Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One Year On - 22nd February 2012

A personal count:  I didn't sleep well last night, very restless and I dreamt about February 22nd. Not vivid memories of the day but what the date February 22nd really means. With the 1 year anniversary & memorial of the tragic earthquake (that took over 180 lives) being held tomorrow, it is I'm sure on the mind and heart of everyone.

It's still really, really hard not to be affected by the stories of the survivors and the victims of the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch on February 22nd 2011. Tear still flow freely when I read stories, look at photos of past and present Christchurch and sometimes even when traveling through the city, a visual reminder of what has been taken from our city. It's not familiar anymore and it's filled with grief.

I think some people still have a lot to process and a lot to talk about (well I do!), and a lot to heal from. If it was a 'one off' event we might have been able to move on, heal, and restore our lives back to normal - but with constant reminders of wet liquefaction still coming out of the cracks in the ground at our house, constant shakes (some larger than I'd like) and possibility of it all happening again on a larger scale, it's quite hard to forget. I don't want to wallow in it and I don't lie in bed worrying that another one is about to hit, but I don't think it's over.  The morning of the February quake day, I left the house with my baby to meet up with my husband for lunch. As I left the house I 'felt' a quake was coming so I took my box of newly glazed ceramics off the bench and put them on the floor in the hallway. I think they were the only things not broken! (I have done similar things with other larger shakes and was not surprised at all when the 23rd December shake struck)

The DAY: I remember when the earthquake struck one year ago, and how I was holding onto my husband in the middle of a flooring store with 100kg rolls of lino breaking out of the chains that held them to the wall, and crashing to the floor. I kept on thinking why wasnt my husband standing still, he was rolling the baby stroller around the shop, trying to dodge falling things and keep us safe. I just hung onto him for dear life. I grabbed my phone...12.51 pm and my first thought was of my 2 children, then aged 4 & 6 at Kindergarten and School. I did a quick calculation... was it still lunch time? Were they outside? Were they safe? We were about 20 mins drive to pick them up, but it took over 4 hours to get to them, not to mention the scary aftershocks that were rolling in. Seeing people crying in their cars was pretty common.  I got a call from my Aunty in Australia telling us people had died in the CBD - it was hard to believe as I was just in a huge crawling traffic jam in suburbia. If I had known it would have taken that long to get there, I would have gotten out and run all the way to my children. As we got closer to them the roads got worse, the liquefaction, flooding and giant holes in the road were everywhere.... I remember a little bit of rain starting to fall which made it even drearier.

 My husband dropped me of 1/2 a block from my daughters school while he went to get our son. I ran thru raw sewerage, mud and dodged holes in the broken roads to get her - my heart has never beaten so fast as it had been hours since the quake. I fought the panic now I was getting closer to her. I knew she was safe but I just wanted to get her. I remember crossing back over the road gripping her hand and someone pulled over in a 4wd offering to help me, give me a lift somewhere. The disaster made everyone in Christchurch one giant family that day and the months following. We all had the same thing in common and it was a strange thing, you could look into someones eyes and you knew they had felt the terror too. My poor 4 year old had been through too much and had to wait outside by the gate in the cold with a Kindy teacher for 4 hours... there was liquefaction everywhere in the Kindy grounds and inside was very unsafe.

We made the slow journey home in disbelief. We were assessing the liquefaction and wondering what home was like. Unfortunately we were hit hard with the silt, not 100% coverage of our property like others in the eastern suburbs, but pretty darn bad. I remember seeing what was left of my daughters pink bike poking out of a huge silt volcano and I thought oh no... Inside was like a war zone, I shudder to think how well I would have fared if I had been inside when it happened, let alone my wee baby boy who was 6.5 months old at the time. With the upright force of 2.2 G's, our heavy cabinets and big bookshelves just sheared off the earthquake brackets on the walls then were thrown forward. Desks thrown over and other heavy items a metre out from the wall. We went inside the obstacle course and picked up the biggest broken things, the kids played outside in the silt. I tried to stop them but realised they were distracted and happy, so left them to it, unaware of what was inside. We left the house to stay on the outskirts of CHCH at my sister's house and came back a week later to start the clean up. We have a wooden home with wooden floors and it just moves with the quakes - and boy does it MOVE!...which is actually far more frightening than experiencing one on a concrete floor home. The noise gets you every time. Liquefaction flooded under the floorboards on top of the polythene, making it like living above  a swimming pool of silt, I'm thankful at least it wasn't a concrete pad otherwise the house would be no longer. We've got raised and sunken piles but overall I don't think its 'that bad'.
A personal necklace I made to wear for tomorrow's 1 Year anniversary.

AFTER: I am so fortunate not to have lost anyone close to me, but I have friends that lost best friends and family. I cannot imagine the grief they are feeling right now with Wednesday looming closer.

My 2 eldest children seem to have come out ok. My wee baby was only 7 weeks old when we awoke to the confusion and terror of the September 4, 2010 earthquake - he is now 19 months old and all but those first 7 weeks of his life have been filled with earthquakes and aftershocks. He slept through both the September & February earthquakes, but screamed in fear during the 2 earthquakes in June as books and objects fell off the shelves around him. It was heartbreaking to hear. I managed to run and scoop him up outside during the Dec 23rd 6.0 quake so he wasn't too frightened.

It's been a very weird existence... I never thought I'd be part of something like this. I never knew Christchurch was so earthquake prone... but after much research it's actually a very common thing. This is the 3rd time the Cathedral has lost its spire from earthquakes, there are so many reports of violent earthquakes in CHCH city since the 1800's, with reports petering out in the 1940s's. Why didn't we know?

The quakes have become part of life, although they are never ever welcome. There are still the ones that cause your heart to stop and the adrenaline surge in the night as you wait to see if it will escalate, and there are the ones where you have to look at the mirror moving or the trees to see if it was one. We know what magnitude earthquake at what depth causes liquefaction at our home, it's happened 3 times now. After the shock and stress the February mess caused we got rid of it all. But after June I decided to do something positive with the silt and use it in my cermaics.  We even kept a wee corner of it in the property. We'll never run out of the stuff tho, it's all under the floorboards and I just need to dig below the grass to find pockets of it.

 And the rest they say is History! From the business side of my life, The Emerge range was born and then released on July 27th 2011- it was my way of coping, an excellent and therapeutic way to move forward and have a purpose after that tragic day. It became a personal thing also. I wanted to create and give back, in order to help others move forward. I never imagined the positive impact my designs would have on people, not only from Christchurch but all over the world.. to have a little bit of home in their hands - but not as a dreadful reminder, but as beauty, created from the ashes. Mudbird has become quite the appropriate name, altho the name was thought of well before the earthquakes.

My heart goes out to those who have to deal with the enormous grief and loss all over again tomorrow -  Wednesday the 22nd, but especiually to the survivors, the ones who were trapped in crushed buildings and brickwork. I hope they know they are not forgotten, as their lives must be so much harder, bearing physical scars of that day and the memories. We all have stories to tell, we could fill 1000's of pages of our thoughts, tears, feelings, emotions and experiences that day, and sometimes I think the rest of NZ must be so sick of it all by now - but it was a huge thing to live thru, something so shocking it's hard to forget and its still raw. It was a tragedy that rocked the whole country, and the country came right in behind us with support which was amazing.

Kia Kaha Christchurch, stay strong  xoxo

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The TV shoot! {Hearts in Crafts TV series}

Crew setting up  - Makoto telling cicadas to be quiet!
 On Friday 17th February 2012 at 1pm, Bronwyn, Tim & Makoto (all working for Whitebait TV) arrived at my studio for an afternoon of filming in the new Mudbird Studio. I was fortunate to be chosen to appear in the 13 part TV series called 'Hearts in Crafts' which will be showing on TV 7 in April (TBC). My segment is part of the series called 'Planet Saving Craft' and the intention for the afternoon was to have a chat about my Emerge range which is made from liquefaction silt from the Christchurch earthquakes in 2010-2011.
Tim filming

After Makoto on sound got the cicadas to quieten down in the silver birch tree above my studio, we got on with the interview with TV-Tim behind camera.
Bronwyn checking frame before we started.

Myself and Bronwyn.
 Now normally I'm behind the lens, so when faced with a TV camera trained on me... I froze. More than once and there were plenty of takes, lots of 'sorrys, pulled faces & a few laughs'. My mind went blank more than a few times - darn nerves! But with the relaxed and friendly Bronwyn interviewing me we got there in the end. She promised she'd make me look good! ;-)
Chatting to Bronwyn

Interview time
After the interview we moved inside the studio to move right through the process of making an Emerge bird. We started work on the wet bench, wedging clay, mixing in silt, rolling, cutting, stamping. Then smoothing off and into the kiln (Luckily I had some I had prepared earlier!) Then some glaze work on the other work bench and to top it all off, some creative shots of my Emerge range and other product in my studio.

View through the plants - wedging clay
It was quite a lot of fun after I got past my nervous state. It was a beautiful warm sunny day and I couldn't have asked for better weather. 
My son being camera-man after it all wrapped up.
The studio was light & airy and I felt so fortunate to have such a amazing work space. I've decorated it with many inspirational pieces - my love of old things has certainly had a huge influence, and I like to display some of the old objects I use to make my designs. It's a place I want to be, a place I want to work - which is a good thing.

My husband kindly took the photos of the shoot during the afternoon.

 And I took these ones below before the shoot to give you all a better picture of my space and surroundings. The studio is 10sq m , and we have 1/4 acre section with 100's of native plants and different fruit trees. Our house is a tiny 80sq m so it's heaven being able to work in my studio space uninterrupted. 

Inside looking into our yard.

The business end & creative space for hand-glazing and making jewellery etc.

Wet bench, working with wet clay etc.

View inside

View inside

Garden Space.

Mudbird Studio  - work in progress.
See you next time, Gill

Monday, February 13, 2012

Make that idea HAPPEN!

I just love it when I see an idea and then get the chance to actually do/make it right away - rather than getting it filed away in an ideas book that just gets thicker by the day.  I have always loved the look of terrariums, especially little ones in gorgeous jars. I love jars and have quite a collection, so when I was at the garden center on Sunday afternoon I knew exactly which jar I would use. I choose  a little asparagas fern, a small Frithia pulcha, 2 succulent/cacti from the Gasworthia and Pachyphytum species and surrounded them with Angel's tears.
My new Terrarium - The jar measures approximately 30cm high.
I have to say it was quite tricky planting the wee plants in such a small space, and did contemplate asking my 7yr old to poke her hand in to help. I just winged it and guessed how it was made - I think you are supposed to add a layer of moss after the rocks, but I couldn't find my bag of sphagnum moss so It might not stay looking so pretty once the soil settles in. I split the Asparagus fern up into a few plants and I have more white stones and mini succulents so I'll make another in one of my smaller vintage mason jars.
Close up of plants
And then after that we decided the move the massive table in for my desk - we have to move everything as its basically wall to wall! I LOVE IT... LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! 2.5m of work space. Laptop and 'office' are on the left 1/3rd and then 2/3rds of space to work. This is my semi dry area, where small amounts of fiddly glazing are done, making jewellery, packaging and planning. My council cupboards are working out to be a DREAM. There is room for everything and no clutter. It feels like someone else's work space. Far too tidy ;-)
Moved the office desk into place - its a whopping 2.5m long!
 And to top it all off, we took the kids to the Chinese Lantern Festival in Hagley park last night. Unfortunately with wee ones it wasn't a late night and didn't get really dark, but they did really well hanging the lanterns under the huge trees and the kids loved it all.
Lanterns from the Chinese Lantern festival - 12/2/12 Hagley Park,  Christchurch

So, if you have an idea - do it now, get it started. It's so satisfying seeing it come into fruition. 

Right - off to unload the kiln x Gill

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Creative inspiration...

Through the French Doors

 Part of my creative process is inspiration, like most other artists I am sure. To help this process for me it is surrounding my work area with beautiful things... well, not completely surrounding, but a place I can glance to and feast my eyes upon these treasures.  Everyone has their own version of what a beautiful thing is, and some would just call it all clutter!

I have a love for nostalgia, for those items which have a history and can tell a story. I also love the quality of these old objects - modern day knockoffs can not compare to the materials or designs used in the past.  I've been fortunate to acquire some beautiful old things and I'm so excited that I have a place to put them now. Sadly my big old council cupboards have some serious liquefaction  & water damage, but they will be restored one day.

Here are a few photos of my things in my studio. Once my shelves are up I'll be putting more of my lovely finds out on display.

Christchurch City council draws/cupboards last used in the 1960's

"Press for Orpheus" Old Bakerlight intercom phone from the depths of Canterbury University.

Beautiful old Royal Typewriter

Library file draws from Canterbury

Details from inside one of the Council cupboards

You can see a '9' stenciled on under this paper sticker.
Sadly these paper numbers will have to be removed when the cabinet gets restored...
but the black stencil numbers will look great!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Midnight madness - getting the job done.

It was a little after 1.15am when I came inside after just finishing the final top coat of paint in my studio! Yes, it's quite late, didn't get much done today, so it was a night job after the kids were all tucked up. Hubby went to a movie so I was kept company by listening to pod casts by Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington... love and hate them at the same time.

Anyway, what a pleasure it is to finally complete this step  - to stand back and see all that hard work and effort paid off. I started early this morning and went to town with a tube of no-more-gaps... just being picky really on joins and around the old window and French Doors. My daughter was with me and came out with a question that made me realise I was being a little too fussy after I gave her the run down and a little lesson about what I was doing "Mum, does everything you do have to be absolutely perfect?"... errr... ehem!  ahh only from a 7 year old!  I ended up managing the 2 top coats in one day. Yay for quick dry paint eh?

So the colour is a lovely soft pale grey called Porcelain by Resene - I fell in love with the colour and thought the name was pretty appropriate with my love of clay. The colour notes on the Resene website say this:
"Resene Porcelain is a kaolin white, fine and delicate" and I couldn't agree more.

I think its going to be a lovely colour to have in my creative work space. It's a little too late and too dark to take a photo but I'll upload one tomorrow. (for now this colour swatch will have to do!)

So I have had quite the creative week, not all my creativity has to come from clay ( although I did manage to make quite a few wee things today as well and are drying as I type).

A couple of days ago I painted a chair for my office - I have one of those ugly grey office chairs on wheels, but I couldn't stand the thought of that, so I painted one of our old wooden dining chairs and recovered the cushion in my favourite coffee sack design. I have a huge box of coffee sacks that I've been waiting for the right things to use with. So far this is my second re-vamping of furniture.  (1st was a ottoman) I thought the chair came out really well.  I painted the wood with another Resene colour called Acropolis - this is the paint I used when I painted our lounge and kitchen. It's a lovely natural colour and my 5yr old son has called it a 'Hot Wheels colour'... why you ask? Well he helped me paint it outside on the lawn and he thought it was white, then we took it inside the studio for him to discover it wasn't white at all, so he has dubbed it Hot wheels colour as it changes like his 'colour change' hot wheels car... ahhh, I love him, he is so funny! 

Resene actually describes this as "a lightened complex dirty neutral" - yikes! I think is also the same as Half Tea for those that know the new colour names.  Now that I have painted the walls in the studio, I just hope this goes!

I managed a quick trip to one of my favourite salvage yards called The Pumphouse today. It was 4.50pm and they closed at 5pm so I just ran in to ask if they had what I was after... sadly no, but I did cast my eyes over some pretty amazing finds. I took a couple of quick photos of the lovely main building just as I was leaving - lovely to this this old stone and brick work still standing.  Aside from all the tragedy from the earthquake demolitions, some real treasures have come up for grabs and I can't wait to go back on my own and see what I can find.

Right, better get to bed, think my brain has wound down enough for me to drift off - I've got to get up early to flick a quick coat of white paint over the skirting boards and ceiling architraves. I want to get my studio re-organised by the end of the day. After all desks and cabinets are in place the FUN will start... building the new shelves and getting out all my treasures (oh and making things too!)

x Gill