Sailor’s Grave River Noses

rolling as kalou river nose

I think of these noses as river noses, though I’m not sure if the water flowing out to the beach at Sailor’s Grave is a river? Is it? It must be, it’s very river-esque.

We stopped there on the way back from Driving Creek about a month ago, on a lazy high summer Sunday. We had new friend Teddy on board Lloyd the van, the three of us riding up front, sparing Teddy’s legs and eyes from cycling through the “boring” (local attitude) NZ farming landscape south of the Coromandel peninsula. 

Laurie, in full visitor guide mode, pulled into Sailor’s Grave along the East Coast of the Coromandel: a potential place for a swim. The beach there, wild and beautiful, massive waves, I was like nope. I can swim but not in waves bigger than myself. Teddy, though a lake surfer back in Michigan, looked a little concerned too. I picked up a sea urchin shell off the sand and handed it to him. A souvenir, I said, which is stupidly fragile and difficult to not break while cycling around New Zealand and this is day two of your whole trip. 

We headed towards the river, walking along in the cool shallows, my toes sinking into the soft volcanic sand that catches the sunlight, glittering on the river bottom. The water soft, disturbed by a slight wind and an unseen current, dappled green in the shade and golden in the light. I didn’t bring my phone but hopefully this will give you a picture. Add to it a fallen tree, the constant roar of the waves behind us, and the singing of the cicadas as we venture further downstream, the bush rising up on either side of us and the river.

Laurie talks about coming here every summer with his family and making pots with the kids from the wild Sailor’s Grave clay. We ask if we can go dig some? We can and we forget about swimming to instead wade across the river to the opposite side, my shorts getting wet, where there’s a concealed crevasse in the rocks, a kind of semi grotto, overgrown with tall grasses and shrub bush, and we clamber through the vegetation to where the grotto ends in a red rock wall. Water trickles down into a shallow pool and it’s here we find the clay. Soft, iron rich clay. It’s hard not to be greedy with all this clay gold but you can only carry so much back through the grasses and bush and across the river, where we find flat surfaces on rocks or fallen trees to wedge our treasure and start making. We go quiet as we play with our clay in the shade. Teddy is shaping a possible candelabra and I’ve got some noses going and Laurie is placing flat slabs onto river stones where they will dry into lovely river pots. It’s one of those moments where there is really nothing to be worried about, like when we were kids and just played. 

Teddy carries the candelabra out across the river to where a branch pokes out of the water and Laurie has already placed one of the river bowls. The candelabra incorporates the bowl into a sculpture of soft, raw clay - as an offering to the river is what my brain wants to write but I don’t know if that’s true. Teddy puts his hand out, palm down, and we each stack our hands one on top of the other, in an awkward (American?) gesture that goes on for too long, so long that the candelabra sculpture teeters and surrenders to the river.

I carry my noses on a piece of bark I find by the fallen tree, back to Lloyd the van, and Teddy gifts me his leftover clay and we drive onwards, feeling rich, in search of another place to swim. 

It’s this Sailor’s Grave gold red clay that these noses are made with. I have painted them using Kiwi Underglaze in an attempt to capture the day, the roadtrip and the nature along the way in a fast and loose kinda brush stroke. Very limited edition. Slightly cracked due to river brickells <3

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