The guest on The Fine Line on Tuesday 15 July was Ros Minchin, a woman of many creative talents whether she’s outdoors either collecting native plants for natural dyeing or diving off the coast of Tasmania collecting algae species for latex molds for her ceramics.
Ros first came to the Territory in the 1960’s to help set up a pottery training unit at Bagot Reserve in Darwin for students from outlying communities like Bathurst Island, Maningrida, Port Keats and Snake Bay – the unit was sadly destroyed during Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
In 2005, Ros returned to walk the Larapinta Trail with her cousins, who during the visit introduced her to the amazing craft and art facilities available to locals and visitors at Central Craft. Ros was so inspired by the sense of ‘exploration’ that Central Craft allowed and this has since led to her annual pilgrimage to Alice Springs during the winter months where she explores and develops her own visions into projects.
This year Ros is continuing with a fascinating project where she is combining her love of ecology with creating exquisite porcelain tea bowl pots. Ros took us with her on her journey from diving off the coast of Tasmania where she collects different species of marine algae to press into clay, then into latex molds; to loading up her car with porcelain clay, the latex molds, old blankets and bicycle and sets off for Alice Springs. Once in Alice Springs, Ros casts the latex molds into plaster, rolls out fine slabs of porcelain which is pressed with the algae shaped molds; cut into defined shapes which Ros delicately assembles into the bowls. These are then bisque and then glaze fired in an oxidizing kiln, creating unique, translucent marine inspired bowls.
Ros told us of the enthusiastic group of potters who meet each Saturday in the ceramic studio at Central Craft and of the process how she recycles clay in the yard outside the studio which is them ‘pugged’ on Central Craft’s pug mill by local Bridget May for the potters to use. Ros also spoke of the honour she feels when making the simple shaped ceramic coolamons for local Indigenous ceramists Patsy Morton and her sister Janey Briscoe who come to the ceramic studio at Central Craft to paint the coolamons with their unique designs of flora and fauna.
Another of Ros’s visions is translated through her love of plants. In Tasmania, she belongs to a group of woman called the ‘Dyeing Diva’s’ who go on bush camps at Lagoon Bay to collect plants and experiment with the different flora to see the wide range of colours that results from dyeing them. Over time, Ros has collected and conducted dye tests on over 37 different central Australian plant species. Through a process of creating a micro-climate with resist and clamp dyeing, Ros creates native flora designs and makes earthy, vibrant garments out of recycled woolen blankets.
In closing, Ros spoke of what lay ahead for her back home in Tasmania, making baskets out of New Zealand flax, of sea canoeing, growing food and of the importance of friends and dreaming and of the courage that insecurity brings out of us.
Jen Standish-White talks with Tasmanian Ros Minchin, a woman of many creative talents and visions of exploration.
Broadcast: Tuesday 15 July 2014 at 12 noon on 8CCC Community Radio 102.1FM
Producer and Presenter: Jen Standish-White