Year: 2015

John Stewart and Leonie Lane | Creatives

When government arts funding was slashed and courses cut from TAFE campuses two years ago, ceramicist John Stewart went back to his first love. At the time he was head teacher of Creative Industries at Lismore TAFE, and he left a long and successful teaching career to get back to his workshop outside Clunes. John discovered ceramics as a teenager, teaching himself the techniques from books. When he chose it for his Higher School Certificate his teachers were surprisingly supportive. “Everyone was so relieved because I was a dreadful painter!” he says. John and his father made his first pottery wheel, and with books and practice, John honed his skills at ‘throwing’ (working clay on a potter’s wheel). “They say it takes seven years to get good at throwing”, he says, but these days his work uses other techniques, and throwing is more of a love. John’s partner, Leonie Lane, also recently left a teaching career to pursue her own art full time. Until January this year, Leonie taught Digital Art and Design at Southern …

Acrophobia Or Something Like It

It was the Giant Drop at Dreamworld that undid me. Sitting, waiting, nothing out in front, nothing below. Only a metal harness preventing me from free-falling 39 storeys onto concrete and fake rocks below. I wanted to get off. I couldn’t. I pressed my back into the plastic seat as far as it would go. I didn’t speak. When the carriage was released we rushed to the bottom, gut-in-throat, and I vowed never to go on it again. I’ll be sticking to the pirate ship, me hearties. I wasn’t always this paranoid about heights but it’s getting worse. It’s no wonder theme parks aren’t built for adults to enjoy, when your aversion to risk is properly formed and your body’s equilibrium is so easily disturbed. But what about climbing the bell towers of medieval European churches? The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb? Surely people past puberty can tackle those? Perhaps I just pushed it too far, did one too many. These days I barely want to go above the 3rd floor in a high rise. Recently I …

Emily and Andrea Bonotto a.k.a. Il Carretto

Take 2 parts husband and wife, 1 part Naples sourdough starter and 1 part self-belief. Add 1 wood-fired oven on wheels, a warm Bexhill evening and 50 kids untethered. Combine gently with a flexible spoon and knead regularly for 3 years. Turn out onto a well-worn village hall and enjoy with friends. If you asked a 17-year-old Andrea Bonotto what he’d be doing today, he probably would have said ‘working in the restaurant at my parent’s ‘otel’. Growing up next door to their hotel in Vicenza, north-eastern Italy, working for the family business seemed certain until his father sold it and Andrea was left wondering what to do. Low paying warehouse jobs, a transcontinental pilgrimage and a teaching degree later, he is back doing what he knows. “It would have been a lot cheaper if I went straight there”, he concedes with a smile. After a breakup, a holiday to Brisbane in 2001 seemed a good escape. At a pub, Andrea met Emily Lockton, and in 2006 the couple moved back to Bexhill, Emily’s hometown, …

A Piece of Work

I get sideswiped by doubt each time I think about calling my next interviewee. What if they’re not home? What if they are but they say ‘no’?  What if they say ‘yes’? I just pick up the phone and dial, no thinking, no hesitating. It’s got to be done. Otherwise I would never write another profile. I must. Today I show up at the arranged time only to find my subject not at home. I should have called in the morning to re-confirm. I thought to, but didn’t. What if they had wanted to back out at the last minute? I’ve got my reporter’s notebook with my questions written out. And my pen. But my shorthand is that bad (where bad means non-existent) and I never leave enough space to scrawl down the answers fast enough, so I just end up recording the whole conversation each time. I wonder if she’ll think I’m an upstart? I am quite a bit younger than her, and not nearly so experienced in anything at all. I wonder if she’ll …

Katka Adams | Artist

When Katka Adams and her mother arrived in Australia as refugees they didn’t speak a word of English. It was 1969 and Katka was seven years old. Escaping the political repression of communism in Prague, Katka and her mother moved through several migrant hostels, including Bonegilla near Albury-Wodonga, before settling in Melbourne. “They just stuck me in a class of regular kids. I had to relearn my whole way of writing, and I didn’t understand what the words meant”, says Katka, in her now strong, easy Australian accent. The language barrier meant Katka spent a lot of time alone drawing, even as a young child, and developed a fondness for art that never wavered. Finishing high school in Sydney, Katka had her heart set on going to art school. “The career adviser said, ‘You’ve really got to look at your other options’, and I said, ‘what other options, there are no other options!’” It is now 20 years since Katka and her husband, Russell, bought their small settler’s cottage on the eastern edge of Clunes. …

Jim and Doris Armstrong | Community Champions

James Byron Armstrong will tell you that one thing can change a person’s life. For him, that moment came in 1969 when he was elected to the now defunct Terania Shire Council by just one vote. Keen to accurately champion the needs of his new constituents, Jim needed a way to connect with them. “I decided to do something in every district, so I knew what the people wanted”, he says. Already playing table tennis at Dunoon, he took up bowls at Rosebank, and started attending euchre in the under croft at Clunes Anglican Church. It was at euchre that he met Doris Warburton, and in time Jim was invited to go dancing with her group of friends at the Casino RSM club. They married, both for the second time, in April 1974. Jim’s only daughter from his first marriage had returned to Sydney with her mother, and Jim moved in with Doris at her Walker Street home. Now 94, Doris attended primary school at Clunes, and has given much of her life to serving …

Anne Thompson | Anti-CSG Campaigner

“The first real blockade I went to was at Glenugie about two years ago. I slept in a tent for the first time in my life.” Anne had joined coal seam gas protesters trying to prevent Metgasco accessing a drilling site. Getting up before dawn, surviving on little more than a cup of tea all the hot January day, she faced the police riot squad as they marched her slowly but determinedly out of the way. “They kept pushing me in the back and I said, ‘Do not push me! I’m a 76 year old grandmother and I will not be pushed!’” Now a familiar face of the anti-CSG movement and Knitting Nannas Against Gas, Anne had never been an activist before. But when the British-born grandmother heard of the threat of CSG being mined near her home she could not sit idly by. “When we knew it was coming to a place near you, well that was it. There’s no turning back once you know that. And if you love the countryside & love …

Why I’m reclaiming the phrase: "You sound like your mother!"

Since before I can remember, there have been mothers. Ok, so probably since the dawn of time. Either way, we can all agree they didn’t come down in the last shower. At least mine didn’t, that’s for sure. She told me so. Several times. As a mother myself, I didn’t come down in the last shower, either. That shower was about 10 minutes ago and my son is 3 and a half. I have contemplated pointing this out to him, although I think the sarcasm might be a little too subtle. He’d likely reply by saying, “but mum, our shower is in the bathroom”, or, if he’s super tired and not really listening, “but I don’t want to have a shower!” I’m sewing a pair of curtains for his bedroom. They’re dark blue with a pattern of little red and yellow rockets all over. I was talking to my bestie on the phone about them today, and as I’m chatting away a thought pops into my head: I sound just like my mother. Immediately I …