Warning: Unexpected character in input: '\' (ASCII=92) state=1 in /home/isi19164/public_html/libraries/rokcommon/RokCommon/Registry.php on line 381

Warning: Unexpected character in input: '\' (ASCII=92) state=1 in /home/isi19164/public_html/libraries/rokcommon/RokCommon/Registry.php on line 394
isiiad - The Chook Project

Warning: Unexpected character in input: '\' (ASCII=92) state=1 in /home/isi19164/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/utilities/gantryregistry.class.php on line 326

Warning: Unexpected character in input: '\' (ASCII=92) state=1 in /home/isi19164/public_html/libraries/gantry/core/utilities/gantryregistry.class.php on line 339

The Chook Project

136_3700

Photograph courtesy of Barbara Joyce.

Today is the Third Anniversary of the Black Saturday Fires. I want to mark the event with a story that has in turn, made me cry and laugh and then marvel at the indomitable human spirit.

The story is set in one of the areas hardest hit by the Black Saturday fires, Strathewen, and involves members of the Strathewen community, knitting needles, a bzillion balls of alpaca yarn, and lots and lots of chooks. The locals know it affectionately as The Chook Project. The story begins with the founder of the project and a resident of Strathewen, Barbara Joyce.

Chook_Project_1

Barbara lost 27 friends and neighbours on Black Saturday. She fled her home only minutes before the firestorm hit. Her studio and her husband’s workshop burnt to the ground. Mercifully their home survived. When she returned to it, she found that radiant heat had cracked the windows and the vicious winds had blown the doors in. Every surface of the inside of her home was covered in a thick layer of soot.

Everything in the house had to be painstakingly cleaned. In that process, Barbara unearthed Cocoa (below), a knitted and felted chook that she had made eight years previously with yarn spun from her neighbour's chocolate coloured alpaca. Those same neighbours, along with their alpacas had perished in the fires. Barbara set about bringing Cocoa back to life with a wash and new stuffing and took her in a bag to her dear friend’s funeral. Those present were so pleased to see Cocoa that she was passed around for a cuddle, soothing everyone in her own special way during that sad event.

Chook_Project_2

In the next few months, holding that experience close to her heart, Barbara saw a good use for the knitted chook pattern. In the first couple of years, she secured sponsorship for alpaca yarn and wool stuffing and began knitting chooks for the local children. Later, as the project gained momentum, the Strathewen Community Renewal Association funded the materials. Friends got on board and helped with the knitting. A knitting group (of more than twenty women) was established which became a place for sharing grief, laughter and hope for the future. In Barbara’s own words,

“The chooks were an ice-breaker and a way for people to start connecting again. Our conversations would drift from grief to side splitting hilarity. Storytelling would be interrupted by people counting out loud and checking off rows in the pattern.” Quoted from Barbara’s story published in Barefoot Magazine.

In order to personalise the chooks, before the knitting began, each child was given a drawing of the outline of the chook shape and asked to decorate it with whatever colours and patterns they liked.

Chook_Project_4

Not surprisingly some chooks were decorated with flames. Every effort was made to represent the child’s original design accurately. Wool was specially dyed if colours weren’t available commercially, or 'embroidery' was added if the child’s pattern required it.

Chook_Project_8

NB. The  original kntted chook pattern was designed by Bev Galeskas for Fiber Trends© 

Today, every primary school aged child in Strathewen has their very own version of Cocoa.

Barbara’s favourite moment was delivering the children’s finished chook and seeing their faces light up as they cuddled their chook close. The chooks took up pride of place in each child’s bed, spreading their special love and warmth while the children slept.

Like The Tree Project, the healing this project has offered throughout the community is outstanding. Whether it was in the designing, the knitting or in the cuddling and warmth of the finished product, it’s provided nourishment for hearts and souls far and wide.

Again, in the beautiful words of Barbara herself,

“This project brought children comfort, nurtured close friendships between the women, fostered connections within the community, assisted the recovery process and reminded us that we could laugh again. I see the hen as an ancient symbol of regeneration and rebirth and when our world turned black, the humble chook found its way into our hearts.” Quoted from Barbara’s story, published in Barefoot Magazine.

_Barbara_Joyce_crop-B

Last year, Barbara undertook training in Art Therapy at the Phoenix Institute. She’s obviously a natural. This project is a great example of Art Therapy in action!

Isiiad remembers the people who lost their lives, those who lost their homes and those who still grieve the loss of loved ones today, the Third Anniversary of Black Saturday.

 

This evening, ABC 1 is screening a documentary titled “Then The Wind Changed”, about the rebuilding of Strathewen after the fires. In it you will see and hear the heart warming stories of families involved in this project and the very special way it has touched the lives of many.

ABC_Doco_

(This documentary is now available on ABC iview.)

 


Parent Category: Arts
Facebook Image

Akira Takizawa

Akira Takizawa I'm interested in what happens when two very talented creative people partner up. It's definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. I'm… More…

Lorenna Grant-Artist in Residence at Laughing Waters.

Lorenna Grant- Artist in Residence at Laughing Waters I really want to convey the experience that I had visiting Lorenna Grant. She's the latest Artist in Residence at Laughing… More…

Birrarung Alchemy

Birrarung Alchemy There’s a howling wind today. Just now a big branch came loose from its trunk mooring and thundered onto the roof, threatening the structure of the house and by… More…

Nillumbik Artists Open Studios-Jane Annois

Nillumbik Artists Open Studios - Jane Annois This weekend sees the Nillumbik artists open their studios to the public once again. Last week I had way too much fun meeting one of… More…

Birrarung House Life Drawing

Birrarung House Life Drawing Photograph courtesy of Kerry Cross © Yesterday... picture this. Balmy spring day in the bush. Birdsong. A table laden with an enormous wedge of Prima… More…

Dunmoochin Opening

Dunmoochin Opening Dunmoochin was alive with people and the paintings of Barbara Hauser on the weekend. Shane Pugh (Clifton Pugh's son) and Barbara, celebrated the opening below.… More…

Bountiful Birrarung Dinner

Bountiful Birrarung Dinner Now I’m in love with the Eltham Library. I sit in the section that stores house and cooking magazines in glass cabinets…reminding me of how clever we… More…

Material Things

Material Things ©Libby Schrieber Apple Picking Saints, silk cut linoleum print There's a little number that's been tucked away at the back of my wardrobe for what seems like a… More…

Expanding Dimensions

Expanding Dimensions (Photograph of 'Expanding Dimension' on the balustrade of the Roystead Building- copyright Silvi Glattauer) Remember Lloyd Godman, ecological artist.… More…

Life Drawing at Dunmoochin

Life Drawing At Dunmoochin Artists have been drawing naked bodies since they could make marks. Over the centuries, fascination with curves and body parts has often turned into… More…

Work in Progress

Work in Progress I'm working on a doozy of a blog today. I visited the studio of Ona Henderson and Syd Tunn yesterday. It's one of those blogs where the difficulty has been in… More…

Hugh McSpedden

Tripping the Light Fantastic with Hugh McSpedden Well not tripping exactly or even dancing for that matter, but "light fantastic", without a doubt. The exterior of St Andrews Hall… More…

Birrarung House, Day Two

Birrarung House, Day Two Every cloud has a silver lining. Two days of trying to hook up to the www to post my blogs have led to me making a temporary 'office' in the courtyard at… More…

The Tree Project

The Tree Project It's a rare day that I'm not reminded of the 2009 Black Saturday fires in some way. Whether it's blackened tree trunks that still punctuate the landscape, or… More…

Jeanette Dyke

Jeanette Dyke Photograph courtesy of Jeanette Dyke© Rarely do I find a silversmith, whose work is as exquisite as Jeanette Dykes. The travelling salt and pepper shaker (above) is… More…

Barbara Hauser's "London Carnival"

Barbara Hauser's "London Carnival" (Detail) Big, gutsy, unforgettable work! Pictures don't adequately show the scale and the impact of Barbara Hauser's work. Their size represents… More…

Margaret Summerton

Margaret Summerton Phew...what a woman...energetic, smart as paint, extremely personable and an artist too. Five minutes with Margaret Summerton and I understood why she is the… More…

Stop Press

STOP PRESS! Arts Talks 2011 This information has been distributed by the Arts, Local Government and Climate Change Forum Tuesday 3 May, 10am -12.00 noon followed by morning… More…

Nillumbik Open Studios in November

Nillumbik Artist's Open Studios in November Detail of work by Stephanie Mew. Time to get your diary out and mark two weekends in November for some serious 'studio hopping'.… More…

isiiad Red Chair Event

Isiiad Red Chair Event I've been a bit distracted this week by my presentation at the Red Chair Event. This is an event which is scheduled on the first Wednesday of the month and… More…

Copyright

THIS ENTIRE SITE © 2010-2012 ISIIAD. ALL OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND WRITTEN MATERIAL HEREIN, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED, ARE COPYRIGHTED BY ISIIAD. NO PART OF THIS SITE, OR ANY OF THE CONTENT CONTAINED HEREIN, MAY BE USED OR REPRODUCED IN ANY MANNER WHATSOEVER WITHOUT EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER.