Honeycomb is delicious! Especially when it is eaten out of these beautiful hand-crafted pots.
We are so pleased to launch this new collaboration between master potter Lee Farrell (Blue Chapel Pottery), artist Amy Brezinscak (aebrezart) and the Bee Collective. Beekeepers know that honeycomb is a delicious treat, and this is a chance to bring Tasmania’s unique Leatherwood honeycomb straight out of the SW wilderness, to you.
This project started as a question – how can we produce honeycomb without using petro-chemical plastics promoted to beekeepers for this purpose?
Lee and I pondered this question for 12 months.
Lee’s skills are second to none – celebrating 40 years as a potter in March this year, Lee’s work features in many high-end settings in Tasmania (think Agrarian Kitchen). Not just an outstanding potter, Lee is a mentor and supporter of aspiring artists. Lee is loved by all in the community for her creativity, inclusivity, and all-round excellence.
As we started to map this project out – we could see an opportunity for an artist to collaborate with us – and for me it wasn’t a hard find. Over the past couple of years I have been working with Amy Brezinscak on a few projects – one was the Shredding Betties Fist gloves project that she designed (and the gloves well and truly sold out!) and the current pollination book project with children in the Huon Valley, of which Amy is the Creative Director.
Amy is the kind of artist who can try anything and do it well – Drawing? Sure! Paint pens and pots? Sure! Embroidery? Sure! Honeypots? Sure! Amy was open to this project even though she has never worked with clay before and was excited to be working with Lee and was the first to put up her hand when Lee asked who would like to have a go on the pottery wheel. Thanks, Amy, for inspiring me and I am now the proud owner of a bowl I made.
As a beekeeper my job was to bring honeycomb to the table, and I thought long and hard about how the bees and I could do this together.
All worker bees are female and throughout their relatively short life span (3 weeks in the summer and up to 3 months during winter) they play different roles. For about 6 days of their life – when they are aged between 12-18 days old – they secrete wax from glands on their abdomen. Other worker bees collect the wax with their mandibles and build out the honeycomb for the Queen to lay eggs and the worker bees to store honey.
Beekeepers generally use starter wax (called foundation) to make it easier for the bees to build the wax out, but if the beekeeper is aiming to produce honeycomb, putting foundation into the equation does not result in a palatable outcome.
Instead, I used the thinnest strip of starter wax across the top of the empty frame (about 5mm wide melted it onto the wooden frame with a heat gun) and interspersed the starter wax frames (with no wire) with drawn out comb frames. This encouraged the bees to move up the hive and to start building the comb out from scratch. It takes bees 8kg of consumed honey to build 1 kg of wax.
During the peak of the Leatherwood season, the bees needed 6 weeks to build out the combs and time to convert the flower nectar into honey.
I must admit, I always worry that things might not go to plan when I start projects, but I know this is part of the journey. Learning to embrace the anxious feelings when I start working on an idea has allowed me to accept the feeling that I am going out on a limb, and to just keep going.
When I turned up to my Leatherwood site last week and saw that the combs were capped and ready to cut, I was very happy (Worried? Me? Never!!) Just in time for the 2 months of markets I’ve got coming up.
What I have loved most about this project is the collaboration with Lee and Amy. Both women are talented creatives who have been on board with this idea from the beginning. All of us live in regional Tasmania and living out of a city centre means we’ve developed capacity to make ideas real, with what we have at hand and the end product is simply stunning, wouldn’t you agree?