Knysna Fire! How do I evacuate my glass studio?

July 06, 2017

Knysna fire 2017 near Elandskraal, South Africa

We have all had the discussion of what to take when your house is about to burn down. Today, one month ago on 6 and 7 June 2017, Knysna and the surrounding areas saw one of the biggest natural disasters in South Africa in living memory and there I was, facing this reality. Not a dinner party discussion, but packing my bags for real. It was a rather pleasant relief to realise that in the decision-making moment, few things really matter. I packed a few practical things, clothes, bedding, towels, laptop, phone chargers and so on. Then I made sure the pets are in a room so they would be easy to find. And then what – things of sentiment, heirlooms, precious objects, costly-to-replace things? After picking up a few things and putting them down again, the only things I found that what was not negotiable were all my travel journals. I had written these books over years of travelling to the ends of the earth and back – Jamaica, Antarctica, Kamchatka in Russia, Peru and so on. They are far more valuable to me than pictures. These diaries capture smells, experiences, emotions and the voice of the person I was at that time experiencing the big wide world. Ok, so that was the house sorted.

The Glass Roots studio on Kalanderkloof Farm

But then there was the glass studio. Overlooking the forest valley on our farm Kalanderkloof, in this studio, the products of Glass Roots are born. It is my sanctuary of magic and colour and the working fruits of all my efforts of the last eight years. It only took a split second to realise this is an impossible task but then again, doing nothing also seemed like abandoning a great love too easily. How could I ever replace these precious kilns? And then it came to me – the answer was these precious kilns. If they can withstand temperatures of more than a 1000 °C when in action then perhaps the safest place for my tools and glass and moulds would be inside the kilns. So instead of evacuating the studio I ended up filling up the kilns with as much as I could and sealing them up tightly with kiln shelves, fibre boards and a blessing. I am very grateful that my theory did not get tested and so quite happily I cannot scientifically prove that this was a good solution. In the end, fighting fires on the boundary of our property was the most pro-active solution and that I can most certainly vouch for.

Watch this space for upcoming Glass Roots events on the farm – retreats and playdays coming soon once all the ashes have settled! 

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