Thursday, August 07, 2008

Longreach Trip

Longreach metal dump.

I've just returned from Longreach, in the heart of QLD where I gave a course in Contemporary Jewellery as past of the 40th School of Creative Arts for Arts West. It was a remarkable experience- a 4-day workshop teaching students with a range of abilities how to incorporate non-traditional materials with more standard jewellery-making techniques.

The students were different from city students. For a start they were very, very strong. "Tighten the clamp," I said to the tall genteel-looking Sue from the 70 000acre property. Next thing, SNAP and she'd broken that heavy cast iron g-clamp just by tightening the wing nut! My half-round pliers met a similar fate in the hands of a sapphire miner. This was a man who had no use for hand moisturiser preferring to repair the cracks on his fingers and thumb with super-glue, so I should have been warned! After that my mantra became "gently, gently": these people had a dangerous affinity for heavy tools.

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting my student Cayley's farm where she showed off her orphaned joeys, emu chick and the amazing bottle dumps and metal dumps on the property. There was hours of fossicking to be done but the sun was slowly setting- my eyes were drawn particularly to the solarised amethyst glass. It was the introduction of manganese as a decolourant to the flux (most common during 1870's - 1915 and later between the wars) that gives it the purple colour. Some of it started off as clear glass but exposure to many years of hot baking sun has turned it ever more purple. Back over the years, standard practice on a property was to gather the rubbish every so often and haul it off to a different spot each time and dump it on the surface. So Cayley's place is dotted with these dumps that she keeps finding. While this seems unacceptable in a culture that prefers to bury its huge amounts of waste like it never happened, exposure to light and air is essential for many organics and plastics to biodegrade and that some cities are starting to allow this to happen after munching up all the waste first and putting in in rows to compost.
A visit to the cemetery was another highlight, especially to the keeping place of indigenous remains only just recently returned to country from museums and universities all over the world. Fellow tutor, Judy Barrass pointed out some poignant memorials on the gibber marked pauper graves: wheel hubs and dustbin lids filled with cement and stamped with homemade lettering tools with messages like "we miss you" and "ernie our old mate". These seemed to encapsulate the sentiment of the people and the strong thread of self-reliant craftsmanship that runs through the bush. I also noted that these cement memorials seemed to be holding up better than some of the marble headstones.
Meeting people who came from all around western QLD and hearing about life on the other side of the great divide was refreshing and humbling. I was reminded of the reasons we are living so high in the city: because in the big backyard of the state the fat of the land and minerals are being stripped out with little of the profits seeming to find their way back over the range. I keep wondering when the bubble will burst.

7 comments:

shula said...

Not long now, mate.

Love the purple glass.

Kay said...

This is fascinating stuff ... so informative - who'd know that about the purple glass?
It sounds like an IDEAL place for a fossiker and recykler such as yourself. Love the description and idea of the cemetry too.
I think I'll put 'Cayley's Place' on my list of To Sees!!! (I know; it's by special invite only ... but you may be able to wangle it for me!) ;)

katiecrackernuts said...

A great story. Sounds fascinating. I just did a basket weaving course with women from Central Western NSW, mostly artists, but there were some similar stories. Google maps being the "hot news item" this week, people in my office were looking at images of where they grew up. Lush green places like the Cottswolds, New Zealand, etc, etc. People pretty much shut up when I showed them the parched ochre soils of, wait for it, Blackwater, in Central Queensland. Made my day. I have a sick sense of humour sometimes.

Rebecca-the-Wrecker said...

thanks for your comments girls. they were photographing shopfronts for google earth while i was in longreach - funny to see the google van in town out there. what a great job i mused to the photographer i was with. Au contraire he replied- so tedious it would be driving around taking mugshots of buildings. I wasn't convinced tho - i reckon it would be a blast.

santicotarelojoyas said...

Hola, increible trabajo, saludos desde valencia.

Little Snoring said...

What an amazing trip, beautiful glass, but kinda sad thinking of all those piles of garbage lying around....

I am a bit sus on Google. I mean I think it is all a bit creepy...

and I must try that super glue trick, I have a particularly annoying and sore crack in my thumb!

Michelle Pujol said...

What a fantastic experience, i found this article as rich as the purple glass