project {2011}

Crosshatched Potters Tour 2011

The Crosshatched Team 2011 from left to Right
Rahul Barua, myself, Dharmveer, Ann Ferguson and Manohar Lal

Text in italics was added for clarity when transcribing this journal. It has also been edited for the public domain. This project is the outcome of a request from Rahul Barua, (RB) Director of South Asia Foundation (SAF) when at Kumaar Gramm , formally  known as Hastal Village in November 2009, “can you organise another trip to Australia for some potters?”. His intention being that they would be able to generate a reasonable lump sum  of money that would be useful for the work of SAF, i.e substantial  home building or kiln reconstruction. 

14.1.10: The plan is beginning... This evening as Will my son and I were shifting dry timbers from the front of the house to reduce any bushfire load I began thinking. This long dry thin wood would be great for firing a kiln, remembering the 300 brick woodfire kiln plan recently received thoughts then shifted to a Rajasthani kiln and an idea gathered momentum. Manohar Lal (ML) and Dharmveer (D) the two potters that had been asked to come to Australia could centre their mudka making ( traditional waterpots) and firing here. For the firing we could invite the interested to participate in a weekend of kiln building, and the next weekend  an evening food and firing event,  it makes me excited to think on this.

15.4.10: And now to the machine- the dream above needs a vehicle. Just spoken with Multicultural-Arts Victoria and positive, Jill responded immediately to the possibility of partnering, another flurry of light to keep the flame ignited. Nothing came of this. 

16.4.10: Sat down to edit  the letter of introduction for the project brief and  the frisson of anticipation is there.

27.8.10: The programme progresses. In an effort to fit the potters tour to Regional Arts Victoria ( RAV)  funding guidelines have tailored  a plan  The Tallarook Stacks.  If we get the funding this will be the focus for their stay. Met with Simon Close and Ursula from Benalla Gallery on Tuesday, I had sent a proposed activities plan. Simons first comment was, “we don’t have any money” then proceeded to throw out all the proposed activities and we then concluded on bringing Benalla to Tallarook, a much better outcome for us. Chai, lunch, demonstrations at the potters workshop and sales of their work. I think the more we can base here the better, the road though is a background worry. We live on a road that after rain is often 4wheel drive only and at the time of writing this was the case. Next is to get a body to invite the group, will ask Craft Victoria and the Mitchell Shire.

29.11.10: We have the RAV funding, this was the best news to receive on my arrival back from India.  I had been in India with a Ceramic Victoria Exhibition, Golden Earth. Had met with R.B on my last day and he was keen for a third potter to come plus 2 from SAF, I was not keen but why should I be so precious about my stress levels when it would give another the opportunity  to come to Australia.  Although the potters of Kumaar Gram have a vested interest in feting me, I get from them genuine care and warmth- use the  love word Sandra, expressed in an unpretentious way. The act of them coming to say goodbye was most appreciated after a most challenging day. I am not alone in my appreciation of the people from Kumaar Gram. The tour group I took there during the exhibition also experienced the integrity of their life and hospitality, Diane Kennedy saying it was the best day of the tour and Rick Scoff also expressing appreciation and that being his first day in Delhi as did the others.
 I will now put Golden Earth behind me and look forward to Potters Tour 2011 ( need to find a better name)

20.2.2011: Crosshatched -Potters Tour 2011. So the core team will be Manohar Lal, Dharmveer , Ann Ferguson and myself.  Ann Ferguson ceramic sculptor, co conspirator on the previous Crosshatched project, recent co traveller to India and all round supporter and participant in this Crosshatched event. 

At this moment I have to put into perspective RB’s concerns about ML not participating in SAF community activities. Sometimes I wonder if his previous trips to Australia put known family and community life out of  kilter. ie when you know there are other ways to have a life do you  then struggle with the life you are dealt. A phone call last night with RB expressing his concerns about M.L but now D is in the good books. I think there could be community resentment to M.L having a third opportunity to come to Australia. Another factor in the project is now the Goan connection. To get funding for ML and D’s airfares a convoluted track via Goa Handicrafts is being followed which means two potters, fine and exciting and the Managing Director, not so fine will need to be accommodated ( he did not come). RB knows my reservations i.e time and energy taken from the main game but I am sure we will manage.

On other matters, am finally formalizing the Crosshatched logo, Adrienne Campbell creator of this website and I are working on it. I have decided to own the identity, with others coming and going as it works out. The workshop site is almost complete, Peter my partner has finished the handcrafted shed, have done a lot of cleaning up, now ready to pour the concrete floor and then move on to the next stage for me, buying clay and setting up.
The several spokes to Crosshatched 11 are coming together. Conversations with artists invited to paint mudka have happened and info to go out.  As a fundraiser for a new kiln in Kumaar Gram local artists had been asked to paint mudka that would then be auctioned, at the same event, at Pan Gallery, a pile of M.L’s mudka would be exhibited'. Benalla Art Gallery have changed focus, we now go there, by them pulling out one event we now have room for another local school. Tallarook Primary School workshop confirmed. Maquettes  made for possible Stacks and meeting with Mitchell Shire re heritage appropriateness complete. Ann and I have gone over the calendar and we have a clear picture of our commitments.  Accommodation sorted. Tom ( Wukwuk resident)will move to the spare room earlier than he anticipated  and so the hut will be available for all Indian men. Have bought a single bed frame to go in the lego room ( small room where the boys used to play lego, before that it was a bathroom, it then went on to be the x-box room but still retains the name lego room)to set up  for more space for Ann. And many vegies, beans, cucumber and daikon radish in the garden. Spoke with Ravish ( a local Hindi speaker) about catering and interpreting and I think that will work. Home Ed flyer has gone to Steph to send out. Friends Stephanie Pollock and Glen Rodgers home educate their  3 children and are part of  the Victorian Home Education network.  I continue to be excited to have the potters here. RB enthuses about what the Goans are doing  i.e women getting together as an active group and the invitation to visit there when next in India is exciting.

25.2.11: Have just heard one of the Goan  potters is a woman, so this is great news, finally a female potter coming here.

6.3.11: Introduced The Stacks to Tallarook today at the Farmers Market other than a few,  not a very enthusiastic response – we need to enrol  more of the community in this project, how to go about that?

11.3.11: In writing a press release and refocusing on mudka and bringing the two streams The Tallarook Stacks and exhibition at Pan Gallery  together brought excitement and renewed enthusiasm back to the project.

19.3.11: Had a call from RB, 1hour before business closed for the weekend and M.L and D are yet to get their visa- they were to leave tomorrow-Sunday- I was incredulous,  with all the lead time surely this could have been managed. We do have a little spare time but the intention was to relax the pace-I am now calmer about it all and assume they will get visas- however there is the possibility that that will not be the case…..and looking forward to picking up the Goans early Monday morning.

25.3.11: The Mall Melbourne. The Goans are in Priceline shopping- we have had a good day- train to Melbourne, coffee at The Journal, Ian Potter Gallery, Yarra walk, chocolate shopping, Lindt and Darrel Lea,  I have now  had enough  shopping. Now nearly a week since hearing M.L and D have not got visas and still no word despite making contact with RB each day and hearing the efforts he is making to finalize. Last night and this morning began moves for alternatives and cancelling process. It is a near unbearable wait and I have at times been furious, as on other occasions I feel I am taken to the limit and then all comes through. Will it be the same this time? M.L and D must be beside themselves-lost of face and anxiety at not understanding the process, at least I know what is going on. But it has been a good time with Verodina and Arun, they are very easy going and good company. Great day yesterday with the Home Ed group,  A shed full of enthusiasm and at times the silence of the absorbed. V and A offered different approaches  to modelling small animals that the kids handled  well . They were both most relaxed. Had a kiln load of little Ganesh, cows and other creatures, however, it has been hard to distract myself from the M.L and D hicupp..
Star Signs for the week. If midweek mercury delivers a chill pill to your current plans that’s not a bad thing- ambitious ideas need time to ripen and there’s still more information that has not surfaced yet. If this week feels like certain things are disassembling, stay cool, be resourceful, resist taking on unnecessary obligations and keep resetting the internal thermostat to cruise control .

31.3.11: Yesterday was a day of positive signs after the phone call from the High Commission  in Delhi  the night before, however  it was not until 11pm last night that I actually got word that they did have their visas and the question from RB. “When should they fly”?  “A.S.A.P.  as in tomorrow” Sure was the reply from R.B. so they fly tonight at 11pm.

1.4.11: About to head to the airport to collect M.L and D. Have had a day of finishing touches, even collecting a bucket of fresh cow manure  for kiln rendering and cooking lunch for tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing their faces at the finish line. Let’s have a fun and fruitful time together.

4.4.11: Dads birthday. At the shed. Ann is tampering Anne Fraser’s form ( made on Saturday at a Stacks workshop) . M.L thumping mudka, D quietly cutting/soaking water slosh softening clay and myself, patterning with rock and earth a Stacks element, the wind in the trees and beyond that, some birds, and now M.L humming,  the near silent whirl of the wheel as D turns his little pots, a blissful time. Early morning discussion with Ann- her concerns re what evolved the afternoon before( I was at my mothers 80th birthday dinner) M.L and D went about their own stuff, mudka making and small pots, where was the Stacks projects progress? no amount of talking from her had made an impact.

Manohar beating a mudka to shape and Dharmveer polishing a little pot

7.4.11: Lunchroom Northcote pottery- a day of mudka making for the fundraiser, comments by the 3 artists who have seen the mudka, ‘they are much bigger than expected and round bottoms”, Jan Saric and Truly fascinated by the making process.  Find attached the artists’ statements.

Manohar and Dharmveer working on mudka at Northcote Pottery

Peter Ferguson painting a mudka at Northcote Pottery

Re-capping, Ann and I had been anxious by the lack of movement on making The Stacks mudka, the clay had been prepared and through Ravish determined that  it was O.K, was it the off centred nature of the forms? from the models and drawings shown to M.L in India this was not a problem, was it a timing factor? it would take time away from making own mudka making, finally after two large mudka were complete , yesterday morning he threw the first stage of 8, later in the afternoon beat the top half and this morning finished, off centred the hole and beat one edge/side in a little. And all seems fine for Sunday These elements needed to be available for participants to access for a Stacks workshop.

Manohar making forms for Stacks elements

Hannah and Pam work on a Stacks element

Thank the Gods – 3.30 p.m; I am happy, have just got the pyrometer going a device for indicating the temperature in the kiln and it showed 100 degrees c, starting at 1p.m. that is the slow rise we needed, but now 50 degrees in half an hour?? should just leave it to M.L and D it is their pots in the kiln. The clay we are using this year is different from previous times and needs a much slower firing, M.L and D are used to firing in about 4 hours,  what we have been advised to do in about 8 by Northcote Pottery.  So this is blissful, a beautiful sunny afternoon at the shed. D has been throwing dishes, Peter tinkering in his shed, M.L squatting feeding the kiln, and myself, concerned that it is firing too fast but happy for him to reap the consequences.

Mudka at Tallarook

 I have been looking forward to this time, to have time, to record the experience to date in a peaceful mode, my head has stopped racing, many contributing factors for that. M.L now has about 16 mudka finished; The artists’ painted mudka have been successfully fired and the artists were enthusiastic about the process and experience; The Stacks have progressed, will  fire the first load tomorrow, the techniques have evolved and although had few participants the ones here have contributed enthusiastically and with sensitivity and originality. Anne Fraser has sent forms in new directions. It has been pleasurable working quietly on these elements, the robust forms receptive to texturing and using the locally found clays for colour; Ann, M.L and D are an easy team to work with, generally M.L and D work on their own stuff unless there are Stacks to make.  Once we began and a few made M.L got the idea of beating the form to shapes we could use. He also experimented with beating some wattle into a mudka,  unfortunately they were 2 that cracked in Anne’s kiln. We had also modified the way we changed the forms to less severe.  We were having pieces fired in Anne Fraser’s kiln in particular the Stacks elements as she was able to fire to a higher temperature, making the pieces stronger; The dinner-the festival finale that wasn’t a  finale is over. Ravish had  offered to help. The food was great, and there was just enough- and the black sticky rice with quince was a hit; RB arrived yesterday morning, Ann collected him, he was here for the afternoon and stayed at the Willmot’s, our neighbours, has gone with them today to Simone’stheir son, a film maker who has done a lot of work in India. M.L and D were happy to see him here. We now have another 2 weeks together, I think I can now fully relax and enjoy the teamwork and production with a few public events for bursts of energy.

18.4.11 Café break at Fed Square on a sightseeing day in Melbourne. Ann has taken the men on the circle tram while I found a park as well as some time for a coffee. HMMM the firing, the pots look great but 50% crack rate not good, but the cracked are being utilized as shards  for a kiln cover. The local artist’s painted pots at Pan Gallery look great, I look forward to having a good look around next time, M.L was all smiles when he saw his pots painted by these wonderful artists. 

20.4.11: A regression re relaxation level. 2 hectic days chasing my tail.  So back to the local artist’s day.

Time for dinner, Ann is cooking subje and the men chapparti.

21.4.11: Another all over the place day for me. Shopping with R.B, collected extra mudka stands and collected Kevin Murray from the train. R.B and he had lots to talk about and M.L and D worked on, M.L has about 30 mudka and D 100s of little pots. D had been invited the supply as many as possible tiny pots to cover a table at Small Things Gallery Northcote Pottery at the same time as the exhibition at Pan Gallery.

26.4.11: Morning in Melbourne, at my sisters home, we had come to Melbourne the day before so D could get to the beach and generally have a break from home, or was that me?, we had some take- away from Balas’ that was well received and then an early night for those two, I sat and watched Bride and Prejudice for the 10th time. Back to the morning. Coughing, banging- ginger on cutting board, for chai, the chortling of two contented and comfortable men. D has just remarked, no tension here. We then went on into the city. Visited Vic Market. M.L buying some hand cream and then onto the camera shop strip and D bought a small digital camera.

28.4.11: Final workshop complete. Relished the washing up of the last of the lunch dishes. Was a good day with the home -ed crew.  For many of the workshops I had prepared lunch, although this was enjoyable and much appreciated it was a lot of extra effort and a little stressful. Would there be enough food etc?

29.4.11: The day of the finale event at Pan Gallery. M.L and D have been carefully pressing their clothes for the day, I feel conscious that I will not be making the same effort, having a pressure koi nahi suba , no pressure morning. Lygon St Café before the auction, hopefully lots of action, the bids so far are a little low, let’s see what happens. M.L and D are relaxed and taking in the slide show and all.

Manohar and Dharmveer at Pan Gallery

The evening was a great success by many measures. The auction although many of the pieces were undervalued the amount raised was above the target. There was a great feeling of good will at the event, people enjoying the exhibition, the auction activity, the food, wine and the demonstrations. Sophie Milne, Pan Gallery Director spoke of this exhibition being the last for Pan and how it had been a great concluding event, Kevin Murray spoke of some background to Crosshatched pulling many threads together insightfully and the other event that was happening that night i.e a royal wedding.

3.5.11: M.L and D are on their way to Kuala Lumpar and I was on my way to clean my space, however I was prompted to take a moment to begin to reflect on the past month. At this point I am again struck with the fact that those two men, being so self-sufficient and quietly confident were easy to live with, their ability to sit in warm places, by the fire, on an east facing rock in the mornings and warble was endearing. The lack of a common language at times frustrating but generally, with a word or two understood and some actions, communication happens. D was nearly inconsolable at the airport, he kept looking away while we had a coffee and did the paperwork, and at the departure door, after very teary to sobbing goodbyes and hugs kept returning to us,  finally we had to leave, under his direction. The check-in was without problems, no overweight issues with these two,( D bought 3 objects at the Salvos and camera. M.L $20 worth of op-shop cloths $10 chocolates from Safeway and the Vic market hand cream.) It is difficult  to express my deep feelings for these two men, , the way they conduct their lives ( care with appearances, washing and ironing valued clothes with care, refined eating habits, economy of graceful movements generous with chai and chapparti) and overriding all, their gentle and good natured way of being. I respect their craft, the depth of knowledge of clay limitations and strengths, structural knowledge of building the kiln and firing, the nature of burning wood and how to get the most from it. The artfulness of stacking the kiln and creating the covering layer of insulating shards. Working with the weather, patiently waiting to get the ideal day, warming the pots till midday, packing, firing 1pm to 7pm to get some night time viewing to judge the temperature by colour. Assessing each piece as it comes from the kiln as it is unpacked with a sharp tap, the retort indicating sound or cracked, stacking the car with minimal packing but stable….. The only interest in money and figures was the issue of the ticket costs. I am not clear what R.B has told them re re-imbursement.

6.5.11: A cloud had passed over the euphoria of the tour, after speaking with R.B last night and broaching the ticket issue.” It needs to be taken to the community” My temperature went up.  After this conversation we had a series of heated emails discussing this issue in the light of the SAF work in the village and M.L and D response to it, R.B was at pains to discuss it at length which I appreciated.  It has since been resolved they need to setup/be involved in a community selfhelp group before the money will be reimbursed.

26.5.11: Collaboration, talking with Ann recently came to the point that one measure of success could be when there is no personal ownership/preciseness of the work. We decided we have completed a successful collaboration, we are happy with the outcomes and felt comfortable with  all creative inputs and when not totally successful we were comfortable to continue to work with the piece until a satisfying result emerged. And M.L’s contribution the Stacks, an essential role but not a creative role, so was the collaboration equitable, is that possible? I am sure he is happy, if asked I conclude he would say “What is there not to be happy about?”

Thanks to the 2011 Crosshatched Team Ann, Manohar  and Dharmveer for an inspiring time together. There are many others ‘too numerous to mention’ but special thanks to Peter for creating a great shed for us to base the project and to he and Will for their patience for another period where I am ‘absent’ pursuing my passions. To the household, Peter, Will, Jenny and Tom for embracing my visitors once again as family and adding support when needed.