A soft opening then a fair

Billie Powell, Pit-fired vase; Ray Taylor, Raku vessel

Billie Powell, Pit-fired vase; Ray Taylor, Raku vessel

David and I have been hard at work over our winter break preparing for our fifth season. We decided at an early stage to feature woodfire this season, partly as an antidote to a year of Mid-century Modern, partly because Daniel Lafferty is convening an International Woodfire Conference – “On the Edge of the Shelf” –  at Mystery Bay just south of Narooma, from April 28-May 20 2014.  Narek Galleries at Tanja is holding an exhibition of woodfired ceramics from 2 May to 9 June 2014 to celebrate the festival and it made sense for us to join the celebrations.

After some thought, we came up with the title “Beyond design: Forged by fire”. This allowed us to extend the remit of the exhibition beyond woodfire itself to wood, smoke, salt and soda fired ceramics from the collection. All of these firing methods create objects subject to forces beyond their makers’ control whereas by definition a designed object is planned and its final appearance can be anticipated before it is made.  The title also raises questions about the difference between craft and design. There is a trend in our twenty-first century institutions to see design as the highest form of craftsmanship whereas woodfirers in particular spend their lives striving for unique and satisfying forms of self-expression through their craft.

The exhibition combines  new work we’ve bought recently by some of our favourite potters with earlier pieces acquired on the secondary market, including some surprises packed away in the container that we had forgotten we had. In season 3 we included a small display of woodfired works in the foyer while featuring porcelain, crystalline glazes and lustres in the gallery. This season, we have done the reverse, featuring porcelain in the foyer as a contrast to some of the tougher and more difficult pieces in the gallery. We’ve  reinstated our popular Australiana cabinet just inside the door and we have devoted one wall in the gallery to works we have acquired recently by John Eagle, Andrew Halford and Ray Pearce.

All last season’s mid-century modern pieces are now packed away and I just have to finish the labels and find storage room for about fifty stray pots that are still cluttering up the counter and workroom tables. Needless to say, as a deadline junkie, I am spending all my time in the garden, but I should be able to have everything ready for our soft opening on 4 October: Soft because, by popular demand, our River Music Fair is returning for a second year on Saturday 19 October to celebrate the opening of the new exhibition.

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