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Driving Creek Doings - March 2015

by Barry Brickell

Going to Dunedin seems to be becoming something of a habit these days, or years.  It has been Devonport for my overseas experience, now it’s Dunedin.  In 2013 it was to celebrate Dunedin’s 100 years of coal-gas at the Gasworks Museum.  In 2014 it was the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Retrospective Exhibition and this year it is the Otago Museum’s exhibition of Ralph Hotere’s ceramic collection where I am to give a talk.  This latter one is the result of work that we shared back in 1975-76 at Ralph’s studio in Port Chalmers.  Here I built a kiln burning waste pine bark off the export wharf below and using the local clays and rocks for my pottery, something unheard of before in conservative Dunedin.  Using a welded steel step-grate, the kiln easily reached a temperature of 1300C., necessary for salt-glazing.  This resinous high calorific value fuel was being dumped as landfill and I would not be surprised if it still is.  Cooked in a retort at a low red heat, pine bark could yield large amounts of hydrocarbon gas (like LPG), creosote as a wood preservative and barbecue charcoal.  How would the locals at Whangapoua regard a pine bark retorting plant to get some financial returns from this wasted resource?  A bit too radical perhaps!


Paul Lorimer has been working at the potteries now for over a month and in that time he has dug and prepared tons of clay, fixed our worn-out kilns and showed our waiting train passengers how our heavy clay processing machinery works.  Our rotary pan mill for instance, used for crushing rocks and waste fired clay must be one of the very few left in the country and still working.  But perhaps of greatest interest to our locals and visitors is the beautiful work Paul’s daughter Catherine is making.


Catherine, now 30, was born in Ishigaki, Okinawa, when Paul and his wife Nami Myoshi moved from Japan in 1979.  It was during the mid 1970s when I was establishing the potteries here that Nami came to work and ended up eloping with Paul.  They had three children of whom Catherine was one and some of our older readers may remember Nami.  Catherine has certainly inherited her mother’s skills with fine colour brushstroke decoration on her pots.  Her first firing in the gas kiln was on 13 March and I am hopeful that some of her pots will be one display at Hauraki House for our Easter Exhibition which opens on March 28th.  Certainly, they will be seen during the Coromandel Arts Tour in April.


The Driving Creek Art Gallery, designed by architect Ron Sang, was officially opened in 2011 on my 76th birthday.  Now we are holding its 6th exhibition titled “Using Paint and Clay Expressively”.  The railway supplies staff to mind it, opens most days until after Easter: 11 a.m. to 3.30 or so, admission free.  Some recently acquired works on display include two major works by my original art mentor the late Keith Patterson and Kase Jackson who attended our painting sessions under Colin McCahon at the Auckland Art Gallery in 1958.  Great days when our art was shocking the conservative element in Auckland.  So do come and see this latest exhibition which will run to mid winter.  A detailed catalogue is available in the gallery.  Good news was the Weekend Herald’s article about the gallery – 21. 2.15 – at last some media publicity!


Well, we have it, at last.  As I write this a tropical cyclone arriving to give us some welcome wettie-wetties but hopefully, not too much. Let’s pray for those in Vanuatu who are presently bearing the brunt.


Yours faithfully again,