Many hands make weighted work: Head First Hands On in Port Hedland
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Tomorrow, 1000 ceramic domes will be installed in the main gallery of Port Hedland’s Courthouse Gallery+Studio – each one shaped by the hands of a local community member.
Weighted/wait_, a join effort between the gallery and the Junction Co., will coincide with the launch of Port Hedland’s very first community ceramics studio in the Portside precinct of the West End.
The works are a result of the ‘Head First, Hands On’ ceramic workshop series, which started in August of 2020 – navigating the strange new waters of the post-COVID world.
Courthouse Gallery+Studio curator Elisa Trifunoski said there were “so many colliding factors” which brought on the idea of using ceramics, and pinch-pottery in particular, as a community project to bring people together after lockdown.
Elisa noted that working with clay was therapeutic and meditative – without the stigma that pushed people who didn’t see themselves as “creative” away from mediums like paint and canvas.
“We had always earmarked our final exhibition at the Courthouse Gallery+Studio for 2020 to be a community project, and so it was a very natural progression to reach back out to the community with the Head First Hands On workshops, and encourage as many organisations and individuals to get involved.
“Due to the simple and accessible process for creating the pinch- pot or dome, we have been able to run workshops on site at different organisations out in the community, which is really important when you are dealing with organisations that may have barriers to coming to the ceramics studio to participate, such as the elderly, youth or other groups.”
The workshops commenced in August 2020, and to date over 500 community members have participated in more than 40 workshops in the Courthouse Gallery+Studio’s new Ceramics Studio, at schools, workplaces and in community, across the Pilbara.
Ceramics studio coordinator and workshop facilitator Caitlin Dominey said the project was, at its heart, a response to a community need.
“Throughout the workshops many people expressed feelings of mindfulness whilst using their hands to shape the clay.”
“Participants have also shared excitement and curiosity about how to project will come together for the exhibition. Inspired by the need to capture a collective meditation on the year (2020), the exhibition weighted/wait_ is above all else is an exhibition for the community and created by the community.”
Elisa also said the most important part of the project was that it was unique to Port Hedland.
“Some participants have relished the opportunity to create something unique and intentionally create something recognisable at the exhibition. I think this is also exciting for our community because of the investment they have in returning to see their own handiwork in the exhibition.
“After the exhibition, we aim to use all the ceramic works to create a public artwork in our town, so that there is a mark and presence of the community of 2020.”
The installation of the ceramic domes will commence on opening night 6pm, 30 October in the main gallery of the Courthouse Gallery+Studio. All community members are invited to come along and place a dome. Separate installation sessions have been scheduled for select community groups who are unable to attend on opening night, to ensure all community members can contribute to the artwork.
Recognising the complexity of the year, and the challenges faced by all members of the community, the Gallery+Studio team, as part of the exhibition opening week, have also established a safe and intimate recording booth for members of the community to capture an ‘experience in time.’
Individuals are invited to reflect on, and share their own experience of this year, in an intimate selfie-video recording, to be able to verbalise what challenges, frustrations, joys even, they have felt.
Executive Officer Katie Evans noted, “Whilst the development of the domes was done in a community forum, the individual still needs to be heard, and we want to respect and support all the feelings and experiences felt during the pandemic.”
The exhibition will be opened by new Town of Port Hedland Mayor, Peter Carter, Friday 6pm, 30 Oct.
Community organisations, local business and schools have contributed to the exhibition, including:
Child Australia – West Pilbara Mobile Children’s Service, Hedland Senior High School, Youth Involvement Council, Karlarra House Aged Residential Care, Port Hedland Primary School, Hedland Homeschool Group, Yaandina Community Services, Town of Port Hedland, St Cecilia’s Primary School, BHP, Hedland Well Woman’s Centre, Hedland Scouts, Hedland Girl Guides, The Junction Co. Board, Strelley Community School, Yandeyarra Community School.