Archive for September, 2022

Up the Sepik without a paddle.

Posted in Uncategorized on September 15, 2022 by brunyfire

it’s been a while since the last posting and much has happened during the past couple of years, disrupting lives and turning the world on its axis. Finding oneself flat on ones back in the Intensive Care Unit at Hobart’s Royal Hospital back in late 2019 was definitely not on Brunyfire’s agenda. Nevertheless, as the curtains twitched for the umpteenth time revealing the scowling face of the young nurse destined to my care, the laughter surrounding the invalid’s bed quickly subsided. A dissected aorta was not something to laugh about after all, particularly as just weeks before Brunyfire had been riding up the Sepik river in PNG in a dugout with son Aaron riding shotgun. The hospital staff (all of whom seemed about 12 years old) were dedicated to caring for one grumpy old sheila who was champing at the bit to proceed with her ongoing mission of seeking out traditional clay cooking pots of the world. 2020 was rich with plans: a residency in Jingdezhen, China: catching the Trans Siberian from Ulaanbaatar to St Petersburg: a conference in Posio, Finland and visiting family in the UK.

Covid put an end to all of that despite a quick recovery from said aneurysm and the world as we knew it came to a grinding halt.

Disappointment is a bitter pill to swallow but once the magnitude of what was happening elsewhere in the world started to unfold, being holed up on an island so far away from it all seemed like a pretty good place to be. We adjusted – we found creative ways to remain in contact – to teach our kids – to stay safe. And – to continue the hunt.

Thank goodness for google – the internet – emails – phone texts – screen shots – paypal – Amazon – zoom discussions and all the other technological advantages of our modern age. During the times of lockdown, another 30 plus pieces were acquired for the collection and each piece rich with its own story – here are just a few.

PIECES FROM CHINA: 1. Nixi Black Pottery – 2021: After the intended residency at Jingdezhen, China, Brunyfire had arranged to visit the Tibetan village of Nixi, situated near Shangri-La, Yunnan, a village that is known worldwide for its black fired pottery with inlaid porcelain fragments. The full story of Nixi black pottery is featured in Brunyfire’s other blog Cooking with Clay check out the yarn – Chinese Hotpots: Made in Clay).

Thwarted at the prospect of not being able to acquire the mother of all clay hotpots – see below:

Brunyfire did manage to source a small, but equally important piece from an online web site that imports tea and teawares from China –

This little Nixi tea pot is a traditional piece used in conjunction with chunks of Pu’er tea cake which are placed in the teapot/jug. Water is added and the jug’s contents then brought to the boil on a small table top brazier. An amount of yak butter is added to a bamboo tube with fitted lid with a plunger attached (this is a simplified butter churner) and the boiling tea added, churned and strained into individual cups.

2. Pickle Jars: – 2020 The two large, handsome pickle jars below feature in the Fermentation: A Form of Clay Pot Cooking story on the site and were sourced from local Chinese stores around Hobart as do the two smaller pieces below that contained salted and pickled vegetables.

3. Double Boiled Soup: – 2021 Another locally sourced little Chinese pot, one that does not, as the name implies, boil soup twice, but is a pot within in a pot. See the story here Double Boiled Soup on the the site.

4. Chinese brazier – 2020: And when you can’t find the piece you need, then it’s time to head into the studio and make it! This little brazier was made to use with the Chinese sand pots within the collection – a coarse earthenware clay was used, coiled and turned on the wheel and fired to 800ºc. The story of making Chinese steamed eggs can be found here Chinese Steamed Eggs

5. Chinese Gaiwan Tea Set – 2021: While the following teaset is not a cooking pot, the container that the tea is served in, in this instance, the gaiwan, (on the left) is an elegant piece of design for the sole purpose of seeing, sensing, smelling, tasting and comparing a range of teas in the same vessel. The gaiwan in this instance is made of fine porcelain and thus does not have the absorbency that such as the Yixing ware has to maintain the patina of taste over time. The gaiwan has been in use since the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644) and comprises of only a saucer, a bowl and a lid.

There can be just as much ceremony in the participation of tea with a gaiwan set as with gongfu, as this can comprise not just a single vessel, but the whole paraphernalia. Above right is Brunyfire’s gaiwan set comprising of tray (in this instance made by Brunyfire’s Beloved), a Huon pine draining board (a school boy’s woodwork project found in an op shop and re-sanded), a container for the tea (another op shop find – Hornsea Strata box*) accompanied by a panda spoon (from the Chengdu Panda Research Centre). The porcelain tea strainer on drip bowl, gaiwan and three drinking cups came from the ChaWang Shop – another Covid lockdown purchase worth the wait! The full story of these pieces can be found at The Terroir of Tea: The Gaiwan

6. Barro Negro ware from Colombia – 2021: The four small dishes were found in a local Hobart tip shop and the ‘frypan’ was purchased from the internationally renown Dutch designer, Tord Boonjie from his London store. The black ware from Colombia each hold an interesting story yet to be told.

7. Curry pot from Pakistan – 2021: This piece was discovered in a local shop selling Indian ingredients and cooking pots in downtown Hobart. No story as yet – but give it time!

8. Indian Puttu maker – 2022: Bought for Brunyfire by a friend who returned to Kerala to visit her family and managed to bring this home for me in her carry on. A well deserved bottle of wind and a box of chocolates was the only repayment she would accept – what a trooper. More about the function and this piece’s story later!

7. Three legged casserole from Brazil – 2021: A bit of a coup – this piece was one of three pieces that were tracked down and ordered on line from São Paulo in Brazil – this entailed the odd (very odd) phone call in bastardised Spanish in an attempt to speak Portuguese and a flurry of Google translated emails. After all the effort of finding this piece, one that is of particular significance to Brunyfire personally and to the enrichment of the collection, it arrived in Hobart with the sickening realisation that the work had not all survived – that tell tale chinking as one carefully unwraps the contents of a battered looking cardboard box. Sure enough, two casseroles – smashed – save for their lids which are on the wall in perfect nick. The piece below is an expensive triumph however, and the telling of its story is intriguing.

8. Japanese donabe – 2021: This piece comes from Iga in Japan and was sourced directly from the workshop that creates them. Again, a story yet to be told.

9. Fish smoking pot, PNG – 2022: And so once again, up the Sepik without a paddle! This piece was sourced by a Sydney friend who Brunyfire and shotgun son Aaron met up river on the way to the pottery village of Aibom on the Chambre Lakes, off the Sepik River, PNG. It was purchased from a Sydney auction house and is another triumph for the collection – but more of its story at another time.

And so despite being paddle-less for the past couple of years thanks to Covid, Brunyfire has managed to increase the collection. Each piece has a unique story to tell, and this blog is just one outlet in the telling.

A quote from a recent article published in the Journal of Australian Ceramics, another publishing outlet, outlines what it is about collecting that is so fascinating.

The above article was published in Vol 60 No 2 of The Journal of Australian Ceramics, July 2021. Permission has been given to make it available on this website © The Australian Ceramics Association 2021.