Update on Ross Michell-Anyon from the Wanganui Chronicle newspaper… with thanks to Raewyn. Ross is, apparently, improving every day – but it will be late September or early October before Ross goes home. Currently in the acquired brain injury rehabilitation centre in Porirua following a 12-metre fall on April 21, Ross’ wife, Bobbi, said the recovery would be slow but was under way. “He’s definitely making progress. He is staying awake longer but his condition still fluctuates a lot and he finds activity tiring”. Bobbi added that Ross was now able to feed himself and has been eating from his own pots.”He wasn’t able to swallow until probably several days ago, but he had Weetbix and milk and coffee for breakfast. When he can consume enough food to sustain his body, then the feeding tube will be removed.” “He’s very much still in an internal world. He doesn’t know where he is, he doesn’t know what’s happened.” But he is talking. “They’re fully formed words, but they don’t join together. We talk for a long time about all sorts of unusual things. He says to me sometimes, ‘Now what is the time, darling?’ He sort of thinks that he needs to be doing something but he can’t remember what.” He was able to laugh and smile. “The sense of humour is definitely there.” Bobbi said she would return home to Whanganui shortly but continue to visit her Ross at weekends. “It’s really early days, but from where he was, in a coma, until now is really good progress. He needs to just get on with getting better- and he’s got great support here.” So, clearly this is to be a long haul for Ross. Cards and notes to c/o 90 Mortimer Terrace, Brooklyn, Wellington.
New Ceramics Magazine from Australia – called YARROBIL – yes I know, and neither do I. But the editorial says they are looking for contributions – intelligent, lively and accomplished, devoid of jargon but would be happy about irreverence or wittiness plus engaging and daring. They include the scholarly particularly if original and based on primary research although wish to avoid the artist writing about their work claiming a strong philosophical influence by a particular philosopher and you look at the work and it’s simply not happening… (right-on!). Reviews are welcome if clever, funny, irreverent and/or witty… so say the joint editors Neil and Bernadette Mansfield and with those aims they are not a lot different from any of the other ceramic magazines and journals currently available. I’m sure the editors of the NZ Potters variously labeled publications in their motley incarnations would not disagree. Anyway, just received my first copy and I have to say it’s a really propitious start. Almost square format, first-rate contemporary design of generous proportions with plenty of well managed white space, good production values with weighty matte paper and superb reproduction of images with a useful over-gloss – that adds depth. Additionally, it has almost 80 pages, few adverts and those all full-page so none of those ever smaller boxes within boxes, although there are a couple of ‘articles’ that are read more like infomercials. Content is almost exclusively Australian, at least for this first issue. But then, the first issue, (which I still have) of Ceramics Art and Perception was also largely Aussie. But that soon changed, and probably so will this. Before I go on, did you catch the names of the editors? Yes, this is a dynastic venture with not only Neil and Bernadette but also Josh, Charlie, Max and Siobhan of the Mansfield clan listed as on staff. Only the Creative Director sports another surname (Melissa Kallas)but maybe she was one and changed when she got married? I don’t know. Anyway, the entrepreneurial spirit of Janet clearly lives on. So too, it would appear, does her penchant for the effects of wood-firing and the Anglo-oriental philosophy, as work in this genre, and, one way or another, some close relatives, makes up much of the content of this initial issue. Further on content – they have pretty much nailed it as to their stated aims. The writing is varied in style from the poetic, to the analytical, to the meditative, to the joyously domestic, to ‘ficto-critical’, to the ruminative, and every word of it is worth reading. There is the tale of a family’s response to a work where the maker’s name is not mentioned, notes on journeying to Japan but about influences and observances not travelogue, engaging circumlocutions on what functional might actually mean if it’s not tableware, ponderings upon the intimacies of a change in country- and therefore materials- on work, a little on direct physical interaction with a massive quantity of clay and the process of surrendering, mentions of history, archaeology and entropy, information on celadon glaze and a lyrical series of apprehensions around some sculpture and more, much more. All pieces are short, amounting to about maybe an A4 page at most, if A4 pages were part of the picture here, to barely more than a couple of paras with an image. It’s lively, salient and I think the word is crisp. Furthermore it costs just $20 a copy. I shall get more as it’s different to my most favorite ceramic journal, the Studio Potter out of the USA. It’s not the read that the American bi-annual is but then, it costs less. They are chalk and cheese really and both highly recommended. Subscriptions can be obtained from email@example.com, or www.yarrobil.com or write to Mansfield Ceramics, 269 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, Sydney 2010, NSW, Australia. Jane Sawyer in Melbourne (WCC and Director of Slow Clay) is co-ordinating a specifically targeted appeal on behalf of the World Crafts Council – Australian Branch. Almost one year ago I visited Nepal for the first time. On the advice of a wise friend I took a “Go-Pack” in case there was an earthquake. What’s a Go-Pack, I asked. Well, apparently it’s what all the NGO’s require their employees and volunteers to carry in earthquake zones. It’s basically a survival day-pack with emergency supplies to keep going for a few days: space blanket, first aid kit, muesli bars, water and purifier, solar radio, torch, that sort of thing. Not the usual contents of my travel bag for a holiday! It seemed like overkill – should I really worry so much? I was laughed at by plenty, including my nearest and dearest, for being too paranoid. But I took my Go-Pack, had the most wonderful holiday, begrudgingly shared the muesli bars with my skeptical partner on the last day and quietly thanked my unknown angel that luckily we didn’t have cause to unpack the Go-Pack. On one year, almost to the day, and I have been given cause to wonder if the Go-Pack would have helped us at all if we had been in the tragic earthquake on 25 April. If we had been inside any of the beautiful heritage buildings that we visited – which are now in ruins, crumbled like dry biscuits – a little Go-Pack would probably have been useless. But seeing the survivors struggling in the following days to remain dignified and patient whilst joining queues for food and water, perhaps it would have helped until the Australian Government helicoptered me out of there. But the local Nepalis can’t fly away. It is their home and damaged as it is, they must stay and rebuild. They are spiritually strong, determined and compassionate people but they have a long journey ahead, probably years, to rebuild not just their physical buildings but their lives. And the government is disorganised and corrupt. This disaster has claimed over 7000 people and countless whole villages and towns in one of the poorest countries in the world. How can we best help? Not just now but ongoing and consistently into the future. Do we send donations to a big aid organisation? Yes, obviously we do. But what if we know people on the ground are not getting aid? What if we have connections to those communities and know individuals? Let me describe one such connection to one of the communities most damaged, the heritage town of Bhaktapur and its neighbouring village Thimi. I was taken there a year ago by World Craft Council vice president, and a local Nepali, Pushar Man Shakya, to meet the local pottery cooperative members and to visit studios. I visited many potters, saw their wonderful crafts, their sublime skills and heard their stories. It was a privilege to have an insight from a local and I have maintained my connections to some of the potters over the past year. Both Bhaktapur and Thimi are traditional pottery towns and Bhaktapur is listed as a World Heritage Site due to its ancient temples, woodcarvings and ceramic sculptures. Many of the traditional potters live in four story con-joined ‘terrace’ houses surrounding large courtyards. Yes, four story buildings in an earthquake zone built with no steel frames or concrete, just soft hand-made bricks and ancient hand carved wood. This unique architecture has developed around the needs of the potters: the traditional kilns are fired with straw and ash and would simply blow away and be a fire-hazzard if any wind got into those courtyards so the tall brick buildings are actually protecting the kilns whilst also providing a warm and sunny place to dry the pots and work in co-operative ways, sharing the firing and clay-mixing jobs. It is a peculiar architecture and, as far as I know, unique to the potters. It provides a practical and inspiring solution for a cooperative community that has been built naturally over time according to the unique needs of generations of potters. And the pottery produced is equally inspiring. With no electricity (yes, despite having the best hydropower in the world, we were told that the government rations electricity to their own people due to archaic financial deals that were made with India in the 1970’s!) the potters work completely off-grid, using home-made wheels powered by hand and finished by a highly-skilled hand-paddling method. These sublimely-skilled potters make wheel-thrown and hand-built vessels and sculptures from local earthenware clay. These vessels are low-fired in straw and ash kilns, and sold to the locals for curd-setting, water-coolers, alcohol (Rakishi) fermenting vessels, general storage vessels, roof tiles and decorative architectural sculptures. With no chance of tourists supporting the pottery industry (the pots don’t travel well), the potters have a hard enough life without losing their homes and studios. And that’s where we/you come in. The impressive Australian craft organisation Seven Women has started an Emergency Earthquake Relief Fund. More specifically, the ceramics community has a global reach and there are now many ways that we can assist Nepal in the recovery. Potters helping potters. Already, there was the Clay for Nepal on 15-17 May, where ceramicists generously donated their works for an online auction, the proceeds of which went to Oxfam Australia Nepal Earthquake Fund. It was a great opportunity to help Nepal while acquiring a beautiful art work. Oxfam are a credible organisation that deserves support, but there’s also the potential for donations that go to potters directly. We have created a safe way to get our donations direct to the traditional potters through the World Craft Council – Australia. If you can help with this project directly, please join us. The World Craft Council – Australia will work closely with the Federation of Handicraft Associations Nepal, who will then distribute the money to the potters to help re-build so that they can maintain their strong links to their ceramic history. The vice-president of the World Craft Council, Pushkar Man Shakya, who is on the ground in Nepal will help advise the Federation of Handicraft Associations Nepal and ensure 100% of our funds reach the potters. We are very grateful to Mr Shakya and the Federation. We are fundraising here on potters networks to send money directly to the particular pottery towns that have been badly damaged with the aim to help the potters rebuild their houses and studios and return to work making their wares. WCCA knows direct action can help enormously and so they have created a direct pathway for long term help for potters and have even identified the families most in need already. It is not inconceivable that this could make a big difference to the future continuation of these potters’ pottery heritage – with your help. In NZ we do not have a branch of the WCC any longer, so it is up to us to support Australia’s work in this area. Easy – bank to bank online. Please donate if you can: Account title: World Crafts Council Australia Inc Bank: Commonwealth Bank Australia Branch: BSB 063-111 Account number: 1086-1862 Be sure to label your transfer with the word ‘Nepal’. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or if you would like to help out with organising future fund-raising activities. If you want to be updated about the Nepal situation or a future emergency affecting craftspersons, you can also send your details here. http://wccaustralia.org.au Thanks from Jane Sawyer