As I sit here at Granitewood, my home and studio west of Helena, Montana, USA, I find it hard to believe that ClaySculpt Gulgong happened 17 years ago. I can gauge the timeframe because my wife Christel and our 10-month-old daughter Hanna Terra travelled with me for the ClaySculpt adventure, but it still seems a bit surreal and like a dream. Hanna is now 18 and heading off to university.
Christel and I had been ‘down under’ prior, in 1992, having undertaken a month-long residency at the University of South Australia at the invitation of Bruce Anderson, then head of the Ceramics program there. After mounting a large-scale installation at the university art museum, Christel and I took The Ghan up to Uluru, which helped put the ‘red centre’ into context and provided both geographical and aboriginal inspiration. We also drove from Adelaide to Melbourne and then to Canberra and Sydney, with a trip up to the Gold Coast then further north to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef.
So our trip to ##Morning View## at Gulgong to be part of ClaySculpt in 1995 was built on that experience. Bruce Anderson and I had established a friendship and shared a number of mutual interests, including sculptural aesthetics in ceramics, so it seemed fitting that a collaborative work by Bruce and myself was appropriate. Christel, baby Hanna and I arrived at ##Morning View## with a number of the other visiting international artists. A festival atmosphere was already present, centred around the main house with caravans for the artists to stay in, along with tenting facilities for the participants nearby.
Bruce and I had started discussions on our collaboration months before and had a number of ideas brewing upon arrival. Bruce drove in from Adelaide with a group of students and we immediately set about refining our plans for a large-scale site-specific sculpture. We secured an appropriate site with materials to work with already at hand. We felt it was so important to respond to the place and consequently utilised old corrugated iron, local clay, sand and stone for the work.
The next several days were a blur of activity, with artists and participants building kilns and on-site sculptural work all over the grounds. Morning, midday and evening meals at the main house, along with evening slide shows and discussions brought us all together.
The diversity of the talented artists was remarkable, and certainly credit for the selection goes to Janet and her team. National and international artists exchanged views and opinions and the mix really enriched the event. The participants were all so enthusiastic and helped to create the electric energy at the event. And the resourcefulness of all concerned put the reality of life on a sheep and cattle station into context. We learnt from each other. The time spent together during ClaySculpt was a magical experience for all and brought out the best in each and every one of those fortunate to have been there.
Janet and her team were amazing, preparing meals and caring for the needs of visiting artists along with all the participants. I have fond memories of shared meals and evening discussions on global movements in ceramics.
Bruce and I, along with his students, finished our site-specific piece titled ##Gulgong Square## and inaugurated the work with a celebratory fire in the central fire pit. Surrounded by tapering walls of re-purposed corrugated iron, stuffed with stabilised adobe, topped with indigenous stone accents and linked with a single cast adobe arch punctuated with a skin of iron and ochre coloured stucco, it resonated with history – and glowing from the fire, the geographical spires sitting just outside the ‘square’ marked the earth’s axis points. The idea was to leave a piece that could be enjoyed and used by Janet and her family along with participants of future events at ##Morning View##.