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Meat Me at the Studio

Artist in residence February 2011

In early 2011, Josie and Somchai launched the Belmore ITCH creative residency program.  They invited a closet artist they knew that has developed a private practice from crafting objects with processed meats.  Over the years, this person has amassed an impressive portfolio of art made from cold cuts and other deli delights.  For this residency, clay was replaced by mortadella and mince meat for the creation of domestic ware and objects of fine art.

Meat the artist – words from our inaugural  resident

In February 2011 I was invited to undertake the prestigious Belmore Institute for Try-hard Ceramicists and Handicrafters (BITCH) residency program. I was honoured to be invited to join such a sought-after program, and began to plan a suitably prestigious work that would do it justice. The residency is for non-ceramic artists, and the only guideline is that the work must reference ceramics in some way.

On arrival at Belmore Station I was met by the lovely Josie Cavallaro, co-facilitator of the program. I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t holding up a cardboard sign with my name on it, which would have made me feel more special, but she assured me that she would do so for future participants.

Josie kindly drove me to the studio, where I was welcomed by Somchai Charoen, the other co-facilitator, who showed me the work space he had generously prepared for me and the range of ceramic tools and equipment he had laid out for my use. I don’t think he knew what I was planning to do with them at this stage.

The proposal I had submitted for consideration involved “carving, throwing and firing (well, baking) delicate organic materials to form objects of exquisite beauty”, so the previous day I had visited Woolworths to purchase my materials: salami, mortadella and an uncooked meatloaf.

My first project involved laying several slices of salami in the sun to dry to leather-hard consistency, before folding them around slips of paper to form fortune cookies. Later they would be fired in the kiln (well, baked in the oven) until crisp. This last stage took much longer than anticipated and generated an unimaginable amount of oil, which resulted in all three of us vowing never to eat salami again (although Somchai did sample some of the leftovers for lunch).

The next stage involved carving the mortadella to form a delicate porcelain-like raku-style bowl.  Somchai was extremely helpful here, coaching me in traditional techniques and advising me how to ensure the bowl would be sturdy and functional while retaining its delicate beauty.

The third stage was the most enjoyable for me and I think the most traumatic for Somchai.  It involved throwing the uncooked meatloaf mixture on the wheel to form a vase. The mixture contained mainly mince but also vomity chunks of carrot and bits of corn, which made it difficult to achieve a smooth consistency. However, I did manage to make a (very) abstract vase with Somchai’s patient assistance. I then collapsed the mixture again and moulded it into a figure, a head and a couple of other things before throwing it out because it smelt so disgusting. Josie took several very professional photographs and also provided expert technical assistance throughout all stages of the project. The wheel had to be cleaned with industrial cleaners.

Overall the residency was an outstanding success (although Somchai might never get over having raw meatloaf thrown on his wheel), and I would highly recommend it to everyone. The facilitators were extremely welcoming and generous, both with their hospitality (the lunch they provided was the highlight of the day – I plan to do another residency just for that) and their professional assistance and technical support. I feel that my art practice has developed to a new, meatier level thanks to my time as a BITCH.