Covered jar, 'Budgerigar', earthenware, made by Kaye Tucker, Hermannsburg, Northern Territory, Australia, 1991
Titled 'Budgerigar', this moulded and painted earthenware jar was made in 1991 by Aboriginal potter, Kaye Tucker, at Hermannsburg, a former Lutheran mission located 130 kilometres west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Introduced to the Hermannsburg community in late 1990, pottery would become an important form of traditional and modern expression for the local people. Their early work, including this piece, consisted mostly of rounded jars with sculpted lids, representing either local animals or bush 'tucker'. Around the jars, the potters have applied underglaze colours in the 'dot painting' style and scenes from traditional stories, usually correlating to the figures on the lids. This work represents the budgerigar found throughout the Central Desert.
The Hermannsburg community has gained significant attention since 1991 for its production of rounded pots with sculpted lids. The local people first produced clay forms in the 1950s, under the encouragement of Lutheran missionaries. However, after the closure of the mission in 1974, the practice came to an end when kinship groups began to leave the settlement to re-occupy their traditional territory.
Remembering the figurines that he had modelled in Hermannsburg in the 1950s, Aboriginal Pastor Ungwanaka persuaded the local people to rekindle their interest in pottery and convert it into a viable enterprise. In late 1990, under the direction of the Northern Territory Open College of TAFE, Naomi Sharp established a pottery program in Hermannsburg where she taught local men and women two days per week. Her classes operated from the Adult Education Centre, which housed a potter's wheel and an electric kiln. Sharp also travelled to three different outstations with clays and glazes, returning with pots to be fired.
The first exhibition of Hermannsburg pottery was held in July 1991 at Gallery Gondwana, Alice Springs, and was opened by acclaimed Aboriginal potter, Thancoupie. Since then, Hermannsburg pots have made their way into national and international collections.
Hermannsburg potter, Kaye Tucker, made this earthenware jar and lid in 1991 as part of a pottery program funded by the Northern Territory Open College of TAFE. Program leader, Naomi Sharp, taught the local men and women to construct the pots by coiling long strips of clay into rounded forms and levelling the surfaces with paddles. The surfaces were smoothed further by rubbing the clay with a wet cloth and scraping it with a rib. The sculpted lids recalled the clay figurines that were made in Hermannsburg in the 1950s under the encouragement of the Lutheran missionaries.
Naomi Sharp described this production process in a 1991 interview: 'We use a terracotta clay which is the same colour as the red earth here and the people love using it. We solve the problem of the clay drying so quickly by keeping the pots covered with wet cloths. They learned to roll a coil and attach it rapidly while wetting down the pot constantly with a cloth as they worked. With day-time temperatures of 45°C and extremely low humidity, even clay exposed for five minutes becomes dry, it cracks and becomes unworkable' (Joy Irvine, 'The Hermannsburg Potters' in 'Ceramics: Art and Perception', No.6, 1991, pp.22-23).
Curator of Australian decorative arts and design, Grace Cochrane, purchased these three items from the inaugural exhibition of Hermannsburg pottery, held in 1991 at Gallery Gondwana in Alice Springs. The exhibition comprised of seventy-six works by twenty-one artists. Grace donated these three pieces to the museum in 2006, following her retirement. They join two other Hermmansburg pots, 'Bush Coconut and Orange' (91/1273) and 'Water Birds' (91/1274), that the Powerhouse Museum purchased in 1991 from the same exhibition.