Me: Deb and Kenita just drove out. Where would they be going?
Janine: They’ve gone to get cow shit.
There’s a reason. Some of the pots that everyone has been diligently crafting for the past few days are ready to be pit fired. It’s a test, to see how they turn out, and the work that is not dry enough now will be fired later back on Kangaroo Island.
Deb says that pit firing is common in Central America, where she lived for quite some time and in India and Indonesia.
Deb and Kenita line the pit with cow dung and then place the pots on top. Deb adds in salt from Lake Eyre in one section, salt from around Coward Springs in another and some pots do not have any salt near them. One pot gets a dollop of salt inside. Maybe they will have different looks.
She makes a dome of cow dung around and over the pots. The largest pat makes the lid.
Then wood over the top of the dung and set it alight. Cow dung burns hot and long and so is perfect for a natural firing, when there’s no kiln.
Deb estimates it will burn for about 4 hours and be cool enough in 24 hours to see the results.
In the meantime Ria and Prue are down in the wetland by dawn. Prue records the bird sounds while they paint in silence.
Ria is a model of devotion to improving her practice. She draws and paints at every opportunity, even under the duress of the conditions – the short time we have here and the incessant wind, the flies, not to mention the unfamiliar living conditions. In the afternoon she works on in her room away from the wind and flies.
Ria says she is here to paint and learn. ‘I want to be able to apply a colour once and it be the right one to capture what I am seeing.’
She looks to Nick’s technical skill which she says shows the hours and hours he has spent practising. ‘He knows exactly what the colour to use, and he has fine drafting skill.
But all is not rosy with Nick. His bad back has limited his painting output on this trip but is pleased he has captured many birds with his camera. He has two paintings on the go, one of the wetlands and one of the Coward Springs museum but that second one he is not happy with. He will start again.
Island to Outback is supported by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund through Country Arts SA