I have heard the phrase many times over the last year "What a strange time it is !".
2020/2021 has been a roller coaster of highs and lows for us too but we keep busy and try to stay creative and positive.
Last year it seemed like our 'Donaldson Family Exhibition' may not be able to go ahead due to the Covid19 restrictions. Before there was any sign of a pandemic in 2019, we had decided on the exhibition name "because it matters" which, seemed to strengthen with the 2020 world events. Amazingly the social restrictions lifted just in time for us to go ahead. My sister packed her ute with paintings, pastels and prints and headed down from Wilcannia. Unfortunately it was not possible for my brother Mike to come from Perth as the quarantine rules made it unworkable for him. He sent his work however and his presence was seen on the walls of the gallery although we missed his bubbling personality. The show was a huge success with over 800 visitors through the gallery in October/November 2020 ( you can see some of my images on the exhibitions page). We were not sure how an exhibition would be received in the midst of a pandemic but we had the best attendance in our 25 years of exhibiting.
Around the same time we also had some big trees removed at Lilli Pilli Studio. Pines, a willow and more that were not good for the environment. Having them removed was the first step in preparing to build a wood kiln. We will replant with smaller local trees around our perimeter that will bring the native bird and wild life but not so tall that they will overhang the kiln site. These big trees were cut to size for the kiln fire box all ready to use as fuel .
Below you can also see the pit covered with iron which I will also continue to use this coming winter.
The biggest and most difficult news was that my 93 year old father-in-law died in November 2020 on our daughters birthday. His positive outlook on life and his love of family is sorely missed by us and especially by his beloved wife of 68 years, 91 year old Betty. This is the first time she has lived alone. Her memory is waning and her grasp on daily life is dwindling so we visit daily with supplies. She never remembers who has been or what she has done during each day so we keep a close eye on her.
Because of her fragile state I have not resumed my classes at Lilli Pilli Studio and my husband remains off work. She is our prime concern at the moment , she needs our attention and we know our time with her is limited. We treat this time with her as precious.
Instead of our usual work we are sorting /clearing/throwing out and organising the contents of our house and studios. It has been at least 30 years of STUFF gathering by our 5 children and us individually. There is much to get rid of!
It is obvious that over the years of our busy working/caring life, we have overlooked the fact that we tend to be hoarders. Thankfully we can see this and are attempting to address the clutter now! Hopefully the clearing up will allow us space to be more creative in the future.
My sewing room has been bursting at the seams (pardon the pun) with fabrics for costume and textile art work. In reality my practice is focused far more on ceramics these days and while I do want to have some textiles to work with at times, I don't need the ridiculous amount that I have gathered over the years.
In the name of reuse/recycle ( the reason all good hoarders give to justify their addiction for collecting stuff), I have been transforming my husbands wine casks ( these were used as children's building blocks years ago) but for the past decade or two have they have been sitting under the house looking like kindling for a bush fire. It was TIME to put them to good use and simultaneously use some of my beautiful fabrics and virtuously contain the huge piles/collection (650+) of great DVDs my husband has gathered. They look great on the shelves now and we can even find the movies we are looking for!
A WIN WIN WIN job to do!
While that project did sort out most of the wine boxes it only used a small portion of the fabric in my work room. So I took a car load of fabric and yarn to a wonderful place I have only just discovered called, "The Sewing Basket"
You can drop off donations of fabrics or purchase materials at this great place. All proceeds go to people with disabilities.
But there was/is so much more!
I also have boxes of dried plant material that I have harvested over the years. I use this for paper making and basketry. I have made it my mission for February 2021 to turn all my dried plant fibre into paper and basketry twine and thus free up my studio space.
Below is my trusty hollander beater, made by the ever so brilliant Mark Lander in Christchurch NZ. He really is an inspiring human/artist/inventor/engineer.
If you are interested in how to make paper or even if you are not into paper making his series of short YouTube videos is well worth a look .
Here is a link to the first but I think number 7 is my favourite.
I feel very privileged to have this wonderful tool in my studio.
"Holly" ( I always name my important and hard working studio assistants/machines), was given to me by my family for my 50th birthday about 11 years ago.
Mark Lander is a serious master of paper making but I am just a back yard paper maker. I regard making paper as I would growing vegetables and picking produce to preserve or bottle fruit for the home kitchen. My paper is home grown and preserved materials for the studio. I make paper when I have plant fibre to harvest (which should be about once a year)....However sometimes I dry the harvest and it has to wait until I have time and space to process it. So, now is the time to use what I have harvested and dried. I am starting by using all the boxes of banana bark that I harvested from my mums garden when she died 13 years ago! I am glad I collected it as her house and garden were demolished by the new owners.
Below is the resulting paper from the first batch of this old banana bark .
I have also been making twine to repair an old chair that my mother bought around 1968 , its woven seat perished some years ago and has been waiting patiently for me to attend to it. It is labour intensive to do these homegrown/homemade things. The twine I was using to start the seat was made from Montbretia ( a weed that I remove from the garden , throw the corm into the bin and then I dry the reed). I ran out of my dried weeds so I have harvested some yellow Louisiana Iris from the garden ( originally from Mum's pond) and I will have to wait now for it to dry to complete the project.
Once my plant fibre has been used I will start to sort out the studio both for teaching and my own work.
I am hoping to return to teaching this year but not until the time is right. I want it to be easy and inspiring for my students to create work in the studio space, not cluttered as it has become over the last year. I also want to be sure my family needs have been met.
The promise of a wood kiln is keeping me excited and feeling like things are happening in the pottery workshop even though I have not been able to work much for a while. Sandy Lockwood is helping me to design a wood kiln similar to one of hers at Balmoral Studio that I have been involved with firing for the last seven years in her workshops. I have looked at several kiln options over the last few years but it seems sensible to work with what I know as I am not getting younger. Silicon carbide shelves are in the process of being ordered from China and a concrete slab and roof will be laid in the coming months. Once there is a sound ,flat surface and weather protection I will be able to start the build.
So Lilli Pilli Studio pottery classes must wait for the moment. I have clay to recycle, storage shelves to repair and important family issues to deal with first.
Things at Lilli Pilli Studio are on the improve but it all takes time.