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  • mel anderson

The Hawkesbury River Series

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

> 2017 River Mud Series II


Two tumblers made and glazed from river mud and local materials
Tumblers hand thrown from river mud and glazed with local materials

The Hawkesbury River Mud Series II is an extension of my initial experimentation with the Hawkesbury River mud as a clay body and glaze. Very high in iron oxide, the mud is almost a glaze at mid-fire and boils and bubbles at 1260ºC.

It's a time consuming process, but one that is worth the effort as each piece is a unique extension of the river and the surrounding natural environment.
Glaze tests using Hawkesbury river mud, ash and oyster shells
Glaze tests - mud, ash, oyster shells.

This series of work is the culmination of extensive testing of local materials - Hawkesbury River mud (crushed and sieved), oyster shells (calcined and crushed), and ash from my fireplace (sieved). The high iron contained in the river mud naturally created a speckled yellow/rust that echoed the sandstone cliffs. Using this base glaze I was able to increase the ash and add a little copper carbonate to echo the fluidity and colour of the river when it most sings to me - the deep green of high tide and still waters.

How glorious that the materials naturally echo the colours and textures of the landscape

I prefer to work with processes as they anchor me so I don't get lost in infinite possibilities. Temperature, toxicity, clarity, preparation, sourcing materials ... these elements draw a line around the work and constrain me. Less is most definitely more. I dig deeper. In narrowing my focus I achieve meaningful results without falling down that rabbit hole of possibilities. Besides, too many options paralyse me. I rely heavily on the element of surprise - there is a craftsmanship and chemistry in the work that is not always immediately predictable.

The raw, dry white clay with sieved river mud incorporated into the throwing.
Raw tumblers of white clay and river mud.

The clay body I settled on is a combination of a commercial porcelain clay thrown with chunks of Hawkesbury River mud, Dangar Terracotta and/or Wobby White. Full of organic materials and varying levels of porosity, the wild clay bodies were not able to be used individually at mid-range temperatures. The tumbler shape is a nod to the channel markers and bollards that dot the river - mapping routes and directing travellers, the human language forced on the river to safely navigate the waterways.


Led by the limitations of the local materials and my desire to reflect the physical landscape of the river, above and below the waterline, the final work essentially found itself. Washed in the salty river, processed by hand with love (and tedium), the result not only reflects the materials, but echoes the natural and human environment as they intertwine. The result is a series that is truly unique and grounded in the river and the environment from which it came.

A piece of the river that you can use every day to remind you of the beauty of the drowned river valley of the Hawkesbury


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