The Poppykettle Fountain

Term: 2 Year: 2014

Students at Manorvale Primary School in Levels 3 and 4 studied Werribee, primarily as a wool producing area, through exploring Italian Art at Werribee Mansion.

It was a natural progression to then study Geelong; the port exporting Werribee wool in the 1800s. This unit of work was inspired by an excursion to view artist Jan Mitchell’s painted bollards, which are located along Geelong’s Waterfront. Jan researched the rich history of the area and portrayed amazing stories through each bollard.  

One particular bollard features a set of keys in the hand of a Portuguese sailor. The keys had been left on the beach at Limeburners Point in the 1580s then discovered in 1847. Robert Ingpen, a local author, used this fact and wove a fantastic, fictional adventure of how the keys came to be on the Geelong beach. “The Voyage of the Poppykettle” tells the story of seven hairy Peruvian Gnomes wanting to flee post invasion Peru and their encounters with Brown Pelican, Silverado Bird, Iguanas, Silverfish, and a friendly Dolphin on their hazardous journey to Limeburners Point. The Poppykettle, a vessel for brewing poppy tea, and some of the Gnomes, sculpted in bronze, are featured at the Poppykettle Fountain at Cunningham Pier.

 The characters from the story were excellent subjects for line and shape drawings, which were shaded using charcoal. Reading sections of the story and providing pictures of the characters whilst the students were sketching immersed them in the wonders of this adventure at sea. Terracotta clay seemed the best natural material with which to make the characters. The students created a shape to start with, and then pinched and moulded their works rather than joining pieces of clay. This technique, starting with a cylinder shape, leant itself to creating the iguanas, dolphins, gnomes and keys. A sphere was a great starting shape for the Poppykettle, providing an attainable challenge for Level 3 and 4 students resulting in the successful firing of their works.

Jan Mitchell featured rabbits on her bollards as these were introduced into Australia by the Austin family, for hunting purposes. As follow up lessons from the excursion, students considered what the bay settlement would have looked from aboard a ship when families, such as the Austins, arrived in Geelong and then created perspective drawings and ‘tall ship’ paintings. Most of the foreshore is reclaimed land from the hundreds of ships which emptied their ballast before loading the wool. It is a great visualizing exercise to imagine the water levels up to Customs House.

Lastly, the students were asked to create their own bollard designs and then paint life-sized bollards, donated and installed by Powercor Geelong. This has enabled our students to create their own community art: depicting five students in various uniforms and a Koori bollard representing the Wathaurong people, facing the Werribee River. Next year, we hope to complete bollards of Percy and Ethel Chirnside who will face the Werribee Manor, after which our school is named.

Robyn Hawking
Visual Arts Teacher
Manorvale Primary School

Suitable for levels 3 & 4