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

 

 

A studio is born

So that our house functioned better for our rather large family, we decided to put a kitchen in our lounge (much to the disgust of an electrician who had come to quote the job)

The existing kitchen, complete with groovy Formica bench top and pale blue cupboards was located at the other end of the L shape building. This meant there was quite a hike from the dining table to the dishwasher.

We plumbed in the dishwasher and set up a trestle table as a make shift kitchen, while we went about searching for an affordable yet attractive kitset kitchen.

I stumbled upon Kitset Kitchen, a local kitchen manufacturer, who offer a huge range of cabinets, handles and bench tops. They can also install the kitset if required. The layout was easy to decide on, with plenty of options. The only down fall would be the sample size. When my bench arrived I was shocked to see white ‘quartz’ streaks through the grey laminate. These lines weren’t evident on the small card given to compare styles.

And a follow up call would have been nice.

The old kitchen was carpeted, painted and converted into our daughters bedroom and the old cabinets were moved out to the garage, creating a studio for all my creative efforts.

Lulus Studio
whanganui wanganui open studio okoia artist art AOS lulu

 

On the move ….. yet again!

The confidence in our little three bedroom bach being able to accommodate our growing family was dwindling. We considered the options; build an extension or move to a larger abode, but we were hesitant in increasing our mortgage. If anything we wanted to reduce our debt.  My husband was over sharing the waves with 50 other surfers and the 45 minute commute was becoming a chore.

We started to contemplate our next move and after a lot of research we settled on Whanganui; New Zealand’s best kept secret. With cheaper housing, great school options  and the beautiful native forest and black sand coast to explore… we were off!

As Raglan is a sought after location, a tourist mecca, we were confident our house would sell quickly, so we decided to sell it privately. Within a month we were unconditional and started boxing up our belongs yet again.

We found an amazing house in Okoia, a small village on the outskirts of Whanganui. There was already an offer on the property, but we were hopeful and put in a back offer.

Thankfully, for us, the first offer fell through and our offer was accepted!

We had fallen in love with the cottage, with ample room for our family and all the animal add ons.

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.