2003 - The Potters TourNew Page

Text in (italics) was written when this journal was transposed. It has been edited to protect some sensibilities.

This journal begins the day the Australia-India Council meets to discuss the current funding submissions, including an application for financial assistance for this project.

13.12.02: A.I.C. meeting, my stars for the day. “You have bright ideas about how to use funding that comes to you from government or a large institution”

16.12.02: message from Carole (director at A.I.C). “I have good news for you “  Couldn’t sleep with excitement and plans begin to formulate with a basis in reality.

20.12.02: Excited phone call from Robbie Latham, ( lecturer at IKE Institute of Koorie Education where it was proposed to hold workshops)  about the developments. I propose the Tour will be a combination of Josephine’s energy and the potter’s grace. (Josephine Sharoah was to coordinate the project from the Indian side and was to come as interpreter the potters, Giri Raj Prasad and Manohal Lal, known as Manori)

10.1.03: Had a phone call from Shyam Prasad, (son of Giri Raj Prasad) concerned to know the details of the Tour as they felt they were not being told the whole ‘story. It was lovely to speak with him with the noise of children in the background.

30.1.03: Have just sent $6,600 to Housewives Welfare Council (an NGO that Josephine had set up, I had not been prepared to send it her personal account but as it turned out sending it to this NGO created problems for Josephine subsequently, as, this NGO was not authorized to receive such monies.) I am nervous and wished it luck on its way as it went into the ‘airwaves’.

Other developments in the project this week are Jos. leaving Kalakar Trust (an NGO where Jos worked and was the initial contact for me when I went to work with the women potters in 2002. see journal. This move had serious implications for my relationship with the Patron of Kalakar and the near ‘scuttling’ of the Tour)  and the lunch is gaining momentum. ( It was proposed to hold a  lunch to raise funds for Jos ‘social’ work’ activities)

Now to my ‘other’ work.

1.2.03: Have recovered from last nights anxiety over time running out to get the freight here

 ( the potters were to send their traditional wheels and a selection of their work for display and sale)  it needs 6 weeks and we have 6 weeks before the workshops start and still no tickets booked.

Had and email from Sterre ( patron of Kalakar Trust) 31.1.03 telling her side of the Jos leaving Kalakar story and related issues also the offer of another chaperone. I believe Jos can do the job, although knowing her maverick ways her strengths are considerable.

9.2.03: A calmer weekend after good news that the money had finally come through and that tickets are booked arriving Australia 14th March.

11.2.03: Another email from Sterre this time implicating me in the Jos business. She has threatened to contact the Australian Embassy stating she will forward a copy of a police complaint to them making it difficult for Jos to get a visa. I then had to spend time ‘clearing’ my name!!!!!

16.2.03:  have spoken to Jos several times over the last days, Giri raj is wanting to re-negotiate the agreed arrangements and would like his son to come. ( he felt he should be paid more than the others and this is a reasonalble request but I felt everyone should be paid the same. I had not met his son and the application was based on his presence) I have been feeling sick about it all but now, funnily feel quite fine. It seems Jos is still in ‘control’ at the school and teaching the children. ( this was the contentious issue with Sterre, who ‘owns’ the school)

What am I to do about the fundraising lunch, it seems the idea of workshops for the woman at Hastal has been canned by Jos ( I had thought the money raised could pay someone like Giri Raj to conduct workshops for the women I had worked with in 2002) and has warned me against contact with Sterre. I feel totally confused. I will give it a day or two and something may become clearer.

21.2.03: Have had a very lowkey week on the Tour front. Is it when there is no action to be taken, energy and stimulation is gone. Emailed Sterre with the workshop for the women potters suggestion.

22.2.03: Pottery Expo Warrandyte, steamy, I am finding it difficult to talk about the Potters Tour. There are people enthusiastic about their visit and I feel I don’t want to say too much. That is today. ( the fact that the trip is still in the balance may have had something to do with my mood and not being able to be straight in conversation about the same.)

26.2.03: 10 days since I have heard from Jos. The anxiety has passed, either all is O.K. and Giri Raj is coming and she has the visas in hand or disaster, and she is too apprehensive to say. I think the former.

28.2.03:  E-mail from Jos. she has put in the applications for the visas!!! In my sleepless hours of bedtime I become exasperated with the course of events. 2 weeks before departure and the applications just in!!!!I was nearly on the phone but realised I would be met with disarming ways. In the light of today things appear more optimistic and I have got to trust all is well. Still no word on Giri Raj, I guess that means he is coming.

4.3.03: Phoned Jos last night at 3a.m. to catch her at home. She had her feet in a foot bath. She reiterated already told stories about Sterre etc. She was going again to the Australian Embassy with letters from Balabgarh. (Sterre had carried out her threat to send a police report on Jos about an incident at the school to the Australian Embassy)  Time is running short and I am concerned for the workshop venues making arrangements etc,. However I am confident of Jos. bringing it off. Once again it is jut feeling but there is every chance she will not get the visa. I don’t have a fall back plan as yet.

6.3.03: Phoned Jos. again last night at 3.a.m. I was waking every hour to see if it was time to ring. Spoke with her husband, and yes, she was successful “by her determination that day she had succeeded” I have been wondering what has there been to learn in this episode. One thing is, you can’t isolate your project from the community from which it emanates.

9.3.03: Jos rang last night to tell me to pick up the freight from Tullamarine on Friday. Freight is the next hurdle ( the pots and wheels ended up being airfreighted as time ran out to sea freight with the problems with  the visa, this had not been budgeted for but Jos got a  ‘good deal’) When all is ‘boiled down’ most of my anxieties revolve around  money and the unknown.

Had an email from Sterre tonight. She is sorry she hasn’t responded earlier. She seems to think workshops for women and young people ( her idea) to gain new skills is worthwhile  and wonders more what I had in mind. ( No mention about the visa issue)

We finished the office today to be used first for the potters’ accommodation.

12.3.03: Text message form Jos ‘ring urgent’ My stomach sickness returns. Is Giri Raj now not coming, is it the freight, is it something not really urgent, she doesn’t have the freight list, money shortfall, I will have to wait until I get home.

13.3.03:  Was it only yesterday I was feeling sick? After some chasing around found out the Sharoha phone has been disconnected but I was able to call Jos on her mobile. She has been trying to send the airbill without luck. A fax arrived at 3.a.m. true to form but still no invoice

( needed to complete  customs)  I checked with the airline this morning and the pots and wheels will be arriving tomorrow at 8.30. I have been feeling buoyant today.

14.3.03: I am at customs, its 3.30 and they close at 4.30. I have struggled, but with wonderful help from the staff have completed the forms ( and saved the customs brokers fee) They all tell me its unlikely I’ll get the ‘goods’ today but as with all this project  it seems to come through at the last moment, and I trust this will also.

16.3.03:  They are here. Got to the airport and the only flight on the board was 11.30 tonight!!! I was confused and spewing. Wandered around trying to find information on flights and returned to the information desk and they said a flight had come in last night and to have a look around the arrival hall. There they were - I was relieved and in tears. They had been waiting all night. The only info I had was they were to  get in at 8.30 this morning!!! Jos has now told me the whole Sterre story and so hopefully that is over.

19.3.03: No mention of Stere the last 24 hours.

Now we are into the workshops the pace is frantic and so have not had time to contribute to this journal.

Monday, the first workshop at Broadford Secondary College, went well despite to much light to see the slides and DVD well. The students watched the slides patiently and enjoyed the throwing. The staff was appreciative.

Tuesday on the way to Craft Victoria’s Forum, Between You and Me collected the 8 heavy crates and I was thankful I hadn’t picked them up Friday as I would not have managed. 

 Found 2 hour parking!! Broke my shoe on the way to the Forum. Gemma Darck was speaking when we arrived and I made some notes of response which I delivered, if I may say so articulately. Confusion over meeting time. Jos sense of timing !! and a $50 parking fine. A big day. And another big day today at Seymour Tech High. The kids were ratty although the teachers were saying how well behaved they were. They provided a lovely lunch that was much appreciated by all.

20.3.03: Great day at the Tallarook Primary School workshop. We all enjoyed it.

23.3.03: Evening, the big lunch event is over so we can get back to the main event, pottery, I guess.

 Friday we went to the Victorian market to buy food for today. We meet Carol Robertson (Director of Australia –India Council) for coffee. That all went well as did the shopping. She was interested in Jos work and set up a link with A.I.C person in New Delhi(nothing has come of that). She was easy to speak with and impressed with what we were doing.

25.3.03: Escape to my room. We are at Tanya and Scots (my sister’s and husband where I stayed while doing the workshops in Melbourne). Jos is cooking subzi and the potters are making chapparti and I am exhausted.

Picked up the potters and Jos. this morning from Warrick Apartments at 8 to get to Chisholm at 9.30. They were not prepared for us and there was a bit of ‘tooing and froing’ as to where the potters should work. They were impressed with the quietness of the wheels and Eve, who builds small pots would like to buy the wheel. I think she is deserving of it as she was the most enthusiastic.  The slides and video were well received and we sold two big pots to the Institution. Started building the kiln. What a bun fight, Jos was suddenly an expert on kiln building I had to pull back.

Coming into Melbourne last night at dusk driving over Westgate to the city my passengers were most impressed with the sight, as I am always, I was proud to be able to ‘show’ them something. Jo. was “Oh my god, oh my god” and then the potters were imitating her. ( they do not speak English) It was a great moment. Now back to the fray.

26.3.03: A quite coffee in Acland Street between dropping the potters off and ‘home’. Realized this morning after looking for P.L.C. ( the next workshop, a private girls school) is not where I thought it was, i.e. MLC. It is further out and consequently was late, and when we did get there I got lost in the grounds. Rang reception and was found by Chris Selwood, contact for the workshop. I then promptly locked the keys in the car with the basket with the slides and video. Chris was very accommodating and the programme was changed to allow for this. I had checked under the car for the spare key but in frustration blindness did not see it. After about an hour of different ones trying to get the car open Chris looked again under the car and there was the spare key.

 Meanwhile the potters began throwing and the girls were hooked. Manori made a water pot impressively. Many of the girls had several goes throwing and there were lots of visitors during the day. Chris was “without words” to express how great it all was. Had a visit from the Principal. Brought back memories of my time at school as she was definitely form the same mould as ‘the Boss’ but not the deputy principal that got down and had a go despite being a large woman.

Dropped my pots at Galerie Hors Saison ( a friend and I were to have an exhibition of our collaborative ceramics)  Paul still full of complaints about one thing and another. I thought I would like to take the potters on a tram ride but were all to tied. I have now recovered, and can proceed home.

30.3.03: The re-grouping of a day off, paperwork up to date. The washing done, and now time to catch up on this journal.

Thursday morning had time to walk around Southbank and visit Federation Square. Spent some time in the Indigenous Galleries. The potters and Jos were curious about the work and spent considerable time looking at it.

 Returned to Chisholm to turn the pots already made and some more throwing demos and at the end of the day endless discussion on the kiln and its drying. Then drove home to Tallarook.

Friday was workshop free, Jos and I went into Seymour and she did the op-shops buying bags and sheets. I did banking, my keycard and the potters food wallet had been returned (I wonder where I had left them) The potters worked on making the drum kiln ( a small replica of their kilns made in a 44 gallon drum) . Manori cut his finger, and as they had been working with horse and cow manure decided it would be a good idea to have a tetanus injection. Into the Seymour Hospital for an injection, good for him, no cost and 10 years protection.

Saturday, workshop at Northcote Pottery, they were impressed in particular with the factory and really enjoyed being amongst the pottery. The workshop went well. A raku workshop was also in progress so that was good to watch the progress of those firings, Giri Raj was then curious about glazes. So we will endeavour to melt something in the drum kiln. Chayle generously gave each of the potters a bag of tools and stains.

Today the potters have been in production mode here at home; busy making pots, as well as a rolling pin ( left the other one in Geelong) for their chapparti making needs, better than the one we have, carved from a small pine tree trunk.

1.4.03:  Rest/interval day. Yesterday we all struggles through the workshop at Avenal Primary School, it was the first time I saw Manori a little stressed. But, when we got home it was all systems go to get a kiln firing. The saggers for the kiln firing were not dry so a pit was constructed, rush-rush, and I lost my cool with the pace and Jos interventions. After lighting the fire it as apparent that it was firing too fast ( pots were blowing up) and sand was thrown ont to slow it down. “Experience and experiment” Giri Raj This morning the potters were up at 6 dismantling it. ( After a 4 o’clock phone call from Sweeti, Jos daughter)  it was an early start to the day. Surprisingly many pots survived including all the pieces in the saggers, some deep blacks but no reds. Manori has now made more money boxes, Giri Raj the beginning of a chula from mud and Jos chapattis . They are always busy.

2.4.03:  Angela and Alan’s (friends of mine from Albury where I stayed while we did a series of workshops in Albury) 6.30 p.m. after another big day. Workshop at Riverina Tafe, a mixed bag of participants;  at risk students, fine art students and community potters. It flowed well and the participants impressed with the skills of the potters, lots of questions, an inquiring and appreciative group. After the Tafe workshop went to the main street for shopping. Jos walked ahead of the men and I caught up with them. Jos, didn’t want them in the op-shops for some reason. We wandered ahead, a potter’s conspiracy. Tried for a few phone calls and Giri Raj got through. After leaving Jos at another shopping centre I took the men back to their cabin and they were anxious to communicate without Jos translating. She does wonderful work but I am beginning to think she translates selectively.

6.4.03: Geelong. A recount to a few days back.

A slow start to the workshop at Scots School Albury as there were no students for the first hour. Once we were in business though it was very busy. Staff and students were enthralled and many students made small pots, some of the smaller children also did some enchanting drawing of the potters working. All in all it was not so well coordianated and for the school some lost opportunities but it was O.K. for us.  A quick dinner at Angel and Alan’s and a final agreement and passing of cash for Giri Raj’s large bilowni and then we were on our way into the sunset driving to Nomad.

 Yesterday, Saturday Manori made more water pots and they organized firings, pit and drum. The pit firing was not successful, 4 of the 5 mudka exploded. The drum went O.K. but all the pieces were totally black.

Met up with them this morning at Spencer Street Station and drove to Geelong, via Station Pier. There was a tall mast ship anchored and although the tours were over for the morning Jos talked our way in to go on the last tour. Geelong was looking beautiful as we drove in.  Had a lovely walked this afternoon along the beachfront.  They all seem happy in the bungalow. ( A small building at the back of our house that was once my pottery studio, it has been  converted to a simple living space. I was staying with other friends)

7.4.03:  Woke this morning with the germ of an idea for the next potter’s project. Take the potters technology to an aboriginal community ( my partner architect/builder spends 3 month each year working in a remote Aboriginal Community in the east Kimberley)  I will see how today goes and this week  to begin with and think more on the idea.

 Evening. We plunged this morning, I wonder if the timing is similar with the same dynamics in other projects. Last night Jos was withdrawn and this morning distraught. She didn’t sleep all night and was cold ( but had refused blankets and pillows  from  a neighbour where she was first to be staying instead of the bungalow). She had big complaints also about the potters. She stated if she had “known it was t be like this she would never have come, and she has now to suffer out the time”. It was on my tongue/ mind to say she could go back early if she wanted too. She also requested that I introduce her as a social worker and “not just as” a translator.

Unfortunately I am not a good one for continually salving the ego of those who need that.

 In the car this morning the potters were also subdued, knowing they had in some way contributed to what was happening. I wondered are we going to make it to the 17th (departure date)  JJF (a community development worker who had initially met Jos in New Delhi and who had enrolled me in the idea of working with the woman potters at Hastal, see Journal 02)  and I discussed what has happened today. I believe Jos had expectations of JJF and  that when she realized these were not to be meet she became despondent, I do not know the full story.

Despite a shaky beginning, the workshop went well at IKE (Institute of Koorie Education), “blackfella organization” Robbie said.

This evening, the potters and Jos were going to have a short walk around Bay City Plaza (close), they ended up at Fyans Street (far)  and found an op shop came back with 2 vinyl bags and hand cream. They did get lost and ended up at the police station where they were asked for their passports!!!!! The Tour goes on and all the recriminations of this morning forgotten.

9.4.03:  Outside The Salvation Army Family Store, the others are shopping. We have now done all the big Geelong op-shops. Just dropped in here on our way to Melbourne. Another positive day yesterday at IKE. The students began painting enthusiastically pots the potters had made the day before.

10.4.03:  The response to these workshops at IKE builds more strongly as the days progress.

 “I’m overwhelmed by this. It’s life experience stuff” Leearna Sanders Batchelor of Visual Arts 2nd Year.

14.4.03:  We have had the gamut of emotions. Euphoria and love, yelling and anger, laughter, sadness and tears.

Took the men to Lorne while Jos went with JJF to TEAR (to look into how it could help Jos NGO)   We had a lovely time walking on the beach. It is a wonderful experience to be with people who have not seen waves before, collecting shells and stones. Tea and cake on the pier with the waves crashing nearby, then a walk along the pier, complete.

Although I had dreamed of taking Jos along the Great Ocean Road, it was quiet not to have her there.

Friday morning more shopping and hysterical laughter at the amount they have bought and how will they get it home??

Visited Gallerie Hors Saison to organize my small works for the opening that night. I felt quite detached form the work, it looked very sparse.  The opening was wonderful, a great atmosphere of joy and the potters were celebrated. Our work was well received, sold about 6 pieces. Jos met with Jay ( a friend of mine interested in education)  and they ‘struck a deal’ for support. Jay will pay the salary of the teacher (Jay has since annually collected money to send to Jos for the school)  Dinner at a noisy Vietnamese Restaurant.  Tanya, Jenny and Jay generously paid for the Indian team.

Saturday, Regrouping, washing etc and a 2 waterpot firing, it wasa successful 3 hour firing, cooling for ½ hour and then unpacked. Visitors arrived for the evening firing and dinner. Re- packed the kiln with saggered pieces, a successful firing I would say. At this point I began to fade. Jenny described it as the best dinner yet (and we had had some good ones) I was acknowledged for the efforts to get the team here and I stated my appreciation of the trust they had put in me (which Jos didn’t translate)  Peter then thanked the team for coming and how we had all enjoyed having them contribute to our lives for the time they were here. Robbie Latham has a great perspective on cross cultural issues. ( I wonder what she had said?)

Sunday, packing for the conference, a low key drive to Bendigo. ( The potters were to demonstrate at Ignition, Ceramic Victoria’s International Ceramic Conference)

15.1.03: We are beginning to formulate our next moves, I am thinking of a residency at Sturt, plus a trip to an Aboriginal community.

Attended several openings associated with the conference.

Monday, more op-shopping, more sheets, the potters spent time watching demo’s and experimental firings and threw a few pieces for today. ( needed to have a few pieces semi dry to demonstrate finishing techniques)  We now prepare for today’s demonstrations.

18.4.03:  Good Friday, the day after they have left.  We have been reclaiming our spaces from firings, sleepings, and throwing. A tempered day, I packed two water pots to fire and I write this as the firing proceeds. It is a ritual firing, grasping the vestiges of energy. I will sit and consolidate the last month’s experience.

Back to the 15.4.03, the first day of the potter’s demonstrations at the conference. The potters were ‘marvelled’ at. Giri Raj worked slowly and with perfection Manori with speed and grace. I turned the wheel for Giri Raj for some time while he completed some large pieces, it is a perfect action, moving the wheel while the master completes the form. I was waiting for the ‘big name’ potters to visit (validation for myself) and some did, and were impressed. Several people stayed for the whole session.

Tuesday evening was the dinner, as the potters had not been given ‘a meal ticket’ they chose not to come, a good decision. It was freezing and a meaty talk fest. The plates were auctioned and they made $100 each. ( all the demonstrator had been made a plate to decorate to be auctioned as a fund raiser for The Victorian Ceramic Group)  

Wednesday, dropped Jos for more shopping but the men were keen to be at the conference. Once again their demonstrations were well received. 2 people said to me it was the best thing at the conference and had made it worthwhile. The final pack up was quick and the closing ceremony uninspiring, Rod, a lovely man but lacking spark for speaking, probably like myself, my slides and video had gone O.K but I was lacking the vital energies.

 On the drive home the moon kept rising above the hills and Giri Raj sang his devotional songs. ( At this point I was told he and his son perform at special events, something we experienced in 2005)  When we got back here the fire was going, very cosy we had a subdued but connected evening.

Yesterday morning, the 17th, packing up day, string/rope, box for microwave that Jos had bought etc. Jenny took Jos into Seymour for suitcases, it gave me space to give the men their gifts, trying to explain where the stones I was giving them came from. I am not sure they have a concept of what maps represent.

Jenny and Jos got back at 11a.m. and the panic began, got the car packed and left about 12.15. Manori mentioned and we all acknowledged the last gate opening and closing.  Airport at 1.30, Trudging up the carpark Jos stated her heart was pumping with anxiety, (over getting all her luggage checked on as I had been telling her she had way too much)  The men supposedly checked their gear on and the balance of the 90kgs was for Jos. What was she to sacrifice? The check in woman was ‘firm but fare’, when it was discovered that Manori’s bag had not gone in she allowed it on. Jos had a big bag of clothes that had been given to her and a ‘gunny sack’ with her clothes for the stop over. Checked out unaccompanied baggage rates but too expensive so I thought she had conceded to leave both. She offloaded extra hand luggage to the men. We said our tearful goodbyes and they disappeared behind the doors, however, I could see Jos in discussion with the hand luggage person, she had taken the ‘gunny sack’ with her. Out she came looking for someone to carry in her extra hand luggage,

 “ I have seen an Indian family…” and then off to the  check in area to talk with the management. Will brought her back. Time was getting away and the men didn’t have their passports or boarding passes. She admitted defeat and disappeared again. Tanya suggested we go, “I had to let go” she said. Has a quiet coffee and headed home.

 The Australia-India Council contributed financially to this project.

Postscript: Peter, Will and I went to New Delhi at the beginning of 2004, taking Josephine’s excess luggage. We stayed with all the team at some stage of our trip. We visited a new school Jos had established and the potters took us to their home villages in Rajasthan. We also began thinking of the next tour. See Journal 2005