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

Jessie Imam

Jessie Imam Birds. I love everything about them. Their feathers, their flight, their song and their nests. Here's an artist whose work might just appeal to you as much as it does… More…

The Caladenia Rosella Orchid

The Caladenia Rosella Orchid One of the really lovely things to happen since beginning Isiiad has been the making of connections at Dunmoochin. It's meant, life drawing sessions,… More…

Steampunk

Steampunk You could be excused for thinking these pics were taken on the set of a movie about the life and times of Jules Verne. In fact they were taken at an event called… More…

Ev Hales-Static Motion

Ev Hales-Static Motion I sometimes worry that there's something wrong with me. I get so excited by the artwork that I've seen that I can't stop thinking about it...Perhaps I need… More…

Fulling

"Fulling" I'm back home now. Yesterday I was working on my deck and kept looking over in the direction of Birrarung, wistfully wondering if the frogs were missing me as much as I… 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…

Launch of The First Train to Allwood

Launch of The First Train to Allwood at The Wattle Festival What better place to launch the local yarn bombing spectacular - The First Train to Allwood - than at the 2012… 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…

May Red Chair Event

May Red Chair Event- Lorenna Grant You could hear a pin drop in the Barn at Montsalvat as Lorenna Grant spoke about her work and her experience of the residency at Laughing… More…

Nillumbik Ekphrasis Poetry Awards-2

Nillumbik Ekphrasis Poetry Award Camilla TADICH©, 6.23am Kangaroo Ground 2009, oil on canvas, 94.5cm. x 125cm. framed. "Ekphrasis is a genre of poetry that explores works of art… 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…

Deborah Halpern- Angel maker

Deborah Halpern- Angel Maker Deborah Halpern's 'Angel' now stands by the Yarra River at Birrarung Mar, next to the Ian Potter Gallery. I'm old enough to remember her first home,… More…

Baldessin Studio

Baldessin Press (Studio) Here's another little taster from the Baldessin Studio at St Andrews just north of Melbourne. These photos came across my email today. They were taken… More…

Poetry for Matcham

Poetry for Matcham Last night's Red Chair Event honoured Matcham Skipper. His nephew Sigmund Jorgensen spoke of his uncles life and times. Jenni Mitchell put together a… 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…

Kaya Storm - Open Studios

Kaya Storm This is where it all begins... Photograph by Kerry Cross Best word to describe this work is elegant. Simple sculptural shapes made from simple materials with… More…

Light Factory Gallery-Eltham

I've heard about the Light Factory Gallery from so many people and in so many places. I can't believe it's taken me so long to get there. Today was the day. The building is great.… 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…

Ev Hales-A Work in Progress

Ev Hales-A Work in Progress Yesterday saw the launch of Ev Hales eagerly anticipated, self published book "A Work in Progress". As the name suggests, it illuminates the process… More…

So when do you throw the flowers out?

I can't tell you how much I love a house full of flowers. Parrot tulips and peonies are perennial favorites. As a result, I've got a lifetime's collection of vases and vessels. I… 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.