Thursday, March 18, 2004

concrete details

I've been busy lately so my posts have just been sketches, really, random lists of what I have to do and where I'm going next and so on. That or midget snippets of days, small things I see or do. I'm so immersed in my life here that I sit down at the computer and have a hard time stepping outside of it long enough to think of what would be interesting to tell you, you being someone who isn't living this life, i.e. me.

So let's see. Before work ended, my days used to go like this:

I would wake up at 7 to my alarm, and then sleep some more until I absolutely had to get up. I would make my breakfast in the quiet, small house, usually looking out the back porch over other red-tiled roofs, other green backyards, hearing planes overhead at least once a half hour. Green tea and porridge in the gob, then dress and off to work. Most mornings the sun shone, I would make my way up the little back streets as far as St. Thomas, the English/Portugese church by the train station, then walk down a bike path/walkway that is lined with vines and graffiti and old ripped show posters. Then along some congested roads with rumbling trucks and buzzing little cars, through sets of lights and past houses with gorgeous gardens. Roses, lilies, vines, squash, fuschia, and heaps of other plants I don't even know the names of. All blooming gloriously along my path to work, in what would be in Cape Breton the middle of winter.

I would get to work (an old boiler room for the old Marrickville hospital) and check all four kilns, read the temperature boxes (computerized, it makes it easier to fire kilns than always using pyrometric cones) and see what kilns needed what. Go look in the dispatch area to see if there were orders I needed to wrap, pack and make ready to ship off. Talk to Yu Pa or Scott about the general pattern for the day. The three different types of firings we did (and they still do, without me) necessitated planning what went in when and on what day; porcelain glaze fires take two days, porcelain bisque just one, and could be fired along with regular, earthenware glaze, and earthenware bisque needed one day as well but had to be fired alone.

Days started slow there (I think most work days do no matter where you work, the rest of the hours yawn ahead of you) but then would speed up around 11. Any kiln unloading had to be started around noon or 1 if that same kiln was to be loaded and fired again that same day, otherwise it would be too hot to load. At or around 515 (degrees Celsius) the kiln would be 'cracked', meaning its bung would be taken out or the door unlocked. If it were a glaze kiln we would be more careful, maybe crack it around 480. (The thermal shock, otherwise, would cause pieces to 'shell' -- lose glaze -- or outright crack.) Then we would keep checking it, seeing how the temp was falling, open the door a little, a little more, until it was at or around 180, when its safe to unload. Sometimes we'd need to get it going early and then even though we were wearing thick lined gloves that went up to our elbows, we would get red fingers and palms, burned through the material.

All the kiln's contents would be laid out on the stainless steel table and counted for the kiln stats book, then brought to the various areas of the studio where they were kept. Any glazed pieces went to the dispatch room and put on the stock shelves or else into waiting orders (there would be anywhere between 30 and 45 waiting orders at a time, for stores in the city or as far as LA or the UK). If any orders were completed by what we pulled out, I would wrap them in fuzzy white CellAir and then pack into boxes with EarthFill (biodegradable packing that doesn't cost the earth!!--goes the slogan) and then tape up and organize with labels and invoices. Any bisqued pieces would go to the section where they sit waiting to be pulled out for Yu Pa to glaze. Any porcelain bisque (being as we don't produce as much of this as the earthenware; rather, we do but it all needs to go into orders straight away so there's no excess at this point) would go straight to the table where it is glazed.

After work, after whatever kilns had been loaded and then set off, I would often get a ride to the second set of lights with Sandra (the secretary) or Madeleine (the principal porcelain glazer and my friend). Then I would walk the rest of the way back, along Livingstone Road and then Gordon, over the railway bridge then along the footpath, by the church and then down Barker to the little house on the one-way street, 34 Old Canterbury. Often there would be somewhere to go straight after getting in the door and changing (on a train to see Mike, or Jacky, were the most often) and sometimes not, sometimes I would say hello to the dogs in the backyard and then relax, drink lime juice cordial and admire the sunshine and all the red-tiled roofs. Think on how lucky I am to have had everything work out so well.

So work has ended now, and day after tomorrow I will fly to New Zealand. Today, Jacky and I put together a rough idea of an itinerary, and tomorrow I'll call hostels and get that sorted. Then, it's happening! And I'll post when I can, I suppose, and then I'll be back in sunny Syd-town for a bit and then off again.

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