Smoke on the Water 2017 is running on volunteer power. And this energetic group of volunteers are raring to go. Today we worked hard at the Butter Factory Arts Centre plinths painted, presenters’ accomodation prepared, and screen printed logos on surprises for the delegates bags. Plus lots of little jobs that go with conference organisation. Lots of excitement and anticipation.

Below is our lovely Sophy (left) with me (Ellen), it’s been a long journey, and we are really enjoying the final moments of preparation working with this creative, interesting and very willing volunteer team. We love you all.

Thanks Nell for the photos!


Presentation overview… viability check…

Presentation Overview Smoke on the Water, 2017, by Rowley Drysdale.

Good folk, it’s time to conduct a “viability check”, subject- our beloved wood fired ceramics medium. Let’s state the obvious, who better to do it than makers, collectors, publishers, directors, the younger and the older, all together in one place at one time.

Can producing wood fired ceramics remain (if it ever was) financially viable, environmentally viable, socially and creatively viable, or is just too compromising to personal and planetary health, not to mention the bank balance. Just how culturally relevant is wood firing in the 21st century, how sustainable?

Always look on the bright side of…..handmade, earthy ceramic things…..da da, dada, dad a.

Let’s attempt to unearth some clues. Arguably, there is a societal shift valuing objects which encapsulate a non-industrial, lower-tech, organic origin and wood fire ceramics well reflect this. That might be good.

And…. maybe there is a deepening awareness concerning provenance of ware to match that expressed in provenance of the food which sits on it, (or in it). Could it be, finally, exit polystyrene coffee cup?

And….perhaps the handmade, wood fired earthy coffee cup does symbolise a hipster type modern aesthetic. Or will it end up running a close second to the recycled glass jar, vegemite or not?

There’s a saying that goes “good wood fired ceramics is born old”, or alternatively, “born humble”, but how relevant is that in post truth Trumpian society?

A mate of mine muttered “wood firing is enforced Buddhism” to which I hastily agreed “it can be materially obstinate” and something was said about an emotional roller coaster and low pay low tech events coordinating. But we got up off the canvas. Troubling observation is that this type of behaviour often precedes a knockout punch.

Ultimately, wood firing is a way of making art. Specifically it’s a way of creating particular surfaces on objects with particular phenomenal character. Does it communicate enough to enough people?  Is it properly tuned and is the volume up loud enough/down low enough.

In the context of wood firing these are relevant questions but actually, equally as important to any ceramic artist who loads work into a kiln, or for that matter into the surf, or a corporate foyer…….

There’s no time like now to tackle the hard questions. “Now” is always the right time.

Wood firing invites collaboration, demands it unless you are some crazy mountain man potter type. Problem solving is somewhat the same.

Smoke on the Water 2017 organisers invite all and sundry to the conversation, regardless of whether or not you throw wood into a kiln. Together we solve, or agree there’s nothing to solve. At which point we can all retire to the bar, or lounge chairs, smiles on faces. – Rowley Drysdale.

On with the show!

The Matchbox Show collection will be on display at Wan’din’in art space at Discover Eumundi Heritage and Visitor Centre from Saturday 1 July. The collection forms part of the ceramic wood fired conference Smoke on the Water 2017.  Official opening of the show will be at 10am on Saturday 1 July.

Registrations for Smoke on the Water are still open so get your ticket now to enjoy all that the conference has to offer.  The program runs for 4 days in and around Cooroy.  Visit the website below for details and registration!

Discover Eumundi Heritage and Visitor Centre
Cnr Gridley St & Memorial Dve

Potter’s party – come and join us

The  Band of Frequencies will be playing at our Potter’s Party!! (

Band of frequencies

As potters and ceramicists from all over the world descend on Cooroy for the Smoke on the Water 2017 Australian Woodfire Ceramics conference, the public are invited to come and join us for a Potter’s Party. There will be food vans, a bar and of course lots of potters. Come and mingle!

For access to the delegate only activities, tickets can be purchased from

Local Clay Exhibition at Cooroy Library

Want a glimpse of the wonderful woodfired work that will be in just about every small hall in Cooroy, as well as most of the shopfronts. Visit the Cooroy Library and dwell for a while with the ceramics in the foyer. The amazing master potter Kevin Grealy, and lovely rainforest ceramicist Leisa Gunton have their work on show. All the clay has been dug locally, so you can also learn something about the local clays.

Potquiz will be a fun filled night!

In 2012, at the Triennial Australian National Conference in Adelaide, Janet Mansfield was approached with the proposal for a ceramic quiz show. On hearing what it was to be, her words “I love it” sealed its future. It was the brain child of Andrew Bryant, who was already well known as that guy who performs “The Potter’s Party”, a poetry recital like no other that was inspired by 1980’s Australian comedian, Austen Tayshus. The poem was written by Bryant and he was invited to tell his cheeky tale at conferences, which tells the story of a lovesick mate needing help to find a girl. As the narrative unravels, the risqué nature of the account explodes and the excitement begins as over 80 ceramic terms are cajoled into the prose. The first performance of Pot Quiz was at the ceramic conference in Gulgong, 2013. The recital, which has been dubbed as ‘the ceramic eulogy’ by Rob Barren, has been used as the opening sequence to Pot Quiz previously and will feature again in this Woodfiring conference in Cooroy.

Pot Quiz is a fun packed hour where the focus is ceramics. The panellists are plucked from the garden of ceramic royalty and are allowed to blossom with a display of their ceramic knowledge, wit and candour. Bryant spins them in a wash that mixes “Spicks and Specks”, “Rockwiz” and “Family Feud” together, resulting in a colourful and fresh performance that is a real crowd pleaser. This conference will have a section where the audience can participate directly with the action, by filling in a brief survey sheet at registration. The performance at the Woodfiring conference is of course tailored to a Woodfiring contingency but anyone that has even touched upon the language of ceramics will find this part of the conference an exhilarating and fun-filled event.




Pots in Shops applications

If you are a delegate to Smoke on the Water or a member of the Ceramic Centre for Excellence you can apply to be part of the Pots in Shops – Cooroy’s Longest Exhibition. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase your ceramics to a wide audience, and maybe sell something too. Entry is free, so apply now so you don’t miss out.

More information>>