In between all the activities I was privileged to learn from the First Nations’ Debra Martin and son Gordon from the Pumunkey tribe who generously showed me their Museum collection and spent a considerable time showing the process of making pots and how they fire their clay body including pit firing techniques.
The staff at the Kluge-Ruhe had also arranged to take me to places like The University of Virginia and Virginia Department of Historic Resources that allowed me to explore the pottery collections and examine the pottery culture of the First Nations peoples.
After my time at the Kluge-Ruhe I spent two weeks visiting Santa Fe in New Mexico. The first few days I spent walking around the city, visiting many of the museums and galleries. I was also privileged to gain extraordinary insight into the pottery culture of the Tewa people of the Pueblos. I was shown traditional finishes such as polishing, the application of complex designs painted on pots, but also learned how the function and form of vessels was outshone by the beauty of the pots. In America indigenous pottery is highly valued, the skills of creating them passed down through generations. They are regarded as heirlooms and passed down the matrilineal line.
When I came back to Australia I travelled down to Canberra. For six months I lived at the Canberra Potter’s Society, as Artist in Residence. While I was doing my residency in Canberra, I was privileged to be asked to participate in a Women’s Wealth Workshop in PNG for 10 days with the First Nations women of Bougainville Island and Solomon Islands. We exchanged contemporary and traditional techniques, knowledge and ideas around our particular art forms.
During my journeys, I started forming new ideas, and began adding the experiences I had into my practice. Back in Canberra I made works imbued with everything I had encountered. Canberra is where the magic of making this new body of work took place.
I have been asked where I get the ideas to create the artwork – it reflects the merging of my own heritage and the similar traditions of the First Nations of America.
As a Torres Strait Islander woman, acknowledging the traditions of navigation, living off the sea and the land, and women’s traditional practices such as weaving body adornments for ceremony, I became aware of the contrasting and sometimes similar traditions of the First Nations of America and First Nations people of Bougainville Island and Solomon Islands.
You would find that pottery is not my cultural tradition, but a western technique that was introduced to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through training. I use it as my canvas. I have always been fascinated about pit firing and black firing techniques of the First Nations of America, where pottery is a cultural tradition, and the First Nations of Bougainville Island and Solomon Islands.
I have used the colours of the clay bodies to imbue ideas from my individual journeys, interaction of family and my storytelling about my culture and the contacts with the First nation peoples. Each of these pieces is made from ceramic and the use of natural products, such as feathers and twine string to finish the artworks.
My exhibition Confluence is a coming or flowing together, meeting, or gathering at one point – a confluence of cultures and a merging of similar techniques, a narrative of storytelling, and the beauty of landscapes.