NON Awas Salan

Faces of Norfolk - Lydia

Friday, April 21, 2017


Lydia is from Russia, and she grew up in a small town called ‘Rostovo don’, which is known as the capital of South Russia., about 1000km from Moscow. She says the weather is extreme, in summer it is over 40 degrees, and in winter, it is minus 20. Lydia says Russians are very much connected to their homes, they hardly ever move home. Where she grew up, Lydia’s family had been in the same place for 3 generations. It was very out of the ordinary for them to leave their home town, let alone to travel and end up on Norfolk Island.


Up until the mid-nineties, Lydia grew up in the Communist regime, but her sister who is 11 years younger grew up after Capitalism had taken over. During Lydia’s childhood, there was hardly any crime, students at schools wore uniforms and there was more discipline than there is now. When her sister started school, there were no uniforms or respect for teachers. Lydia was about 15 years old when things started to change and she saw a lot of people start to leave Russia as they didn’t like the new ideas and different ways of life. 

When Lydia went to school, almost everything was free, including education and housing. Flats or houses were given by the government to people who had worked a certain job for a long time. Once they finished working, the government took back the house or flat. Cars and personal effects were probably the only thing that people personally owned, though cars were often shared with 20 or so others. Lydia went to university in Russia and now has a PhD in Psychology. She was interested in Engineering Psychology, that is to be able to arrange equipment in military planes were the brain perceives them to be, though she wasn’t able to pursue this as the only professor doing this passed away just before she was to begin the course.

Lydia married her husband Alex in Russia 16 years ago. Lydia was living in Russia and decided to go and see Australia and New Zealand.  Lydia’s Mum had moved to Norfolk a year before, so she had heard lovely things about it. Since arriving on Norfolk, Lydia has been working for the Irvine’s Group. They have now been here for 12 years.


Lydia was accustomed to city living, living in an apartment and not knowing their neighbor who lived 10 metres away! Where Lydia is from, she was used to the dry dusty atmosphere, and she was a bad asthmatic. Since being on Norfolk, her asthma has gone. This is testament to the clean living and fresh air that the island is renowned for.


She was surprised how everyone is so multi-skilled on Norfolk, often your receptionist is also the accountant.  One day she was driving past a sign which said “open house”, she wasn’t in the market to buy a house. Once inside the house she just reached to turn a light switch on and the switch was just where she thought it should be it seemed like fate, but as she hadn’t planned on staying on Norfolk. Lydia asked if they could rent it, the owners said they wanted to sell, so Lydia and Alex jumped in “boots and all” and bought their very first home on Norfolk. 


Lydia loves her home town in Russia as it gave her so much, though she is very happy to call Norfolk her home now as this is where she has grown her family.

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Awas Salan - Meet Steve Ryves

Friday, April 14, 2017


Everyone has heard of the ‘quiet achiever’ but this phrase very much describes Steve Ryves.  He came to Norfolk in 1966 and, even as a young 18 year old, had an affinity for the place.  He travelled by ship with his parents, making an unusual entrance by launching their small catamaran, Oahu, from the vessel and sailing it through the reef into Emily Bay.


Steve and his family were keen sailors, and Oahu was built and designed by Carl Ryves, his cousin, and family friend, Ben Lexcen.  Ben, of course, would later be famed for his winged keel and involvement with the 1983 America’s Cup win. Unfortunately a bad storm, one of the worst Steve’s ever seen on Norfolk, destroyed the catamaran shortly after their arrival.

Having grown up in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney, which was then fairly unspoilt and sparsely populated, the Ryves felt right at home.  Steve tried all kinds of casual jobs and then decided to become a refrigeration mechanic like his dad, John.  He started his apprenticeship by correspondence and completed the course in Sydney.   Steve and John had plenty of work on Norfolk as electricity was just coming in and the old, heavy kerosene fridges were being replaced by electric models.

At this time Steve became interested in pottery.  He experimented with local clay and was intrigued.  He was living in a house, Girlie Christian’s place, at Ball Bay and he tried using an old metal safe as a kiln.  This was not successful, but Steve was hooked.  He ordered a small kiln, and other materials, and began Norfolk Island Cottage Pottery in 1970.  He combined this with being a refrigeration mechanic but, after a few years, went into the pottery business full time.

Steve is a self-taught artisan but has travelled extensively to learn his craft and refine his technique.  Pottery, he says, is “…endlessly fascinating…there’s a real excitement in seeing how it turns out.”  The look of Japanese pottery – its symmetry and delicacy - particularly appeals to him and Steve enjoys making porcelain and stoneware pieces.  He concentrates on creating “…beautiful, functional stuff…” and produces his own rich glazes, sometimes using local clays and basalt. It is a very tactile medium and he revels in handling the clay, working the wheel and shaping the piece to its finished form – ‘throwing’ pots keeps him inspired.   

He remembers the Ball Bay days fondly.  Girlie’s house was supposed to be haunted and, although Steve never saw apparitions, he often heard ghostly footsteps and doors mysteriously closing.  Marie Bailey organised his first pottery tours and today, three decades on, Steve still demonstrates his potting skills for tourist groups.  In 1975 he moved to Anson Bay and Dennis Stirling built him a lovely Norfolk pine home, and workshop, on the property.  Steve helped construct it and likes his home’s peace, serenity and nearness to the sea.

Steve loves the ocean – he swam, surfed and sailed yachts from a young age.  He represented the Island in yachting, with Jerry Cooke, at three South Pacific Games.  He was part of a local yachting club in the late 1980s, but is now a keen windsurfer and feels the sport unites the elements he likes most about sailing and surfing.


Steve met Alison when she came to work for Cottage Pottery. They later married and have two children, Jamie (27) and Emily (25).  Alison is an artist and shares Steve’s fascination with clay.  Since 1981 they have run the business together - Steve crafts the stoneware and porcelain pieces and Alison embellishes them with gorgeous glazes and lustres.  Alison also paints on paper, board and fabric, and creates striking jewellery.  Sea imagery and Polynesian motifs feature in their work.


In 1982, with the help of Alison’s step-father, Mike Quantrill, Steve designed and built a large kiln which continues to run well.  He tests different glazes, finishes and firings and gets a ‘kick’ out of trying new colours and blends. The workshop has been enlarged, over the years, and includes an Art Gallery to exhibit the full range of Ryves’ artistry.  Emily’s interesting photographic and collage pieces are also displayed.  If you’d like to buy pottery and original art works, see a master craftsman at the wheel, or just look at Norfolk’s dramatic scenery I’d recommend a visit to Anson Bay.

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