia whanganui open studiolittle kiln fe AOS art ceramic clay pottery bartlett little kiln

 

 

Need a little support

Years ago when I cast handmade moulds with concrete, I formed my first ‘couple’. I managed to reproduce 10 of these before the delicate mould was retired. Now, I find creating with clay and firing each original piece is much more satisfying. Each piece is completely different, some even take on a direction of their own. I enjoy this process and am always excited to see the end result, when they emerge from their final firing.

On my first attempt of my couple in clay I put a vinyl cone support under the man, thinking that the woman could be built around him, but as I created, she started to slump.

Instead of scrapping the work, I went with the clay and love the result.

You could view the piece as a man supporting a weak or sick woman, or of a woman buckling underneath the pressure of holding up and supporting the man.

With the second piece, I built a support using cut down containers held together with duct tape. I covered the containers with a bread bag for easy removal. This ensured the couple kept their form. The support pieces were removed on day 2.

Being an egg donor, I am sensitive to the struggle some couples go through to be blessed with a child. I created a baby to fit in the couples arm, making the piece complete. While the piece was drying my three-year old daughter kept putting the baby back into the couples arms, when I would have it sitting next to the piece. I loved that she always wanted the baby with its parents, and not on its own on the shelf.

The piece turned out to be an interactive one. It’s surprising how the physical act of putting the baby in its place makes you feel good.

I sponged a black slip onto both pieces.

Unfortunately the glossy glaze did not give me the desired look. Perhaps they will find a home with someone. Thankfully art appeals to an array of people. I would have preferred a matt finish and will be purchasing my own glazes for future use, and applying a thicker slip.

Live and learn.

Preying on Pests

When Maori ancestors arrived in New Zealand, kiore ‘rats’ came with them. Maori valued these rats as a food source. They built ingenious traps which they baited with kumura. When a kiore entered the opening its head slipped into a snare that tightened around its neck.

raglan nz environment conservation karioi maunga ki te moana trap line pest predators eradicate stoat

When Pakeha ‘Europeans’ arrived they brought with them domesticated livestock such as pigs, cattle and sheep. Once a delicacy, kiore fell out of favour.

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Now days rodents and other animals such as possums, hedgehogs and stoats are considered pests as they compete with our native bird life for food and habitat. They also eat the eggs and young and attack the adults.

In Raglan Karioi Maunga te ki Moana are working to restore the biodiversity. One of the ways they do this is by monitoring over 800 traps deployed across Karioi Maunga and the Whangaroa coastline. It it through this organisation that we are fortunate enough to monitor 20 of these traps in a trap line surrounding Raglan Area School.

trap trapping pests eradication karioi raglan trapline

Karioi Maunga use the line to educate the school children, involving the students in trap setting, checking and monitoring. The information is recorded on trap.nz

This trap line gives me the opportunity to involve my children, ensuring they too grow up having respect for our environment and an awareness of conservation efforts necessary to protect vulnerable native species.

 

Mountain to the sea

Raglan is a global icon for environmental conservation and sustainability. Many of the residents volunteer in organisations that support the eco ethos of Whainagaroa.

Seeing a request on Facebook for volunteers to attend a trap building session I quickly jumped at the opportunity to join Karioi Maunga ki te Moana ‘From Mount Karioi to the Sea’. Being a wiz on the staple gun my efforts were put to good use!

Karioi Maunga ki te moana raglan trap building line predator pest eradicate

Karioi Maunga ki te Moana work to restore biodiversity from the mountain to the sea. They have a successful seabird monitoring program which identifies breeding sites of endangered native species such as the Grey Petrel Oi and conduct predator control in those areas.

Their predator control programme is extensive, managing stoat control over 2,000 hectares with more than 45km of trapping lines.

They encourage community involvement and provide advice, training and traps to landowners through their Backyard Programme.

The Karioi project provides educational programmes for adults and children. Activities include trap-checking, monitoring trap lines, workshops, community events and camps. Karioi Kids and Karioi Rangers is offered to local schools.

Their vision is that through the Karioi project people will develop an enhanced curiosity of the natural world and a love for nature.

Karioi Maunga ki te Moana

 

Some of the other Raglan initiatives include:

Whainagaroa Environment Centre are a team of dedicated individuals passionate about environmental education and building a sustainable community. They deliver education programmes, workshops and raise awareness about environmental issues.

Bag It Raglan are working towards Raglan being a plastic bag free town by 2019. They encourage business owners and residents to use reusable shopping bags. A group of volunteers meet each week to make a supply of bag using recycled fabric!

Xtreme Zero Wastes aim is for the community to eliminate waste to the landfill by 2020. With the help of volunteers approximately 75% of waste is being diverted to other uses. The Raglan Resource Recovery Centre is an inspirational and educational place to visit.

Permaculture  courses and workshops can be found at Solscape, where sustainability and holistic living is valued. Visitors stay in eco accommodation, experiencing a plant-based eco-cusine while attending their classes.

KASM  are Kiwis Against Seabed Mining. They are a community based action group who strongly oppose any non-essential seabed mining. Volunteers work to raise awareness of the prospecting permits being issued by our government, allowing resources such as iron to be mined. They aim to protect and preserve marine and coastal environments for future generations.