Keith at Clay Gulgong 2018

Clay Gulgong is an international ceramics festival which takes place biannually in a little town called Gulgong in Australia. This year it was from the 15th until the 21st of April and Keith was invited to attend as one of the Masters. Here is what he had to say about his unforgettable experience…


Arriving in Gulgong in New South Wales in Australia is a little bit like entering a Clint Eastwood western movie. There is one main street with a few roads off it and that is it. Then every other year, 700 pottery delegates descend upon it turning it into an incredible festival celebrating clay and creativity. All the local shops, the barbers, the bank and even the real estate agent turn their windows into mini showrooms which extol the virtues of pottery and exhibit an eclectic range of ceramics.


The whole of Gulgong erupts with pottery masters and delegates from all across the world mixing together for an entire week. It is a very special and unique atmosphere which is truly wonderful. There is no pretense, no airs and graces (let’s face it we were in Australia). It really is an extraordinary celebration of the earth’s ability to drive creative processes.

The festival kicked off with a salute to the aboriginal nation and custodians of Australia, I found this experience incredibly emotional and humbling to be a part of. This year, there was a ritual performed by Robyne Latham whose of aboriginal descent. The ritual consisted of a series of coolimans situated with a ring. A cooliman is a vessel/basket that one collect berries in, carry firewood in or indeed to rest a baby in. The ritual was to symbolise the stolen generation of children who were forcibly removed from the aboriginal birth parents and scattered across Australia to be ‘resocialised’ and integrated into the European-Australian society. European Australians believed that their civilization was superior to that of indigenous Australians, a perspective based on comparative technological advancement and wanted the aboriginals to die out. This removal government policy was in force for 77 years and only came to an end in 1973 when an act in parliament was implemented to stop this barbaric policy. The creative display that incorporated symbolic historical factors with the art of ceramics was incredibly moving to be a part of.

b. c.

During the daytime festival, there was a main field consisting of various tents and marquees with all ‘the Masters’ (which I had the honour of being) stationed in various positions demonstrating their skills in their mini temporary studios. Also during the day, there are various talks in the Prince of Wales opera house. It sounds grand but in fact it is a lovely, quaint theatre that holds about 600 people, in this case it was enthusiastic pottery delegates that come from all over Australia and the world. In the same theatre, each ‘Master’ has his or her turn to do a speech explaining what, where, and how they do what they do. The potters/masters are flown in from all corners of the world to share and communicate techniques and ideas.

d. e.

As the sun went down, word travelled around about the evening’s private viewings dotted around the creative village of Gulgong. Exciting events such as an Australian wood firers show, the New Zealand potters show, the world masters show… the list is endless throughout the duration of the whole festival! The shows weren’t just at night either – there was early morning show presentations with champagne and doughnuts… what’s not to like!

While all this was going on in Gulgong, a few miles out at Morning View, the Mansfield’s farm, two Masters were creating a clay sculpture that was to be fired in situ at the end of the festival. All the delegates were invited down to Morning View on Saturday where they picnicked around a homage to clay. There is a fashion parade which took many varying interpretations of fashion but the main look was… yes, you’ve guessed it.. bodies covered in just clay! The farm consists of various out buildings displaying all types/styles of ceramic art and pottery, several kilns and dormitories for potters and artists to stay in. It is a truly magical place and, as a potter having the honour of being invited, I can only say it is one of the highlights of my professional career.

f. g. h.

a. Sunset in Gulgong town.
b. Robyne Latham performing stolen generation ceremony.
c. Robyne Latham performing stolen generation ceremony.
d. Me doing my talk.
e. Me extolling the virtues of production throwing.
f. Renata Cassiano at her wood fired kiln at Morning View Farm.
g. Craig and Renata’s sculpture being unveiled.
h. The clay fashion event at Morning View Farm.


More photos…

i. j. k.

l. m. n.

o. p. q.

i. Me and the wonderful King Houndekpinkou.
j. Me with my Gulgong t-shirt.
k. Me with Daniel Johnston and David Edmunds.
l. Delegates inspecting my beakers.
m. Delegates choosing their Gulgong beaker.
n. Daniel Johnston boarding our plane to Gulgong.
o. Craig Hartenberger with his wood kiln at Morning View.
p. Enthusiastic fashionistas at Morning View Farm.
q. The kiln shed at Morning View Farm.