My ceramic work continues to reflect the environment I live in, at the western foot of Mt Budawang near Braidwood NSW. Living in an expansive rural landscape has given me a strong sense of space and form. Living with a mountain as my next-door neighbour, its profile has been etched in my mind. I can recognise ‘our’ mountain instantly from other geographic features.
The Budawang range separates us from the coast, and the divide significantly affects our local weather: for example, the characteristic late summer afternoon sea breeze. Clouds move in from the southeast and spill over the mountain, flowing into rain forested valleys and seeping across the heath to cloak us in mist. Rain typically dumps in our locality first, before any remaining clouds move further inland. Here in ‘cloud central’ we know the meaning of wet, and the magic feeling of isolation, living days at time in soft white mizzle. During winter the wetness morphs into frost, sleet and occasional snow flurries.
In a near-mountain climate, however, weather is a dynamic phenomenon. We are not always wet. The past summer brought hot dry windy months that led to days of catastrophic and near-catastrophic fire conditions: 42 degrees C and northwesterlies that roared with astounding ferocity. Fortunately no fire reached us, but big flames burned in regions to the north, east, west and south. The inland fire winds blew across our land toward the mountain, sucking green moisture away. Eventually, in February, the mountain blew back.
And the rains came. Brilliant thundering sky battles, days of deluge and southeast winds. Dams, creeks and tanks overflowed. Then quiet. The sun rose from behind the mountain on a fresh blue-sky morning and frogs sang in chorus.
The ceramic vessels in this exhibition speak of life in this phenomenal climate. They owe their existence to the weathering effects of earth exposed to water and fire. They are objects to live with. Forged in my studio and kiln in the shadow of Mt. Budawang, each has a story to tell of landscape round the mountain.
Gail Nichols, June 2013