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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Maunga not mountain

Living in the Coromandel Coast town of Tairua we had an amazing view of the harbour and on to Mount Paaku. Having jumped across New Zealand to the west coast our view is so very similar, but now we get to admire the sunset surrounding Mount Karioi every night.

 

When we found our slice of paradise in Tairua we really thought that we would be in that house forever, but as it turned out we were nearly there. We were just on the wrong coast. Blessed with a husband who is a keen surfer, our place of residence was always influenced by the call of the sea. We have spent years calling Muriwai Beach and Gisborne home, but now we feel that Raglan is our final destination (maybe). And as it turns out many others end their journey, searching for the perfect place, here in Raglan. After all the Maori name Whāingaroa means ‘the long pursuit’, which refers to the lengthy search of the Tainui waka ‘canoe’ for a final destination.

Most commonly known as a thoroughfare to the rest of the Coromandel, Tairua which means ‘two tides’ also hosts an awesome surf break when the swells right. Tairua should be known more for its Polynesian fishing lure, which was found during an  archaeological excavation in 1964. The lure is made from a black lipped pearl shell Pinctada margaritifera which is not native to New Zealand. The lure is highly significant because it was made in East Polynesia and brought here, on a waka, with the Polynesian settlers of Aotearoa. It now lives at the Auckland Museum.

 

I always find it interesting that many people call themselves locals of a particular place and yet they know nothing of its history. The double cone volcanic peak that dominates the landscape of Tairua and neighbouring Pauanui ‘large abalone’ is known as Mt Paku, when we should actually be referring to it as Maunga Paku. And paku, which means ‘particle, dried, little and small’ should be pronounced Pakū indicating a long vowel, giving a more fitting meaning for a volcano, of ‘ to make a sudden sound’. Pāku as it’s commonly referred to isn’t even in Maori dictionaries. I was told that it was originally named Paaku which is the Maori name of the fairy’s that lived on the mountain.

In the glorious town of Raglan Whāingaroa Maunga Karioi is a 2.4 million year old extinct volcano, the earliest of a line of 6 calcalkalic volcanoes. The profile of Karioi from Raglan is likened to a ‘Sleeping Lady’ Wahine Moe. Karioi which means ‘to loiter or idle’ could humourously depict the laid back nature of the surfing culture which is evident.

The nearby township of Te Uku is where our children attend school. As if preparing you for your entry into Whāingaroa, Te Uku Roast Office is located beside the school, offering Raglan Roast daily ground coffee! I’d love to learn more about Te Uku and the white clay that it is named after. It would be amazing to use a locally source material in my sculptural work.

Living in Raglan we are surrounded by like-minded people, valuing a laid back lifestyle and appreciating nature. There is a strong awareness and appreciation of the environment and many inhabitants are willing to make a difference.

hari ahau i

 

 

Destined for plant life

By now you should have all googled the meaning of your name, and the names of people in your life. It’s a fun way to see just how prophetic your name is.

‘Laura’, is derived from the Bay Laurel Tree which was commonly used in making wreaths, representing victory and honor.

laurel

I love that my name’s origin is a plant, and a very aromatic one at that. The Bay tree’s  leaves are leathery and stiff with a strong midrib, a lot like me!

And with my second name being ‘Rose’ its a double whammy for a life destined for horticulture! I studied a Bachelor in Applied Animal Technology, where I was drawn to paper selections including Biodiversity Conservation, Ecosystem Management and Biota of Aotearoa. I have more recently completed a Certificate in Horticulture and will be studying Sustainable Management this year.

My favourite place to be is in the bush. My photography hobby has me wandering through the thick native bush, observing the array of fauna. My efforts can be found on my Instagram page lauraflora_nz and in earlier blog posts. We are extremely fortunate to have the Kaitoke bush track at the end of our street, where we will be starting a pest eradicating trap line.

Moving to Raglan I quickly found Karioi Maunga ki te Moana, an organisation whose focus is to restore the biodiversity from the mountain to the sea. I meet with an amazing group of volunteers to build traps and I currently monitor a trap line surrounding the Raglan Area School.

trap trapping pests eradication karioi raglan trapline

Even my art work has been inspired by nature. My beach combing behaviour has me searching for treasures to embed in resin or from textures and colours to replicate in my pieces.

Thankfully my husband is also drawn to earthy elements. ‘Timothy’ also has a meaning of ‘to honor‘. We both strongly value these natural connections which we are passing on to our children.