Tag Archives: Glen Innes Highlands

Perseverance key to Powell’s pottery

THE natural environment of the New England region, and the mindfulness of daily work in the clay studio during the COVID-19 pandemic, were influential in a collection of new ceramic work by artist Max Powell of Glen Innes.

The exhibition ‘FormWork’ will fill The Makers Shed with an array of pieces throughout spring.

According to Max, daily practice and perseverance were key to this prolific period of creativity.

CERAMIC CURVES: New works by Glen Innes potter Max Powell

“I came to ceramics through art making and fell in love with the endless possibilities of this elemental and enduring material,” he says.

“There is always the element of the unexpected and surprise that keeps me asking ‘what next?’ Clay has become an obsession and a daily necessity as I explore different pathways and grow ideas.

“Spending time in the workshop honing skills and focusing on the evolving processes keeps me in the moment engaging body and mind in a holistic way that has kept me anchored through these turbulent times. 

“The perseverance we need today is a basic tool for the potter.”

Inspiration also comes from spending time in the bush observing the shapes, colours and surfaces found in nature, Max says.

“As well as the making processes involved in transforming this most basic elemental plastic material into expressive form.

“I like the end product to reveal the honesty of the materials by leaving some exposed clay body on show, along with the effects created by the alchemy of multiply firings building up different glaze layers.”

A range of large ‘water bowls’ that can be used outdoors as bird baths, and a selection of vases and platters will be on offer, but also a range of large-scale works that will form a unique centrepiece to any indoor design.

“Besides producing useful objects, clay can sometimes result in ceramic work that can satisfy not only the maker but also engages others and adds richness to their daily rituals,” Max says.

FINE FORM: Max Powell’s new exhibition runs until November 28 at Glen Innes

Beyond the surface

A graduate of the National Arts School, East Sydney Technical College, and Monash University, Max Powell came to ceramics through the art of glazing.

“Painting the surface has always been my focus and with these new works I have tried to develop stronger forms that compliment the surface but still make their own statement,” he says.

A Glen Innes-based secondary and TAFE art teacher, he has a longstanding reputation for high standards of artistic practice in the region.

“I love the sense of community,” he says, “and the open landscape that lets you escape to the nearby majestic national parks. I love the seasonal changes that shape our lives”.

“Inspiration is everywhere: moss, lichen, a rock, a piece of wood, the landscape and the rich history of ceramics and the many stories that get mixed into the clay.”

Powell cites artists like Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Lloyd Rees, Elizabeth Cummings and Angus Nivison as influences throughout his career, which started in arts education but quickly moved on to public art commissions and exhibitions throughout the New England region.

“I feel privileged that I have been able to spend my time making art, responding to the world around and engaging with like-minded people,” he says.

FormWork runs until November 28 at The Makers Shed, 123 Grey Street Glen Innes

Sculptural Story of Shadows and Silence

THE recent installation of a major work of public art at a junction of the New England and Gwydir Highways through Glen Innes has generated plenty of community queries about the title of the sculpture and the inspiration behind it. Arts North West talked with its Walcha-based creator James Rogers to dig deeper.

“This is no signpost or billboard. No voice cheers it on other than the harsh glare of our daily cycle, weeks and months at a time as the light of the sun and seasons’ angle shapes our moments at the crossroads.”

What we found was an artist thinking about the long-term experience of his work in the context of its setting: not just the centrepiece of a roundabout in a major traffic corridor, but one that sits within an upland valley of the NSW Northern Tablelands.

“‘Blue Hills’ is an abstract, painted steel construction composed of 52 hand-cut, long, curved strips of steel and accompanied bridging elements,” James explained. “The strips are cut from 600-millimetre dia tube. This character of element is something I have been working with in the studio for some years.”

Despite its apparent simplicity, according to James ‘Blue Hills’ took on its own life during its creation.

“I composed the work over five months in Walcha, accumulating groups of the steel slivers into loose-leaning bunches that connect at the foot and the top, into a generally circular form,” he said.

“As work proceeded, lyrical elements were added to accommodate structural considerations and activate the ridge of the sculpture, maintaining a dialog from top to base and back to the ridge of the listing, arrhythmic drapes.

METAL MAN: Sculptor James Rogers working on “Blue Hills” in his Walcha studio (photo by: Caroline Downer, Arts North West)

“The density compounds across the space as the structure circulates. Steel is endlessly plastic and further welding and cutting kept the process alive.

“I work alone and with a small forklift as my assistant. I felt very close in answering the sculpture’s physical demands as the work unfolded.”

Patterns and distance 

Quirindi-born James Rogers is a regular Sculpture By The Sea exhibitor who studied the art form at the former Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education before living, working and regularly exhibiting in Sydney. His public commissions include ‘Song Cycle’ (2001) at Walcha, another sinuous metallic work situated inside a roundabout.

It’s clear that James spent time gauging how ‘Blue Hills’ would appear from road level in a moving vehicle.

“I see the work as a composition of long shadows,” he said. “The tonality of distance is blue and the silence of the Tablelands, so blue; but on closer experience the blue is itself a composition of forms, an interplay across a space of light and shadow, of form and void”.

“Further familiarity may reveal counterpoints of rhythm that invoke pattern, but it all moves on, the blue still unfolding as a memory of looking forward, around a roundabout and indicating some choices made.

“The sculpture is a distillation of nature’s space with a detached countenance that asks us to look into the silence in the shadows.”

No signpost

According to James, who relocated to live, work and exhibit at Walcha in 2009, his work must speak for itself over time.

“Now that ‘Blue Hills’ is installed, and all the barracking and raspberries blended over, the sculpture gets on with its job, mute and silent,” he said.

“No plaque will speak for it adequately if the eye is not enticed. This is no signpost or billboard. No voice cheers it on other than the harsh glare of our daily cycle, weeks and months at a time as the light of the sun and seasons’ angle shapes our moments at the crossroads.

“Whether north, south, east or west, it is a drivers’ and passengers’ exchange. It is all first-timers and learners, fresh-faced and old hands that negotiate an evaluation of delight at their transport through the intersection. No two arrivals will be the same from foggy dawn to day’s end.

“A successful work of art, I think, induces silence, while in our core we suspend disbelief, and the eye’s curiosity moves ahead of what might be daily and commonplace utterance.”

This article was first published by Arts North West. Main image by Carol Sparks.

Cultivating storytellers in the rural heartland

LOCAL FANS OF good writing have every reason to celebrate, with a season of literary initiatives and acclaimed broadcaster Mary Moody — coming to the New England region between October 25th and December 1st for the High Country Writers Festival. As an author and journalist who learned to use the written word at Delungra Public School, I’m thrilled to be bringing wordsmiths together in a region that has always fostered storytellers.

RURAL HEARTLAND: Waterloo Station, Glen Innes.

Writers will have a unique opportunity to prime their skills and draw inspiration at iconic Waterloo Station between Glen Innes and Inverell when the festival kicks off at the High Country Writers Retreat from October 25th to 27th. Inverell resident Virginia Eddy (the force behind Boorama, her business strategy outfit, pictured above) is partnering with The Makers Shed, Glen Innes, to assist writers in adopting a micro-business approach.

Returning to the region after four decades has been huge for Virginia. “When I left my Melbourne world, a friend told me: ‘Don’t ever forget that there is a reason you are returning. Look and listen for it’,” she says. “Even though I’ve been here for six years, every time I drive out the Yetman Road north of Inverell, I’m imbued with the deep sense that I’m going home. Our family left the region when I was ten.”

Virginia believes that being a writer and being in business can be a comfortable coexistence. “Regardless of whether writers are published independently or by traditional means, business knowledge and acumen underpins their capacity for independence,” she says. “Micro-businesses should be built on the same primary foundations and frameworks as major corporations, except scaled accordingly”.

“I urge writers to imagine they are weaving potent little miracles of business around their output. These don’t happen with templates, or overnight. They’re a lifelong practice.”

TOUCH OF LUXURY: Waterloo Station Shearers Lodgings.

Despite one of the worst droughts we’ve seen in the New England, Virginia encourages writers to share Waterloo Station as a home-away-from-home during the retreat. “Whether they’re from the bush, the city, or both, it’s a chance to pause, absorb the landscape, the built environment, the past and evolving social history,” she says. “I believe the Station’s restorations (under the stewardship of Deborah and Don Anderson) will speak for themselves; but as a writer working on one of my own manuscripts, I look forward to hearing others’ perspectives.”

Being a regional-returner myself, I know what it’s like to seek a sense of place in a rural community. Growing up on a property out of Delungra prepared me for the profound tranquility of rural life, but living and working across the world has allowed me to bring home a host of skills.

I began mentoring writers after my independently-published memoir Questionable Deeds was selected for the Brisbane Writers Festival. I was so swamped by queries about how I managed it that I wrote the process into a short, accessible guidebook. Participants at the High Country Writers Retreat will be mentored on adapting these principles to their writing and publishing practices.

But there’ll also be plenty of writing time, one-to-one sessions and inspirational experiences at Waterloo Station. Virginia is well underway with transitioning into a literary writer, and I am always up for fresh insights into business and marketing, so we’ll be attending each other’s sessions at the retreat. Come and join us!

From the heart

The High Country Writers Festival continues on Saturday November 30th and Sunday December 1st at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes, when Mary Moody, one of Australia’s most beloved and bestselling authors, launches her first book in a decade: The Accidental Tour Guide. She spoke with me about what inspired her to return to autobiography.

Mary Moody

“Memoir forces people to reflect on the events of their lives and to gain an understanding of how they reacted to those moments,” she says. “I have found that writing down difficult events somehow crystallizes them. The Accidental Tour Guide contrasts the highs of exploration and adventure against the lows of death and loss.”

Since the publication of a string of bestselling memoirs, bridging her life in rural France and regional Australia, Mary has relocated from the farm she shared with her late husband, filmmaker David Hannay.

“I now live with my youngest son and his family in the Blue Mountains. This supportive environment makes it possible for me to continue my adventure travels, knowing I have a safe haven to return to, every time,” she says.

Mary will also hold her popular ‘Writing from the Heart’ workshop at The Makers Shed during the festival. “I never cease to be amazed and delighted at the stories people tell me of their amazing lives. It’s just knowing where to start and how to keep those stories flowing. Often people want to write the stories of their parents or grandparents and these are equally as inspiring. I believe we will never tire of reading about other people’s lives. It helps us to make sense of our own.”

The tussle between nesting and migrating is a constant theme in Mary’s work, giving insights into the fortunes of regional communities in many countries. “It’s always the people that create a community, and it makes me sad to see regions where failing economics makes it impossible for people to live where they were born,” she says. “We need to encourage more young families to live in rural areas – the benefits of this lifestyle are many and varied.”

Described as Eat, Pray, Love meets The Year of Magical Thinking, Mary’s new memoir is an inner and outer journey through uncharted territory. “I’m really looking forward to touring with this new book. I particularly love small independent bookshops and places where there are active and enthusiastic book clubs. Australians are great readers – they devour good books and it’s wonderful to know that here we have such a vibrant and viable publishing industry. At the end of the day I just love meeting people and talking.”

The High Country Writers Festival is an initiative of The Makers Shed. This article was first published in New England Living magazine.