Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Kipling's Kim.

One Sunday afternoon, waiting for the art program, I watched the boy's own adventure movie "Kim".

It's based upon Rudyard Kipling's book by the same name.

Rudyard Kipling was the first english-language writer (and youngest ever), recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. 1

Not surprisingly "Kim" was a highly enjoyable ripping yarn set in colonial India.

At high school I studied India's history, including the Partition of British India into India and Pakistan.

Then in 1983 I spent a few months wandering around southern India.

While watching it I also reflected on my indirect link to Kipling via his father.

Kipling's farther was simultaneously the first principal of the Mayo School of Arts and the first curator of the Lahore Museum, just next door.  This was the first art college in Northern India/Pakistan and  "designated the premier art institution". 2

In 2006 I was an invited by this now National College of Arts, to spend a month in their Ceramic Design Studio.

My experiences in India and Pakistan were chalk and cheese.  I clarified my thoughts and feelings in a short article I wrote for Pyre, the Ceramic Art Association of Western Australia Newsletter.

What was particularly interesting was the creation of the School/College of Arts as a way of protecting and preserving local hand skills and culture during the Industrial Revolution.  The Industrial Revolution hoovered up raw materials around the world, ran it through those " dark satanic mills of England" and flooded the world with bland machined product, destroying local hand make culture across the British Empire. The parallels to the present global situation, should be obvious.  But I digress...

Watching the movie inspired me to look up my blog entries during this time.

Scroll down/up to here to read the blog entry.

I found it full of thoughts on Hindu, Muslim and Christian weddings I had attended; the institution of Marriage, and death!3

Wedding: India, 1983

Wedding, Australia 1988

Wedding: Pakistan 2006

The blog entry ended speculating about the relative difference between and importance in my life, of the nature of people I knew, and the nature of my unique relationship with each of them.

Can we actually ever separate these two things? That is, is it their unique personality, or our unique relationship with them, that is most important?

Just over a decade later, I feel I am still none the wiser...

1.   @ 29/11/15
2.  @ 29/11/15
3.  @ 29/11/15

Monday, October 19, 2015


Over the last few days I've removed 6 wheelie bins of rubbish from the studio, as we prepared to hold our 15 year birthday party exhibition in the studio...

The whole studio was packed away behind false walls, professional lighting hired, and the space was for the forth time in 15 years, converted into a professional art gallery.  I moved 2.6 tonnes of limestone in to and then out of the space, to create plinths.

Between 200-300 people joined us to view the art, eat, drink, listen to the music, dance and celebrate.

Read more here.   View more on the studio Facebook.


TIP: who is a good art teacher?

The following is a draft guide for what to look for when selecting a good quality course and teacher.

It looks like a hot topic at the national level within the ceramics profession, and possibly with the wider arts community, as governments exit art teaching, and an unregulated market emerges.

What do you think? 

What advise do we give to the consumer in researching independent classes and teachers?

Leave your comments at the bottom.

The following is a general guide for what to look for when selecting a good quality course and teacher.

Class size?

Larger classes are cheaper, as the teacher's wage is spread across the group. 

In small classes, you will pay more per lesson, but your experience is customised to suit your experience and ability.

In large classes you learn at the pace of the slowest, or fastest person.

In large classes you compete for teacher assistance with 15+ other students.

Smaller classes allow more individual student-teacher interaction, customised demonstration, instruction and advise. 

Consequently the learning experience is more  immediate and suits your personal needs and speed of learning.

Fixed, or flexible?

Not everyone has the work or family flexibility to attend formal TAFE or university classes. 

Some independent teachers offer more flexibility on day times, terms and duration, plus you can move between similar classes.

You directly pay independent teachers, so they focused on your experience, not their manager / administrator / institution. 

What will I be taught?

Public funded classes are required to teach a prescribed course of study.  

Students may be rushed through a set list of prescribed activities, set by a remote committee, sometimes interstate, or in the past.

Private classes are more likely to be flexible in what they teach.   They can respond to your specific interests and level of interest.

If you express interest in any particular area, and if your teacher has the breath and depth of training, it's possible to spend months, even years exploring your personal and technical interests.  his with the support an expert. Fellow students can also benefit from selectively watching and questioning you both.

Consequently the learning experience is pleasurable and rewarding.

Art qualifications? 

Does your tutor have formal training? 

A degree majoring in ceramics indicates that your teacher or tutor is highly creative, and has solid training in how to use materials, and a broad understanding of art.  Course entry is very competitive, and they have been repeatedly assessed over a number of years, to a very high level.

Teaching qualifications? 

Those with teacher qualifications, will have a wider range of techniques to help you learn and very highly developed interpersonal skills, relative to most artists. A sensitivity to the learning process is essential.

Not surprisingly, most professional Teaching Artists have trained as long, if not longer than other professionals.

Professional development?

Training does not end with a piece of paper.  

Do they keep improve and refreshing their skills and knowledge.  

Do they keep learning?  

Accredited by professional teacher associations and Teacher Registration Boards require regular, documented upgrading of skills and knowledge. Teacher accreditation also includes regular formal federal police and child protection clearances. 

Teaching Experience?

How long has the teacher been both an artist and teaching.

Generally the longer in both, the better. 

Experience in a wide range of situations, takes time to be acquired.

Moreover, with experience comes confidence in both their teaching ability, and student's innate abilities. A calm and capable teacher fosters a more positive learning environment.

Exhibiting experience?

In order to teach well, your teacher must have a deep and broad experience in making, thinking and talking about their own art. 

Number of, and years exhibiting indicate their commitment to making art, at a high standard.

Entry to exhibitions which are by invitation or selection, indicate that the work by the Teaching Artist, compared to their peers, is of a high standard.  

Selection for interstate or overseas exhibitions is less likely to be influenced by social networks, and more by the quality of the submitted artwork.

Invited to teaching elsewhere?

Repeat casual teaching at other venues over many years suggests that that other arts organisation's internal student reviews of the teacher, have been consistently positive.  That the teacher is also eliable and trustworthy.

Often arts organisation administrators invite teaching artists to work for them, after word of mouth recommendations through their own professional networks.

Look for burnout:  Attendance at workshops and conferences indicates an ongoing interest in learning more about new developments in their art medium, arts in general and art teaching.  It is also a good proxy for their continued passion / high level of motivation. 

Invitations to speak or demonstrate at state events indicate a sound professional reputation with profession peers, relevance of their knowledge or expertise, plus good communication skills. 

Invitations to speak, demonstrate or teach at national and international events indications higher levels of professional reputation, skill, knowledge and passion.

Writing about art, art education?

Independently published books and articles require an ability to reflect deeply on art and the art making process, either their own or others. This requires sound judgement, tact and outstanding communication skills. Look for national and international publications, as the editors have higher standards than local publications.

Word of mouth?

Look for a good word of mouth reputation. 

If you have not heard anything informally, then look online.  Ignore student quotes on the actual class website, as these can be easily manufactured.  Look for separate websites which provide reviews-at arms length. 

Google their name in quotation marks, and read also the second and third page of search results. 

You expect your accountant, lawyer, or doctor to be properly trained, qualified, and to be professional in their conduct, and sensitive to your personal details and circumstances. So too in the arts, where you will be dependent upon their expertise and guidance as you learn to make and express personal preferences, beliefs, emotions and thoughts.

Ask past and current students.

So, once you have done your research and made your selection, you can look forward with confidence to ongoing learning, increased relaxation and creativity, in all parts of your life . 

Kind regards

Graham Hay

My apologies: I posted this on my website sometime ago, and completely  forgot about it (even forgot to link it when updating whole website). This is it's fouth revision @ 23/12/15

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Advise to Secondary School Arts Students

Hello Mr Hay!

My name is ............................. and I am a Art Specialist Student at ..................................  ...

I was wondering if it was alright to ask you a few questions in regards to my assignment to which I could not find the answers to online. Please do not feel obligated to answer in great detail, or even at all if you do not feel comfortable in doing so. 

Q1. What would you consider to be your art movement? From my knowledge it would be a sub movement of Contemporary Art.

Q2. Biographical information: What is your date of birth? (I’m sorry, I hope you don’t mind me asking) How do you think your family and home life have influenced what you do today?

Q3. What would you consider to be your 2 greatest artistic encouragements and/or influences?

Q4. As a paper clay artist what are your most commonly used/ required technical skills and do you feel this techniques echo your particular style?

Q5. What would you consider to be your top 2 proudest pieces that you’ve created?

I really admire your work Mr Hay and hope that one day I too can produce artwork to the standard that you have; an excellent goal to work towards for young inspiring artists like me. Also, if you find the time, could you please respond to this email by Thursday the 17th of September or even early Friday the 18th of September.

Thank you very much for your time and patience sir and your answers would be much appreciated J

Kind Regards, 


Email reply: 13 September 2015

Hello ............

Thank you for your detailed email listing all your assignment questions.

I draw your attention to my advise at 

"Secondary School Students - please read all linked articles at before emailing me your assignment questions. "

[there is]... hundreds of other students in dozens of other schools around the globe doing a similar assignment.

I hope you now understand  why I can’t physically answer every assignment question from every student (including yourself) that emails me.

So your job is to research further than just find my email address, and my job is to make art.

Sometimes you will find the answer quickly, sometimes you will not.  Then you will have to make an estimated or educated guess (and explain why and how you came to this conclusion in your assignment).

The result is that you will think more deeply about art, and ultimately become a better student and artist.

I wish you well in your research.

Kind regards


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Innovative, Avant-Garde, Experimental Artist or just another hair-brain ideas?

There is a lot of myths and quicksand around these terms, particularly in the arts.

Maybe my fumblings here will trigger your own insights?

Back in 2000, in her book Paperclay and other clay additives Anne Lightwood stated

It is hard to describe the work that he makes.  It is totally original, fitting into no known category and not seeming to come from any recognisable ceramic tradition, but rather to derive from the way in which animal structures are built.  It includes elements which appear to be taken from partly eroded anthills, or coral reefs, or papery wasps' nests chewed from old wood, which look delicate but are actually very strong.
To a northern Scot such as I am, his work seems to epitomise the land from which it comes: an alien continent in a different hemisphere, full of heat and light, space and sudden flashes of intense colour.  (emphasis added) Lightwood 2000

These comments still surprised me many years later, after all I had studied ceramics at high school, three years at college (plus living across the road from and having an after-hours key), then a decade of recreational classes,  then four more years majoring in it at two universities.

Now, over a decade and half after this, I have some theories about this.

The first is that by using a "new" type of clay, I felt less constrained by the conventions of pottery.  I felt free, so I tried and did things I had never done before with clay.  This is a theme often also mentioned by others at symposia and conferences.

The second was that I had to make my own paper clay, and because I was working with slip, rather than soft clay(and not slip casting), things started to happen.  For example: being inpatient, I became tired of waiting for the liquid paper clay to turn into plastic paper clay on the plaster slabs.  So I began to slop it over dry works, paper towels, dipping wool yarn, foam rubber and all sorts of other things to dry it, or just for fun.  Or I mistimed the drying, and had to pull dry slabs off the plaster slab, which I then experimented with.

The third theory, which is still a work in progress, is the fact that I was constantly having to explain how paper clay is different to conventional clay, encouraged me to seek out even more unconventional ways to use the former.  Virtually from the beginning I was invited to explain/teach others my techniques.  The encouragement of workshop participants meant that I often first tried out some new hair-brain idea at my workshops. The evolution of the whole food paper clay story is a classic example of this...

Lightwood, (2000) A, Paperclay and other clay additives, Crowood Press, UK, p.76

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Freebie anyone?

looking back I have fond childhood memories of making things in clay

There is a lot of talk about cutbacks in school and art programs in 2015,

so while I can't fix the problem,

but maybe I can help plug a couple of gaps appearing:

So, for 2015 I'm offering a free, one day paper clay in school workshop/AIR.

To the first two W. Australian schools who contact me, and who doesn't have a dedicated art teacher.

Past workshops I have given are at

It's not much, but I'll try it for the year and see how it goes.

If there is a lot of demand, then maybe I will need to consider: ?

Contact details on my website.

Update: 3 January 2016 Offer again on this year.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Freer than California, s bigger than Texas

Most artists with a ceramic background know how Voulkos, Mason, Price, Arneson, Gilhooly, Shaw and others widened the expressive possibilities of clay.  They moved it outwards from traditional function ware, towards larger scale, sculptural work.

In California in the 1950s and 1960s the art climate was open to experimentation. Physically and psychically removed from the New York art world, a California artist felt little restrained by the East Coast's hierarchical and traditional definitions of fine art.  The less formal California life-style also encouraged a personal and artistic freedom... 1

A similar sort of thing has happened within more recent times in Australia.

Wherever I travelled overseas, I kept hearing that Australia (and Canadian) ceramics is more adventurous, more exciting.

This could be due to the appearance of the regular, truly international ceramic journals; Ceramics Art and Perception, and Ceramics Technical, both produced and edited by the late, constantly globetrotting Australian Janet Mansfield.   Consequently overseas readers were exposed to the best ceramics from around the world, with a healthy disproportion number coming from Australia.  So non-Australians finally got to see what we were doing.

Or maybe we were just becoming more adventurous, more exciting. Lets look at why this might have happened:

Similar to west coast USthe 1950s and 1960s,  Australia (and even more so Western Australia) is now universally known for a laid back culture.  So we might enjoy and feel a similar creative freedom. 

There is also a east coast, west coast difference in Australia, just like in the US. Perth in Western Australia is 4000 km (2500 miles) away from the larger, older and more conservative Sydney. 

Perth also has a mild Mediterranean climate, with a much more sunny (3,200 hours sunlight annually)  and less humid climate than Sydney, or the other east coast Australian cities.

The population hugs the sea coast and its beautiful beaches, with most living within a half hour drive to the sea.

Western Australia has huge, wide open spaces: at 2.5 million square kilometres (1 million square miles).

It is a third of the Australian landmass,  and is five times bigger than Texas,  or six times the size of the UK.

With space and distance comes both physical and psychological freedom.

Yet it only has 2.5 million people, with most living in one city; Perth.  So less people means less competition, less rush, less stress.

With less people comes a greater need to "do" things oneself.  A wider skill set is needed, as there is often no one who nearby who can do it for you. With no one to do it for us, or show us, we just figure out our own, with often unique ways of doing things.

With less people, there is greater need to work together to make things happen (a sort of small town thinking in a city).  Everyone contributes, to create communal resources and events.

It's a young state, with a Parliamentary government only created in 1889, so there is less overly complex and redundant rules and regulations.

With its physical isolation, youth, and wealth (it produces just under half of Australia's export income) comes also a fierce independent spirit.  An 1933 WA referendum voted overwhelming for separate from Australia, but this was thwart, and is still a source of local frustration.

With the disappearance of ceramics from Universities and Technical college, in it's place has emerged clusters of ceramic artists and student around independent, self funded studios.  Free from the straight jacket of dusty, decades old curriculum... 

So, watch this space...

1. Marshall, R., Foley, S. (1981) Ceramic Sculpture: Six Artists, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, USA. p10 


The digital disruption of the arts currently underway has a couple of unanticipated consequences, that I am just starting to tease out.

In discussions with Mark: from Harvison Gallery,  and Dirk: a GIS expert, it has become clear that institutional changes in the arts will mean we, as artists may need to change how we do some things.

A decade or so ago when the WA state government art gallery acquired one of my works, I was required to provide information on both the work and myself.

This information was stored in the gallery's library, which in turn was used by curators, writers, collectors and the public to research works and artists.

A few years later, as a cost saving measure, the library was moved 200 metres across to the State Library of WA (SLWA), which also contains the  J S Battye Library of West Australian History.

Now there plans afoot to reduce services at SLWA, as a cost cutting measure.

Not before too long I expect that this small library will quietly fade away  (a few years ago I cut up a  Who's who in the arts book that I bought from the Library's second hand bookshop).

Mark lamented the disappearance of the dozen top commercial art galleries in Perth, and their meticulus records, and so the essential breadcrumb trail that provides  provenance of artworks.

I suppose now it will be up to artists to collect these sort of records and when they die, have make sure their estate has access to everything (an online example).

Given this digital revolution, many artists like myself are now recording the production of our artworks, not just the final work.  Instagram has become the platform of choice for many potters and artists. Mine?

Now if I could just find someone willing to edit all my video into short movies - hint hint dear reader.

(*belated post)

No storm in a tea cup?

An image of my ceramic sculpture on a  cup.

Am I a Mug?

Above is an image of my ceramic porcelain sculpture on a tall cup.

Bought for less than the price of the clay, glaze and firing, from my redbubble  folio.

Laughing our heads off, in the studio this afternoon: the very idea of my artworks printed out on leggings, bed coverings ... 

On a more serious note, is printing images of my porcelain artwork onto mass produced porcelain cups a capital offence in the ceramics community?

Post modern example?

Alternatively, ridiculing  "CONCEPTUAL ART".

Or just the reality of what has happened to ceramics in Western Australia over the last couple of decades.  Is ceramics an economically obsolete craft form in Western Australia?

What do you think? Scandal?


Or don't care, just want to go buy your own Graham Hay Mug?*

*Note, just before buying you get to chose between the tea cup and mug

Thursday, March 5, 2015

No artist is an island

Site crew Alex Wylde and JonJo McEvoy helped unload, before the next sculpture.

One of my students texted me today, to congratulate me for my work appearing in an article "Ten of the Best" in The West Australian newspaper today.

In my reply I thanked her for bringing it to my attention.

I also thanked Cherie for her support over the years it took me to make it.

(Years before she had also helped me obtain the kiln in which most of the work was fired.)

I later clarified my thoughts in a conversation with fellow studio artist Carol Rowling.

This is a summary and expansion of that conversation.

While my motivation to create good art may contribute to this small success, is only part of the story.

Success never comes overnight. The ninety-nine percent perspiration, one percent luck rule also applies in the arts.

But this too, does not fully explain how I was able to dedicate two and a half years to making one, two piece artwork.

One of the reasons why people work together, in any organisation. and in my case the Robertson Park Artists Studio, is it makes it so much easier.  We support each other, share in the lows and highs, and gives another reason to come into "work". documents the build.

We also share the financial, administration, cleaning etc workload of maintaining the studio, the physical space in which the artwork was created

Most discussions of Artists Studios or Artist Run Initiatives focus sharply on this aspects.

But again, these fail to capture a much more critical aspect.  Who supports us?

In the arts, audiences are an afterthought.  This is because it comes after the making.  Fair enough, let's set that aside for now.

Something is still missing from explaining the whole process of art making.

Our families and friends provide substantial financial, social, and moral support to us, in order of us to be artists.  They are often publicllly acknowledged.

But on their own, over an extended period the burden of supporting single-minded overclocking artists such as us, can eventually be too much.  I speak from personal experience.

So we have developed a larger support group.  Around eighty students attend the studio on a regular basis, providing both financial, social, and moral support for all five studio artists.  In return we share what we know and have learnt, plus share our studio space and time with them.  Many are also artists.

Then there is the families and friends of these students, who encourage and provide financial, social, childcare and moral support for the students, so they can come to the studio, to the classes and workshops.

All up I guess there must be around 350 people who have either directly or indirectly supported myself, while I created the 700 kg sculpture.

Then there is the board and 16 staff members of the nonprofit organisation that organises every aspect of the Sculpture by the Sea event. On top of that are 56 Consultants, Temporary Staff & Interns who assist them in organising and running this exhibition. Alex and JonJo in the picture above were two of these people.

Then there are over 300 people and organisations who have freely donated $250 to hundreds of thousands of dollars, to help fund Sculpture by the Sea.

Then there is my photographer, the photographers from the newspapers and journalists and Arts Editor...

So what is the total so far?  670?  700?

I'm honoured to be part of such a large and generous team.

So why does the 200,000-250,000 people who come to the exhibition see only my name next to the artwork?

Making spaces for Art

As a critic once wrote:

"... artists gotta to make art ... '

But where?

A few months ago I reached out to Maria Miranda, who is writing a PhD on artist's spaces

Really I can't recommend enough, that you read her blog

She has been uncovering all sorts of nocks and crannies where real art is been made around Australia.

I recommend you start at her earlier blog entries and work forward.

Maria also alerted me to the local  Paper Mountain's forthcoming second exhibition and forum on Artist-Run Initiatives (ARI), this time with a national focus. Unfortunately both their events look to be too narrow in focus: perhaps as would be expected for such a young organisation, focusing only on it's immediate (chronological and geographic) peers.

I know of at least half a dozen other local collective ARI and Artist Run Spaces (ARS)  which are missing from their list.

ARI is a new slogan and label for those artists studios with a government grant seeking agenda.

This may not have been their initial intention.

But if art projects are poorly planned and budgeted, then they quickly lead to incorporation (see advise at, elections, agenda and minutes taking, so they can then access government grants to bankroll their ambitions.  Not surprising Paper Mountain staff are feeling this pressure and have just released fundraising t-shirts with the logo: "Make Art Not Admin?".

I hope it's not too late for them to learn that artists studios work best on the KISS principal and it's always best to be inclusive, rather than exclusive within the arts community.

Let's hope Paper Mountain can pull themselves together, because their heart is in the right place.

So, let's go read Maria's blog: and
and learn about other long lived, quirky and fun artists studios and galleries.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Death of the Artist—and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur.

Anyone can be an artist (2015), 1440x900 pixels, Artist: Graham Hay, Photo: Graham Hay.  A Digital "Collage artwork"* 

Key extracts from insightful article by William Deresiewicz:

"Hard-working artisan, solitary genius, credentialed professional—the image of the artist has changed radically over the centuries. What if the latest model to emerge means the end of art as we have known it? 
As art was institutionalized, so, inevitably, was the artist. The genius became the professional. 
The institutions that have undergirded the existing system are contracting or disintegrating. Professors are becoming adjuncts. Employees are becoming independent contractors (or unpaid interns). Everyone is in a budget squeeze: downsizing, outsourcing, merging, or collapsing. 
Still, it also is an opportunity. The push of institutional disintegration has coincided with the pull of new technology. 
The Internet enables you to promote, sell, and deliver directly to the user, and to do so in ways that allow you to compete with corporations and institutions, which previously had a virtual monopoly on marketing and distribution. 
So what will all this mean for artists and for art? For training, for practice, for the shape of the artistic career, for the nature of the artistic community, for the way that artists see themselves and are seen by the public, for the standards by which art is judged and the terms by which it is defined? These are new questions, open questions, questions no one is equipped as yet to answer. But it’s not too early to offer a few preliminary observations.
What seems more clear is that the new paradigm is going to reshape the way that artists are trained. One recently established M.F.A. program in Portland, Oregon, is conducted under the rubric of “applied craft and design.” Students, drawn from a range of disciplines, study entrepreneurship as well as creative practice. Making, the program recognizes, is now intertwined with selling, and artists need to train in both—a fact reflected in the proliferation of dual M.B.A./M.F.A. programs." 
Creative entrepreneurship, to start with what is most apparent, is far more interactive, at least in terms of how we understand the word today, than the model of the artist-as-genius, turning his back on the world, and even than the model of the artist as professional, operating within a relatively small and stable set of relationships.
But one of the most conspicuous things about today’s young creators is their tendency to construct a multiplicity of artistic identities. You’re a musician and a photographer and a poet; a storyteller and a dancer and a designer—a multiplatform artist, in the term one sometimes sees. 
Judgment rested with the patron, in the age of the artisan. In the age of the professional, it rested with the critic, a professionalized aesthete or intellectual. In the age of the genius, which was also the age of avant-gardes, of tremendous experimental energy across the arts, it largely rested with artists themselves. 
The democratization of taste, abetted by the Web, coincides with the democratization of creativity. The makers have the means to sell, but everybody has the means to make. And everybody’s using them. Everybody seems to fancy himself a writer, a musician, a visual artist. 
“Producerism,” we can call this, by analogy with consumerism. What we’re now persuaded to consume, most conspicuously, are the means to create. [Ed: think of digital devices as these means]
producing becomes an experience, even the experience. It becomes a lifestyle, something that is packaged as an experience
the most notable things about those Web sites that creators now all feel compelled to have is that they tend to present not only the work, not only the creator (which is interesting enough as a cultural fact), but also the creator’s life or lifestyle or process."

The Death of the Artist—and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur. by William Deresiewicz (quoted from the original full article at   Originally published: DEC 28 2014, 7:43 PM ET Copied to blog 14/2/15 9:20am WAST

*Filename :  Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 9.03.53 am.png.  Image sources: from,, and

Friday, February 13, 2015

goldfield grave digging and more...

Copy of a immigrant's 1864 letter to his mother and son:  goldfield grave digging and more... *

102 years later: Panning in Takamakau River. ahead of gold dredge north of Hoki" Family Photo.

"JUNE 16 1864

Dear Mother & Friends,

We are very anxious to hear from you, as yet we have not heard from any one in England. I wrote to you 4 months ago, also to Ben and to Mr Jenkins my late shop mate at Hill & Sons.

 I have sent by the same mail as this, an order for 5 pounds for our dear boy and much regret not having been able to send any before.

 It is made payable to Mary Hay and sent by William Hay but when you write to us please direct for W. E. Hay as there is a W. Hay here and I had one of his letters delivered to me in mistake 

 you may judge my disappointment when I opened it. 

 The order is made payable at the Office, Tottenham ( ? ) Road. 

 should they ask my address it is Wilsons Gardens, Tuam St, High Street, Christ Church. 

 I regret to say that things in general are not as promising as when I last wrote to you

 there are so many ship loads of emigrants coming from England and other places to Canterbury that

labour of ALL KINDS is now much in excess of demand and

if emigration to this part is not stopped for some time things will soon be as bad here as in England. 

 It is the Capitalists of all kinds here that are voting large sums of money to send to England to give assisted emigration

for they know full well that in a short time they will be amply [repaid] by being able to have labour on their own terms. 

 Coals, bread and butchers meat are much dearer than they were a few months ago and the only vegetables we ever get here are potatoes unless you grow them yourselves. 

 12 months ago a Master, say a carpenter, wheelright, painter etc, etc, would have to keep on men that did not suit him or else go without. 

 There is no fear of that now for it is the men that have now to look moderately sharp to get a job and to keep it when they have got it.

You will have heard of the gold fields on the River Wakamarina in the Province of Malborough they were discovered a few months back and I like thousands of others must try my luck. (1)

Was on the diggings some weeks in fact I have only been back a fortnight

 it is now the middle of winter here and the winters here are almost as cold as in England and to my thinking more unplesant as it rains in torrents frequently for days together 

 in fact you must not believe half what you read about the Beautiful Climate etc, etc. 

 I have often had the desire to prove what sort of constitution I really had and now that I am back again and sitting by the fireside I must say that I do not feel much the worse for it. 

 I have helped to dig the grave for a stronger man than myself and then sat down to a sumptuous repast of tea, often without sugar,

 bread that is to say flour & water mixed together and then burnt in a frying pan or almost cooked mutton without salt and often neither one or the other, 

with the ground for my table and the lane for my bed and perhaps take a couple of hours to get even that ready for when timber is wringing, soaking wet I will assure you there is more smoke than fire in 

fact I went through some hardships, for 3 weeks I never had my clothes off except to dry them 

which was a great waste of time for I would soon be wet through again, but I need say no more for it is what diggers in general have to go through, 

suffice it I was not one of the lucky ones for our claim turned out a blank and when we gave it up in despair 

it was too late to get another for every available place was taken up 

whilst 2 men in the very next claim to us shared 100 pounds between them in one week. 

 I have lost 30 pounds by the job in cash, outfitting, etc, etc. 

 food of all kinds when I was on the diggings cost its weight almost in silver on account of the great expense of getting it to the diggings 

for be it understood there are no roads, merely tracks through the bush, rivers deep and broad without bridges

W E Hay"

(1) The Wakamarina field was covered by 6000 men, a long line of canvas shelters and tents springing up beside the mud flats. Source:
See also

*Factual letter, with only minor spelling corrections, format changed to aid reading on digital devises.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Welcome to my (studio) World.

Just for Western Australians

This is just for Western Australians.

Up to now, institutions and groups have organised all my dozens of previous paper clay workshops.

I've never organised it myself.

However you keep asking for an inside view of my studio and methods.

So, as my studio classes are full and technology has changed, I've done it!
I now offer, open to the public, paper clay workshop in my Perth studio.

These are small workshop, of about 6 people.

Welcome to my studio!

Note: if you miss out on a workshop, click on the "Wait List" button on the top right hand side of the course page.  You can register your interest, and you will receive an immediate email when I post the next workshop.  Plus it'll give me an indication of all your interest and preferred frequency.

Of course, you will still be able to find my other workshops organised by others here.

All the best, wishing you a happy and creative future.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Art for whom? vs what art, and by whom?

Most art laws tries to bring together

two opposing objectives, 

the pursuit of professional excellence 
wider community participation.

Classic Us vs Them, or Them and Us binary thinking.

But we are not alone in Australia with this problem.  

Tribal Revolt (1994) by G. Hay.  Ceramic earthenware paper clay, plaster,  54 x 47 x 46 cm.  Photo: P. Northcott.**

Seeing our common dilemmas from another culture provides a fresh perspective.

"Freshness" does not garantee a solution for ourselves, but, at the least it may make it easier to live with our dilemma.

A Finnish  artist wrote

"...  I was invited to take part in a panel to discuss the topic of ‘for whom should art be made?’ 

The discussion centred on whether art should be made for a professional arts audience or for a wider public, and what the need was for applied arts and societal arts in today’s society in general. 

I remained silent for most of the discussion, as I felt I could not grasp the point of the question. 

The question seemed to portray art as a specific kind of a ‘product’, which was manufactured by professionals and then distributed to consumers. 

The structure of this art distribution was analogous to that of any product, where demand, market value and consumer expectations were driving the development of product design – in this case, the strategies of art funding.

Finally, I tried to raise my voice, and proposed to shift from the question of ‘for whom should art be made?’ (which presupposed a one-way deliverer–receiver structure) to the question of ‘who can make art in society?’ 

Following this, I proposed that, if we had societal funding structures such as a ‘citizen salary’, people could participate in creativity and art-making, and questions about the status of professional or amateur art or boundaries between popular culture, DIY communities and fine art would become trivial. 

Then, the follow-up question would be: ‘what kind of art is made, and made possible, by the people?’

As one might expect, my proposal was met with minimal response, as leaders of art institutions continued their debates on the distribution of governmental art funding to established institutions. 

The problem did not seem to be how to deal critically with the economic structure, which increasingly defined art and art-making, but how to get as much funding as possible from this structure. 

Slight panic seemed to be filling the atmosphere, as pressure from diminished state funding, on the one hand, and increased reliance on private funding, on the other, forced institutions to blindly fight for survival. 

For the artists, the question of DIY or amateur art posed a threat to the professional league, which also had to prove its expertise and irreplaceability in the face of the system.*

For me, this was a clarifying moment. 

There I was, at the very core of cultural funding, amongst these high-ranking decision-makers, and not even they had any power over the rhetoric that comes, direct and unmasked, from neoliberal economic language. 

There seemed to be no other option than to accept what was put into action, from the top down, by the government and make the best of it...

But it doesn't have to be this way...

*emphasis added by myself
 ** From The Ways of the Seeing Places exhibition, Arts House Gallery, Northbridge,  Perth, Western Australia, 7 - 19 August, 1994.

Extract from Terike Haapoja's paper "At Least We Now Hear Them Talking: Art and the animal other in the era of neoliberal dogma", from Corcoran, K., Delfos, C,  Maxwell, J.  (Ed), Art Futures: Working with Contradictions in Higher Arts Education, The European League of Institutes of the Arts (ELIA), p. 43.  Read it online: Thanks to Chamber of Arts and Culture Western Australia for providing a copy to to members.
Chamber of Arts and Culture Western Australia

Saturday, January 24, 2015

I have no idea what I'm doing...

One of the most embarrassing things after giving a paper clay workshop is viewing video of my demonstrations.

Luckily the cringe factor diminishes slowly over time.

I've just re-discovered some video from a workshop over two years ago, that I gave in Khnemu Studio, Michigan, USA.

In a fit of madness I had decided to demonstrate how to make something I had made over 14 years ago,  and only once since,  for a demonstration 6 years ago at Desert Dragon Pottery, Phoenix.

Paperclay, 43 x 38 x 16 x  cm, Artist: Graham Hay (Aus/NZ), Photo: Victor France
Hug, 200012Ceramic E'ware & T'cotta Paperclay 43 x 38 x 16 x  cm, by Graham Hay,  Photo: Victor France

I'm now unsure what induced the madness, but a throw away comment I made during the video motivated this blog.

The orthodox for demonstrations is to show what you're good at, which means showing techniques you have used thousands of time in the studio over the last decade or so.

There's one serious problem with this safe route.

It makes the technique look very easy and the result fantastic, but is very difficult for audience members to duplicate successfully, particularly beginners.

By making a "wonky work" I showed how things do go wrong, that the studio process involves hundreds of hours of failure and dead ends, and the amazing works presented in slideshows and magazines, only just through to that point by the skin of their teeth.  They oh, so nearly ended up in a dog's dinner on the floor.

This problem of giving too polished demonstrations first struck me many years ago while teaching at the Ceramic Design Studio at Pakistan's peak National College of Arts, in Lahore, were I was working with some of the brightest students ever.  Compared to myself, they had a better command of english, new technology and were more widely travelled.  Despite their obvious capacity to quickly learn whatever I demonstrated, they weren't "getting it".   

The solution I finally fingered out was to make and show them a slideshow of just my failures! 

What I think this did was, show that to make masterpieces requires taking risks, sometimes huge risks, in the studio.  That my unusual work was the result of over a decade of making, what I though at the time was, ugly art.  That their current accidents and failures would eventually pay off.  

This slideshow didn't show them what to make or how to make it, rather it showed that I was no different from them.  It motivated them to keep going.  That even though I was "an expert" I was still struggling, and enjoying the process, perhaps even more than the final work.  I believe that this slideshow motivated them more than one of slick, amazing work.  They went away and tried all sorts of things that I had never thought of, and created wonderful work.

So, getting back to the video...

What I saw in the video, which I now like, is that I was obviously struggling to make the challenging piece in Michigan, that I invited the audience in to help me try to make the work.  This removed the physical, and psychological, gap between us and hopefully made it more interesting, and stimulating.

Hopefully it has had a similar postive impact on the workshop participant's motivation in Michigan.

So, bring on the edgy workshop demonstrations!


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