Cradle Mountain Adventures
In January this year, with the threat of bushfires everywhere we looked, we headed to Tasmania’s beautiful Cradle Mountain for a week as Artist in Residence at the Wilderness Gallery. Quite apart from the glorious scenery and the chance to do some walking, it was the lure of six days where I had to do nothing but ‘play’ that drew me. I so rarely have time to dream up new designs or experiment with new techniques, so this was a powerful attraction.
Our accommodation was right alongside the workroom where I spent most of my days. Mike went out with his camera most days (apart from one when it was icy, wet and very windy - yes, this was in January!) We set up quickly and after a couple of hours I was ready to start work. We opened the big double doors to the corridor, put up the Artists in Residence sign and I settled down to work.
For the previous few weeks I’d been obsessed with images of the Tasmanian Waratah that we took when we were in Tassie after the Tasmanian Craft Fair. Now was my chance to get some of these images out of my head and on to the bench. I was also keen to experiment with torch-fired enamel on silver.
At the end of the first day I’d realised I needed to have read more about torch fired enamels before starting! Some experiments with a lichen earring were promising, but the red ends to the Waratah earrings were an abject failure. I now know what I should have done, but was unable to follow that through while I was there. However there was always the silver option.
Quite quickly I had the design for some (other) Waratah earrings, and this was followed in short order by the necklace. This was possibly the first time I’d developed earrings before the necklace, but it turned out to be a theme of this Residency. The basic idea for the pendant grew more slowly. I finished that one when I returned to Adelaide and more of my studio tools were available to me.
I only made it out to one walk in the end, as I was completely caught up in working, which can happen. One evening we drove out at dusk to Dove Lake for a short reconnoitre for the walk we were planning the next day.
Although cool in the morning, it turned into a glorious day to make the two hour walk around the lake. Well, it was supposed to be around two hours, but with all Mike’s photos ……… I gave up and wandered on alone, waiting for him in the carpark for about 30 – 40 minutes. We had ‘a moment’ when we were halfway up a rather high path (which no-one had mentioned) when I was certain we were on the wrong track. But we continued up to the top and halfway down the other side. No… wait! This is definitely wrong. Back to the top and halfway down the other side ….. No …. Wait! Maybe it was right. Back to the top and down those steps again. It was the right track. We had done a few extra steps that morning, which my legs knew all about for the next couple of days!
At the far end of Dove Lake, right under Cradle Mountain we found several stands of Tasmanian Waratahs, looking somewhat different from the ones we’d found out near Trial Bay last November. Much more sparse and without the curly bits in the middle. We were half convinced that this was a local variant when a kind visitor to the workroom explained that it was just later in the season, when the central bits had shed their seeds and dropped off.
Continuing the experiments with the torch fired enamels led to the exploration of a couple of different lichens. By now I had the earrings and the basic idea for the necklace. The enamelled pieces were to be incorporated into the necklace, once I’d figured out how to attach them all.
One of Mike’s forays with a camera produced a fascinating fungusy-looking globular structure on some of the beech trees. They appeared to be at head height and had an intriguing structure when the outer skin had peeled away. We discovered (again from a kind visitor to the workroom) that they are known as the Beech Orange and that they are a local bush tucker item. However that cellular-looking structure started to fascinate me and I played around with something that had promise for further development.
The Wilderness Gallery itself is far from being well enough known. It’s part of the Cradle Mountain Hotel, which is owned by the RACT, along with a Convention Centre. Six or eight galleries are placed around the perimeter of an internal courtyard. Some are used for temporary exhibitions, one for Peter Dumbrovkis’s iconic photos of Tasmania, a really good display and interpretive centre about thylacines and several other quirky and fascinating exhibitions. If you’re in Cradle Mountain, this is a gallery worth seeing.