These geese are part of a larger flock that spend much of their time grazing the grass at Northern end of the Hawksbury Lagoon at Waikouaiti. Farmers generally don't like geese as they compete with the farm animals for grazing. One local farmer told me that five geese will eat about as much grass as one sheep. I love geese of course, and I also like goats, gorse, hawthorn, and many other introduced "pests". Really humans are about the worst introduced species from an environmental point of view, but that is another story!
My early morning reading about geese tells me that the ones in the photo above are English Grey geese, also known as Greylag Geese, and that the white one is male, and the other two are the females of the same species. The English Grey Goose was first introduced to New Zealand in 1773 by Captain James Cook, so it is just possible that these birds may have ancestors with an impressive seafaring history, having sailed from one side of the world to the other in a wooden boat.
It is winter here, although it has not been a particularly cold one, and thus far there have not been sheets of ice on the lagoon, or the sand at the beach covered in a rime of frost, as there has been in previous years.
I have never taken a really good photo of the Royal Spoonbills that visit the lagoon, but I was pleased that this photo shows the amazing spoon shape of the beak quite well. I love spoonbills, they are really elegant in flight, and have a rather "high tech" look about them when they are on the wing, rather like an advanced fighter jet.
Here they are again, seeming to do a little dance! The spoonbills feed with with their beaks swinging from side to side in the water. They do so with all the concentration of a person with severe myopia watching a game of tennis!
Mostly I have not taken a great deal of notice of what is happening outside my studio window for the last few weeks, as I have been rather busy attempting to catch up on some very overdue commissions, as well as trying to develop some new work.
Here is a photo of a little line of new pots that are awaiting their glaze firing. As a change from my usual practice, I have been experimenting with making pots out of three separately thrown parts. The idea for doing this came to me after looking at photos of ancient Greek pots, and trying to think about how they were made. These new pots of mine all have the foot of the pot thrown as a small bowl, and joined to the body of the pot the next day, when the foot is firm enough to take the weight of the pot above it. I have added another section above the middle of the pot, to form shoulders and neck, but this part has been added in a very "primitive" form, then further shaped after it is joined.
When I made the foot of the pot, as a bowl, I made it by "throwing off the hump", which is the method of forming a large mass of clay on the wheel into a cone shape, then making the pot or bowl from the clay at the top of the cone. Then cutting that one off when it is finished, and making another, and another, and another, all from the same cone of clay until it is used up.
I had an "Ahhh" moment when I made the first little bowl that was destined to be the foot of a pot, as it looked so like the ones on the Greek pots I had been looking at. I thought, "this is how they made them!", and I had a fleeting glimpse into a pottery workshop with a Greek potter also making little bowls off a mound of clay. It is nice when that happens, as it is a bit like time travel. There is a feeling of kinship with potters working thousands of years ago that makes studio work less lonely.
For me, making pots this way gives me a chance to blow away some of my mental "cobwebs". It is significantly different assembling a pot from soft leather hard clay on day two, rather than making a pot in one piece, and it opens up other possibilities.
Here is a photo of some pots drying on top of the kiln. Centre stage is a jar with a domed lid, this is a fermentation crock that someone asked me to make for them. It has two semicircular weights drying near it. These weights are made to go inside the crock to gently compress the fermenting food that is inside the pot.
The domed lid has rests in a water filled moat. The water stops air getting into the pot, and allows gas from the fermenting food inside the jar to escape. I enjoyed making the fermentation crock, and am happy to report that it got through its bisque firing OK, so now is awaiting glazing.
I started writing this post at 4 am whilst looking after two electric kilns that are both packed with pots ready for glaze firing. By switching them on alternately I brought them both to a gentle heat where the excess moisture from the freshly applied glaze could steam away. Now I am commencing the firing of one of the kilns, and will feed some power back into the other kiln as soon as I reach peak temperature in the first one. I don't think that our power supply will cope with me firing both at the same time, which is why I have to alternate between them. Both kiln loads are crystalline glaze firings, and I have some new glazes to test along with the ones that I know to work. One new glaze that I am particularly interested in, is an aventurine glaze. This is a special type of low alumina glaze that contains an enormous amount of iron oxide. If all goes well the glaze will be full of tiny sparkling crystals, rather like a chocolate coloured night sky full of stars! We will have to wait and see.....
Must go now, it is time for some more coffee.... Sorry that I did not manage to post at all last month...