Mardie Whitla blogs about her handbuilt ceramic carousel

Mardie Whitla blogs about her handbuilt ceramic carousel

It’s taken about 25 years to realise I must have an inner carousel connection.

Years ago we went to France for a week to celebrate a special birthday at, among other places, Michelin Star restaurant Tour D’Argent.  On our final evening in cold and windy Paris, we wandered down along the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower.

Mardie Whitla blogs about her affinity for carousels.

There we came across a beautiful merry-go-round.  Its lights were on.  Music was playing, but the horses were idle.

The following day we were to leave France on our flight back to Melbourne. Then 48 hours after arriving, I would be attending my pre-organised appointment with the surgeon to remove my breast cancer.

So I asked the carousel attendant if I might have a ride on the Carrousel de la Tour Eiffel: he obliged. Alone I sat on a beautiful antique white wooden horse, round and round, and cried. Just a little.

Carrousel de la Tour Eiffel (Photo by Sheng Li, Unsplash)
Mardie riding the antique white wooden horse
Round and round on my Italian trips

When I am visiting Italy, I spend a lot of time in Tuscany, and in particular, in Firenze and surrounds.  The antique merry-go-round in the Piazza della Repubblica dates from the beginning of the 20th century. It is still run by the 5th generation of the local Picci family.

This merry-go-round is smaller and lower to the ground than the one in Paris. Nonetheless, it has 20 horses and two carriages for the kings.

Now it is usually visited by younger people – many Nonnas with their grandchildren. Rain, hail or shine for seven months of the year, its lights are on, as it goes round and round.

I have never ridden on the wooden horses in this carousel. I’m happy just to sit nearby in Caffe Paszkowski or stand at the bar at Caffe Gilli quietly watching.

Carousel in the Piazza della Repubblica in Firenze (Florence)
Standing still in Albania

In 2018 I was fortunate to attend the 10th International Conference of the European Forum for Restorative Justice. The conference was held in Tirana, Albania, just a hop, skip and a jump across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. 

Never having been to Albania previously, I was stepping into a very different experience. Staying at the Hotel Tirana International, I was in the centre of the city’s capital, on the corner of the massive Skenderbej Square. From my balcony I could see the huge black and red flag of the country.

Further in the distance, on the other side of the square, was a carousel. It was not large and had a low fence around it, with steps up to its first white horse. 

I would have loved to take a ride on this carousel. Despite three attempts to buy a ticket at the little nearby ticket box, I had no luck. Indeed, I never saw the horses moving round and round.

I’ve not been able to find any history related to this carousel.  With the unbelievably dire background and experiences of this country, I am not surprise that a carousel is perhaps not paramount in their memories.

Tirana carousel
Tirana carousel carriages
Galloping horses
My Covid activity

And here is my recent ceramic work. It has no doubt been inspired by memories of those carousels I’ve loved in other countries.

What a way to spend a coronavirus long lockdown in Melbourne.

Assembling the parts
Mardie’s carousel assembled
Pole position