Clay The Baker
Natural Tucker baker We're standing in the back room of a sourdough wood-fired bakery (Natural Tucker, Melbourne). The air is yeasty and warm. The baker, Paul Fox, keeps an eye on the loaves in the oven. (Click the highlighted speech to hear a sample of voice.)

K: And so how would compare skills involved in being a breadmaker to what other people do, say potters

P: Well being a breadmaker, it's, what you create, it never ceases to amaze me that you mix flour and water together and you add some heat to it and you end up with bread. Now that bread can be absolutely fantastic to mediocre. And it does happen from time to time. So I always get a kick out of opening the oven when it's just about time to bring it out and aeeing what you've created and seeing that it's worked. And we do this 4 or 5 times a day with everything. Sometimes you're a little disappointed. It's a long time since I've been very disappointed with the bread that I've produced. I guess it's the think that keeps you going to look in and see that the breads turned out well. And I guess the ultimate critics, like we've got, for an oven full of bread we might have 100-120 loaves, so out of that maybe 500 people would eat those sort of things, so you bring out the bread and say, `Look at that, it's fantastic!' I'm very happy with what's happened and the next morning its gone its been eaten. Its consumed and you start again. So the rewards are there constantly, because you're creating something everyday and seeing how it's made, but on the other hand with some of the really good bread that I've made, somehow I feel like I'd like to keep it, or at least take a photo of it, so that I can say, `Look at this, this is what I've done and didn't it turn out well!' And I guess that's similar to people who do art work who not only feel that same sort of joy in producing something. Then if they're lucky they get to sell it. It's even more tangible. It's quite a nice feeling, having 500 people consuming what you've done.

K: Do you have any particular passtimes or hobbies that you can relate to breadmaking in anyway?

P: Not really, I guess, with bread you need a lot of patience, because with ours it takes a fair while to come up, and you have to be willing to spend the time with it. I guess the closest analogy in my life is my children. You definitely need patience with kids but if you put in the time, you get the rewards. I think it's the same, the effort with your children. There are direct parallels, at least in my life with baking bread.

Let's hear from the Nico Lewis, the young baker working at his parent's shop, Babka.

K: And have you tried any other kinds of arts and crafts, and other kinds of techniques?

N: I do ceramics, or I did do before I started this thing. Time's the limiting factor now. I always enjoyed, like when I was in even primary school, I was doing clay modeling, and femur modeling and that sort of thing. Yeah, it's sort of related to this, it's being sort of creative

K: How would you compare working as potter and working as a baker?

N: They've got their obvious difference, like you can't eat pots the make, but I think if you're into make things functional like I was, for instance like that bowl out there, I made that, and I've got a few bowls lying around. I tend to make things that were sort of functional and no just sort of something you'd just sort of sit on your mantelpiece, that you just could sort of look at, I was always making pots and cups and things like that, it's always, I think it's a sort of combination of aesthetics and also practicality to make it both.

K: Is it a limitation sometimes on making bread that you're best work is gone the next day.

N: That's the thing, you can't get too attached to a loaf of bread. You know I look at every loaf and I look at my rolls and o, that's nice today, that's nice today, and churn it out fairly quickly. I always get a little bit of a buzz, o, look at that nice bagettes today, look at that, hasn't that risen nicely. just get used to it, after you churn it out every day

K: You don't find that one loaf, that you suddenly realise one day you've got the perfect loaf

N: You always aspire to that, like you think, there's certain ways that you like things to look, you just look at them all, that's pretty well perfect, you show workmate, o look at these, you know, it's a good feeling, people come in, I had a woman come in the other morning and she, she specifically wanted these sticky buns and I said they're going to be half an hour and so she just say there and waited half an hour and that was really a great feeling so know that she was going to wait for half an hour just for this bun to come hot about the oven. Things like that. It's simple and its enjoyable.

K: I can see you're anxious to get these out. Just a final question. How would you compare life of ceramicist to life of a baker

N: They have similar aspects. Doing ceramics I think you spend a lot of time alone too in a little grungy room covered in clay slops, and, yeah, in that way it's similar, like I spend a fair bit of time by myself baking, just sort of moulding up the bread and mixing up the dough, and working towards a final product, so, yeah, there are similarities.

K: So, I'll let you get on with the edible ceramics

N: Thank you.

See article `Bake my day: Introducing bread-making to ceramics'

Kevin Murray©1995