Teetering on the root ball of a willow just out from the creek bank, I reached back with my foot, missed the bank by millimeters and fell up to my armpits in Black Gully mud.
This was the beginning of a deep relationship with Black Gully.
Standing on the creek bank wiping this thick black mud off my clothes, I realised that this stinking sticky ooze was quite likely to contain clay and being slightly more than a little obsessed with clay, the thought went into my mental archives.
A few years before, the restoration of Black Gully behind NERAM had been part of a major environmental project – HiCUB.
To celebrate the completion of this region-wide scheme, the first Black Gully Music Festival was held, and all sorts of spin-off projects have grown from that event.
I revisited the idea that good clay may exist in Black Gully and came up with a plan to gather a group of artists together to work on ephemeral art for the festival, impermanent stuff that would be viewed as it decomposed back into the landscape.
...when people ask how I got back into clay, I can just say, 'I just fell into it'.
In 2016, I spent the two weeks leading up to the festival working in the Packsaddle workshop under NERAM, making sculptural creatures from Black Gully clay mixed with endemic seeds, also from the Black Gully site. These pieces were not going to be fired; they would be placed back on the banks of the creek where they would break down and the seeds (or some of the seeds) germinated and grew.
Every day for two weeks I walked along the creek, watched the creek levels rise and fall as the rains came. I saw the heron come every morning to fish in the newly-created ponds. The creek babbled over the rocks of the ripple sections between the ponds where the ducks landed daily.
I continue to revisit the site intermittently to check the progress of the few trees that have popped up from the ruins of the clay sculptures and often think of the site as a small success in restoring our precious waterways and when people ask how I got back into clay, I can just say, “I just fell into it”.
The annual Black Gully Festival continues to grow as more and more people build a relationship with the restoration of the creek, be it from passive users viewing it from the NERAM café, to dog walkers and kids getting safe access to the water.
So, get into Black Gully Festival, November 17, something may just stick.
Read more Climate Matters: