Adventures in New Zealand - Season Finale! - Week 12

Dear Everyone! Hello!  As I am typing right now we have just passed Christmas Island and are due south of Hawaii.  It is -50c up here at 11,277m above sea level, and I am still wearing the shorts I put on in Fiji.  That's pretty neat, RIGHT !?!

Anyway we left you all last with my SWEET 32nd anniversary of a cold night in a German hospital where I converted from parasite to troglodyte.  THANK YOU MUM !!!  Couldn't have done it without all your hard work!  And with a couple "relaxing" days at the Driving Creek Railways and Pottery Maya made us a SUPER beautiful display in the pottery shop / ticket office.  She also gave the curators of the shop / ticket office a 101 in creating pleasing and enticing displays for some of the other artists as well.  Maya has quite an eye for creating displays that make it inviting and easy for people to find what they would like and choose one to purchase.  I think I have taken Maya's Display Class for Crafts-People 101 about fifty times now and I'm still not sure if I have passed it.  Check out a masters work.



After much crying and wailing by everyone involved, we filled buckets with our tears and writhed on the earth till it became finely ground dust, we said each and every "Bye, Bye! See you Soon!"  And we are OFF to Auckland via the ferry!  And a special thanks to Paul Armstrong, despite the tears and the hair-pin curves, he safely delivered us to the ferry and saw us off.  He then radioed back to D.C.R. H.Q. that the cost was clear and that is was sate to bring out of hiding all the really really nice pottery and other precious things.

We really couldn't have asked for a better crossing to Auckland, it was magical filled with tons of sea birds, unicorns, but alas … no dolphins.  The unicorns were very special, all of them were pink, fluffy, and they were dancing on rainbows.






AND we ate: SUSHI


If you see these two roaming around the world some time in the next year, that is exactly what they are up to.  My cousin Kylie and (possible future cousin) Steve (much larger in real life) are getting ready for a one year trip around the world.  Please wish them well and take care of them if you meet them, thank you!  Their first stop is Japan so some sushi pre-gaming is a part of the training.

And I want to wish my buddy Imran and his family all the best with his new adventures in Qatar.  We were able to visit these beautiful people a couple more times.  Best of luck with the new job and I am sure that Qatar will be happy to have such a nice happy Man and Family as yours.  And thank you for the modest Indian style lunch (GIANT MASSIVE FEAST!!!), we are sure to never hunger till Ramadan.  Imron also taught me about Ramadan, TAKE CARE and See you all SOON !!!



We took a train!  We visited my cousin Warwick and his wife, and met their Swedish black cat "Igor" who told me of a secret tunnel far far beneath the Glenfield  shopping mall.



Apparently this pretty little portal opens up just once a week at a very specific time each Sunday and it transports you to either a Korean market in Japan, or a Japanese market in Korea, or a Thai market in San Francisco's China Town, or the Night market in Glenfield.  We couldn't figure out where this portal goes to but it is a glorious place full of happy families eating yummy food snacks and happy happy bowls of noodles and shis-kababs, and most of all BEST OF ALL the KING of all SNACK FOODS (drum roll … … … … … )  TACO - YAKI !!!




Now to be very fair I would defiantly be raving about Duk-buk-ki, a Korean street snack of rice cake (…?) with spicy sauce, if there was a Duk-buk-ki chef there which I was pretty sure there wasn't because one can smell that distinctly from 2km away.  But TACO - YAKI is also very near and dear to my heart (or tummy).  As you can see in this photo above this fine young man is preparing one of the 7 great culinary wonders of the world.  There is a batter prepared from only ancient secret ingredients, and then more ancient secret colorful diced veggies are tossed in, and then TACO (which we refer to as octopus) pieces are thrown into the mix.  The fine young man will wave his magic metal poker (sometimes 2 magic metal pokers) to rotate the cooking balls of batter in the half domed molds.  THUS CREATING a magic batter ball of TACO - GOODNESS.  I may be wrong but I do believe that YAKI = GOODNESS.  And on top of this magic batter ball of TACO - GOODNESS gets squirted Japans favorite condiment: MAYONNAISE!!!  And if your really lucky (which we were) DRIED FISH FLAKES !!!  Maya and I then wandered around looking at all the stalls with cheap looking expensive things and expensive looking cheap things but they were all shiny and colorful in a blissful snack induced zombie state.

We arrived back at my Aunts house to do MORE EATING !!!  Thank you Aunt Jo (pictured on the right) for taking such good care of us while we were in Auckland!


And THANK YOU for taking us to the airport !!!  Which is a mission.  The Auckland airport is placed somewhere close to the edge of nowhere with no direct route to get there.  If you ask for directions to the airport most often they will direct you to Hamilton and then suggest that you take a plane there.

We made it to the airport!



You can't tell in these photos but we are in Fiji.  The humidity and the palms kind of give it that Florida feel.





And this is our new friend Sylvester.  He was one of a small tribe of us that got an unexpected one night (paid for) stay in Nadi, Fiji due to a six hour layover turning into a sixteen hour layover.  We wish you the best on your business / globe-trotting adventures.



So we are back on the plane again and now we are due east of Hawaii with a whopping two and a half hours to go.  So far I have watched the only movie with Ben Stiller in it that I didn't hate.  It is called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, my favorite character was not Ben's character.  That role could have been played by Drew Barrymore or Tina Turner and it would have been a much better film.  BUT I loved the character of the rental car man in Iceland.  It is a very short scene but that scene alone was DING DING DING - Three Stars!


Hold on please … its airplane dinner time.  Thank you.


I'm BACK!  I really love these Fiji Air meals.  Fiji Bitter might be one of the best and most illusive beers on the planet and they keep giving us these rolls stuffed with butter and cream sauce and chicken or tuna.  Maya keeps getting great vegetarian dishes as well.

I also watched a movie that brought my opinion of Ben Stiller as an actor back down to the basement, DODGE BALL.  For any of you that follow my semi-professional career as a dodgeball player it may be of interest that I have not up until this point watched DODGE BALL.  So now I FINALLY get all those jokes, and I really don't like Ben Stiller more than ever.  As a movie I did think the whole thing was pretty terrible.  It really displayed much of what is touted as pop-culture but is actually the narrow-minded media idiot machine.  BUT … "thank you Chuck Norris."

In less than two hours we are going to land in L.A.  Luckily a fifteen minute taxi ride will bring us to the Hermosa Pier where a hostel is awaiting us in the middle of my old stomping ground, during my Zeppy's Pizza days.  DEEP DISH HEAVEN !!!

Maya shaved her beard.  We said bye to all the cats we met in New Zealand, and we are back.

Wish us luck.

Thank you for reading another entertaining update of your two favorite potters and their puttering around the Pacific.

If anyone has any connections in PORTLAND please let us know.  By the end of April (maybe early March) we will be Oreo-goners … gooners … Portlandinos … anyway we will be looking for a place to call home, jobs to get us started, and a posse of artists and dodge ball players to connect with.

Take care EVERYONE !!!


Chris & Maya

Adventures in New Zealand - Week #11

Dear Pottery People and Pets!  

Pets are very important.  I hope that all of your pets are taking good care of you and vice-versa.

We have started week eleven out with a firing!

Here we get to test out our new knowledge on how to make those glazes that we were playing around with earlier into a kiln load of cool pots and bits and bobs!  As earlier mentioned Paul Lorimer taught us how to make glazes out of things you can readily find and with the clays that you use.  The Ash Glazes are made up of primarily ash from woods, grasses, or bone and mixed with just about whatever one might be able to come across and crush up.  If you are interested in ash glazes there are lots of online resources that go into them in detail.

This is a detail shot of how the oil and water kiln works, it works awesome!!!


As you can see there are three firing ports and in each port there is; a steel tray where the combustion takes place, a piece of angle iron at an angle leading into the tray, a stream of oil (any oil) going down the angle iron into the tray, and if you look real close you can see drops of water traveling down the stream of oil at about one inch intervals.

This type of firing is SUPER FREAKING AWSOME and if you have a fish and chip shop near by the fuel is virtually free.

So we took the kiln up to a modest cone nine, and here is how everything turned out!!!


We were pretty happy with how everything came out!  We will show you more pictures of the full spread of pots next week!

But right now it is my BIRTHDAY WEEK and my cousin and his wife Kristi came from Auckland to visit us here at the railway!

We always have a great time together!






We also visited out buddies Mat and Caitlin at their house that they built (and it is awesome!).  I am really proud of people who build their own house.  Matt makes a pretty great MUSIC & coffee as well and Caitlin makes some freaking awesome super decorated pots and paintings.



On the way to the pub that night we saw this sweet little hedgehog.  This is a particularly fat one but we found him roaming about the fish and chip shop.  Hedgehogs are not native to New Zealand but they are not as much of a pest as some other unwelcome and destructive visitors.

We now come to my favorite day of the year: MY BIRTHDAY !!! !!! !!!

We took a roam around one of Barry's little tram cars that he has converted into a mini-Museum.  It is quite well done and he wrote out all the little descriptions by hand.





And here is that stud puppy Barry Brickell three thousand years ago:


AND no birthday in Coromandel would be complete without a ride on the Driving Creek Railway !!!






My cousin and his partner had to go back to Auckland, something about how they have to save the world early Monday morning.

And the rest of us had to PARTY !!!  Parties consist of FOOD and DRINKS and LAUGHING and everyone had a great time.  Everyone went all out on the food: bacon wrapped sausages, brown rice, sausage and egg in a pastery, ravioli in an avocado beet sauce.  loads of salad, roasted pumpkin, smoked fish, and CARROT CAKE (the most moist carrot cake Ive ever had !!!!!).

Here are most of my favorite people here sharing with us in the D.C.R. kitchen.



And we did the unveiling of the bust that Maya and I made for Barry (of Barry).  He is laughing here but on the whole he was a bit speechless (which is slightly uncommon).




This marks the end (nearly) of our stay here making pottery at the Driving Creek Railway in Coromandel.  It was so great to be back here with everyone.  For anyone that is wondering why I seem to like this place so much it all goes back to around 2007 (or six) when I was teaching English in Korea and I was contacted by a glass blower Jan Kocian.  I agreed to come back to New Zealand and work for him in his newly set up studio experimenting with alternative fuels before I even looked up where Coromandel is on the map.  That job brought me here to the Driving Creek Railway where Barry Brickell was gracious enough to let Jan use the premise and the facilities here to build his furnace and also serve as another attraction to the Railway.  So I worked for Jan for almost two years blowing glass, cold working, maintaining the shop, etc …  During this time Barry and some of the other potters took me under their wings and cast a magic spell on me.  And TA DA !!!  Here I am back again as a visiting potter with my wonderful partner Maya on her first BIG O.E. (overseas experience).

As soon as we get these posts up and finish photographing we will further fancy-fie your eyeballs with a BONUS post displaying in DETAIL the finished photographed pots and sculptures !!!

Take Care and we will all see you soon!

Your Pottery People!

-Chris & Maya !!!

Adventures in New Zealand - Week #10

Dear Party Pottery People, WEEK 10 - Here it is and the party is over and it is time to start thinking about going back to WORK!

We made it back to Napier and had a very relaxing couple of days mostly eating.  I promised to take lots of photos of all the amazing Art Deco architecture which I didn't, so if you could please take this time to do a quick google image search of "Napier New Zealand."

That was worth it, right?  Good, Napier is beautiful and so relaxing you won't even want to lift a camera.  We felt that way.

Except upon visiting the fine people at Aroha and Friends, and that might have been because of the super freaking awesome cafe attached to it with a coffee that made my heart tap against my ribs.


And I found my future house!  It is sweet and affordable, I WANT ONE !!!


It was designed by and made by the very talented Perry Davies.

Our last night in Napier was un-expectantly spent at the gallery opening of Bronwynne Cornish's retrospective show and it was mind blowing!

BronwynneCornish_005 Bronwynne_Cornish_Fox_Light_jpg_940x2000_q85

Even though I have not yet met her personally, I know she is an amazing sculptor and her and Barry Brickell go way back.  Seeing her show was one of the highlights of the trip for me.  It was so mysterious and other-worldly, really touching and yet very stark, it even had hints of something real and ancient with an aftertaste of dry berries and plaster.

We then boarded the bus in Napier at eight a.m. and we arrived in Coromandel at twenty till five in the evening twenty minutes ahead of schedule because the driver was driving that thing like a Porsh down the Thames Coast Highway.  The Thames Coast Highway is a classic beautiful road with one way bridges, curves to die on, and guard rails made of 2by4s.  It is an amazing drive but I have no idea how one can shave 20 minutes off.

It was nice to be back "home" but I knew the first thing to do would be to throw a bunch of bowls.



Find the Praying Mantis!!!

Find Chris!!!  That is easy because for the rest of the week Chris and Maya have their head in a kiln.  Our first firing was the "Rollo" wood fired kiln.  This is the kiln that I learned to fire on, and it is awesome!!!  FREAKING AWSOME !!!  Here are some photos of the stacking process.  Notice the green glazed walls, these are from the countless number of salt firings this kiln has had to endure.






Then that door gets bricked up and all the little gaps get clay jammed in it.


Then we start a fire.  Most of the firing process is neither that impressive nor exciting.  The whole kiln has to come to temperature together and this takes time and patience.  The first eight hours of the firing look a lot like this:



We began firing at about five in the morning and it went till one thirty the next morning.

Here we are closer to the end of it looking a little more ragged.



The firing went just as planned and took just as long as I thought it would, so we deserved a nice BIG breakfast at the Driving Creek Cafe the next morning.  They specialize in vegan foods and do a damn great job.  The menu looks a bit pricey but a lot of things can be shared and fill up two.


And there is no rest for the wicked cause there is another kiln to fill up!!!  This is a uniquely designed oil burning kiln and they are the BOMB!  This kiln was the first of Barry's kilns that I fired and he trusted me to do so because it operated in very much the same way as the glass furnace (with my full time job there at the Driving Creek Railway).  This kiln works with a system of oil and it also uses water to help atomize the oil for more complete and efficient burning.

And it is time to OPEN the terra-cotta kiln!




It is interesting to note that to determine when the firing is complete we potters use these pyrometric cones that will bend over at calibrated intervals.  So at about 1250c you can look into your blazing kiln and these little gator teeth are slowly bending over.  From left to right we have cones: 4, 5, & 6.


And here is a real pretty shot that Maya took of the path down to our hut.


I am so proud of Maya, and not just because her beard is coming in so healthy and strong.  Life gets hectic here at the Driving Creek Railway with all the tourists, people, and mossies (mosquitos) but Maya has been a real trooper.

Take care EVERYONE !!!

Keep posted and check us out !!!

Ta, ta !

-Chris & Maya