Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Josh's Birthday

This has been about the best birthday I could ask for down here, thanks to being around awesome people. After our trip to Wilson’s Prom, we got in touch with Robert Barron, a well know potter who lives the small town of Korumburra in the Gipsland area, halfway between Wilson’s Prom and Melbourne. He is a friend of Judy Duff’s back in North Carolina and agreed to let Mal and I stop by for a couple days to check out his pottery and help him out some in exchange. When I called him he said he wasn’t at the pottery but we could come crash at his beach house in Inverloch, half an hour’s drive from Gooseneck Pottery. He is a really cool dude and I could tell right away that we were going to get a long pretty well. We cooked a really good dinner on the bar-b-que, walked around on the beach before hitting the sack. The next day, the 22nd, we drove up to the pottery where Mal and I helped Robert clean out a section of his incredible kiln that had suffered an unfortunate shelf collapse during the last firing. It’s a mess in a wood-fired kiln when something like that happens because everything is covered in a viscous molten glass that fuses anything together that touches with pretty impressive strength.

Robert seemed to enjoy teaching Mal and I about the process he uses to make pots. We both learned a lot from him. His kiln is based on ancient Korean models that he studied in his younger years from potters in Korea. It was really cool seeing how his kiln compares to the few wood-fired kilns I’ve seen in North Carolina that are based more on ancient Japanese and European styles. His kiln has four chambers and a firebox. Each chamber is plenty big enough for a large person to walk around in comfortably. The fourth chamber he introduces salt to the atmosphere, which reacts with the flux element in the clay to create beautiful alkaline glazes. It’s really inspiring to see potters who do lots of amazing work and do so without the aid of electric kilns. It made me really excited to get back and make some pots.

We stayed in the loft space of his studio that night. His studio is really simple, and he makes some very large sculptural forms with simple means, which is pretty cool. The next day we did a bit of yard work around his guest cottage near at the pottery that he rents out for days or weeks or months at a time. He has a really cool set up there, with lots of fruit trees and herbs growing around the house. Then we went back to his beach house to celebrate my birthday. Robert took us out surfing until the sun went down. That was awesome. I’d never thought of playing around in the ocean much on my birthday because it’s usually cold. Robert is a great surfer and teacher. He let Mal get out on a board and taught her some of the basics. She did really well Mallory and Robert refused to let me help out with dinner and desert and cooked up a really good meal with a caramel covered banana bread for desert.

When we left, Robert let us pick out some mugs to take with us. That was really exciting, there were so many great things to choose from. We ended up picking out a really beautiful pair of mugs that were fired in the salt chamber of his kiln. They are a really nice dark and navy blue on the outside speckled with white in a way that just looks salty and a really sombre, translucent green glaze on the inside that he used on a lot of his pots. We had a great stay with him and I told him I would come back sometime to help out with a firing

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