Feature Articles

The broken bits can be lovely too

Hayley Katzen|

Gradually colour is returning to our drought-brown and bushfire- black landscapes.

Although some trees haven’t recovered and many trunks are still black, the bush is again flushed with green and the pinks and yellows of new growth. Colour is exactly what we all need and what Nymboida artist Pamela Denise has brought to bushfire affected communities with her mosaic workshops, ‘Get back to lovely: mosaic a bird, bee or butterfly bath’. In late June, at Ewingar hall, she taught a group of local women, ranging in age from 10 to 70+, the tools and techniques needed to mosaic.

The two-day workshop was one of the offerings in the Ewingar community’s bushfire recovery creative arts workshops funded by Clarence Valley Council. Pamela sent participants over to the large picnic table on which the vast range of colourful tiles was laid out and instructed us to gather colours that inspired and delighted us.

‘Play with the colour,’ she said.

‘Enjoy it.’

Once we’d picked out what attracted us, we were taught how to use the tools – how to ‘nibble’ and how to cut, how to glue and on the Sunday when we returned to our birdbaths we learned how to grout. Pamela showed us too how the ‘broken’ was useful and beautiful. Wearing safety glasses, she placed a tile in a cardboard box and struck it with a hammer. Those bits of broken tile could then be used to create the design or added to the broken ‘bits’ salvaged from the fires. Repurposed and reframed, the broken became lovely.

“I used the tiles to make a strong white path through the broken and colourful pieces. This path can lead to many places,” said 10-year-old Raiatea Dunwoodie. Some of the birdbaths were abstract, some realistic. All had a story for the creator and invoked a meditative calm during the process of creation. Irina chose colours to complement a green bottle melted in the fire
and finished hers off with a pair of ceramic birds from the op shop. Jennifer pieced shards of crockery that had belonged to her mother into a design with other broken tiles.

Jen set flowers – the zinnias known as ‘happy talk’ that always come up after the fires – against a background of black. There was a beach, a river, a tree of life. Without the need for words, the group held the experience of the recent bushfires and the growth and renewal of the process of recovery. The birdbaths will be exhibited, along with other art created at Ewingar’s bushfire recovery workshops, at the Ewingar Rising Fundraising Music Festival which has now been postponed to 1-3 April 2022.

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