Posts Tagged ‘Orvelte’

Teaching and the obstinate Shetland pony ( Auto-biography).

August 14, 2015

 

We all know that Shetland ponies are escape artists. When you see them looking down, they are actually thinking. “How the hell can I get out of this joint?”. Our Shetland was a Houdini. I would get a phone call; “Hey Gerard your horse is in town.” I would jump on my bike with the lead in hand. I would cycle back, Shetland on rope, give her a stern talking to and put her back in with the sheep and chickens. I would again fix the wire fence but also knew she would soon figure a way out again. When the foal was born she stopped escaping.

There are so many memories fondly embedded in that period that I am at risk of never finishing what I set out to do. The aim is to meander from the beginning of my family’s migration in 1956 till my present state of blissful dotage. Still, words at times seem to have a will of their own, like a Shetland, and lead to unexpected and totally arbitrary directions. My apologies.

The job of teaching came about though a friend named Jan Muller who was doing the salt glazed pottery and lived in the museum village of Orvelte, and who was teaching at a collage for adults. After a short interview I started teaching at the same college. That was the best time of our stay in Holland. The first day of teaching was somewhat nerve-wrecking. Who was I to teach anything? I wasn’t taught anything. Failed even the Phyllis Bates ‘academy of dance’ of Fox trot and the Rumba. And that was with the dance steps painted on the floor!

Of course I had a good grounding from Desiderius Orban, the Hungarian master teacher at The Rocks in Sydney. He lived till 101 years and at the time we were in Holland I was still in contact with him. Fear is what prevents many from employing what we are all born with. The ability to express and give form to some creativity, no matter how humble or grandiose. The first lesson, if I remember correctly, was to try and get all the adults to put charcoal or pencil to paper. Now, if you had a group of toddlers, they would instantly without exception start to doodle furiously and with great joy! Not so with many adults. It is sad. They lost this spontaneity and joy. Many would as a first option say; ‘I can’t draw.’ They say that before any attempt was made to put a single dot on the paper. How do you know?  You don’t know if you don’t try!  ‘Go on, put the charcoal on the paper just draw a line or just a single dot’!

My first day was to try and make the students approach the paper without fear. Somehow the enthusiasm of the toddler had to be regained. That is what my aim of teacher was. I could not teach just skill or things like shading or making portrait eyes follow you around the room, photo-like images of apples or strawberries so real that the paper or canvas was almost bitten into by the ambitious but starving student while wearing a beret and dirty pants.

 

Teaching adults letting-go. Put charcoal to paper. ( Auto-biography)

August 10, 2015

The good news came about as predicted within a couple of weeks. Just when some other, even better tiding, knocked on barn’s door. The area where we had bought our second farm was near a village that was set and artificially kept in the 1800’s. It is called Orvelte and is a museum village. Some of the people living there were artists on the Government salary but, as they were given an old farm-house as well as a salary, also expected to produce art sympathetic to the bygone era of horse-carts, peat cutting, thatching, smithing of horse shoes, thrashing of hay and each other. Each Saturday afternoon there would be a village dance which tourists in strange shorts would photograph with large cameras and even larger lenses.

Our daughters, Susanna and Natasha, being enrolled in the local school. (their second Dutch school) quickly made friends. Both started to speak fluent Dutch at an astonishing speed. Through those friends we met some parents including a couple that lived in Orvelte and who made pottery. The pottery was in keeping with this historic village. Good solid salt-glazed stoneware. We bought a set of cups & saucers, a bulky vase, wine goblets and large serving dish. None have broken so far. The potter and his wife made a living from the potters wheel and also enjoyed the Government Artist salary. It turned out he was as fed up with his conveyer belt production of stone pottery as I was with the previous clock dials with seagulls in endless flight.

The potter and his wife soon joined another couple whereby the husband claimed to be a sculptor. He even managed to get the local shire to put up signage along the village roads pointing to his house with studio.  When I visited him and after introduction asked if he would be so kind as to show me some of his work, he obliged. He showed me a glass case with a lid behind which he kept some drawings of work he had done at The Art Academie years before. And that was that! Not a single work, not even a block of stone or lump of clay laying about. He normally charged an entrance fee to tourists to see his drawings inside this glass case with a lid. When he spotted my Kombi he quickly asked me if I would be so kind to pick up a wardrobe somewhere. I did. Helvi wasn’t impressed. But I explained he did not charge me to look at his drawings.

Even so we needed friends and invited them for an afternoon. He ate all of our peanuts. He must have been so hungry. His hand kept throwing those nuts back into his tilted upward mouth. It is strange how those memories keep sticking. I mean we did not mind the peanut frenzy, but were just somewhat surprised. Heaven knows what others make of us?  “Gerard is really weird and strange”, they could well whisper behind closed doors!

Another couple we tried to befriend was a printmaker. I knocked on his door. He just poked his red face through a window and asked what I wanted. I explained we were from Australia seeking friendship. “I am an artists too”, I said bravely while nodding affirmatively and somewhat conspiratorially.   “Oh,” he said without hesitation,  ” I am having a fight with my wife”,  “I can’t see you.”  He slammed the window shut.  Marital fights in Holland are just as prevalent as anywhere. Just because they ride bikes, eat herrings and live abstemious lives, doesn’t mean they don’t suffer marital whiplash at times. It is universal.

We did keep a few couples as friends including the potter couple of stone-ware. He worked as a part time teacher  and informed me the school for adult education was looking for a teacher in the creative arts especially painting and drawing.  I got the job. This was the other good news I was alluding to at the beginning of this piece. But that wasn’t the end of happy and more happy! I won a commission to make a mural for a yet to be built school in the small town where my daughters attended school.  This town is named Westerbork.

It all came good.