Sarah Harrison, potter, with daughter Arwyn.

A few hundred metres from the jetty, 32 year-old potter Sarah Harrison looks content with baby Arwyn on her hip and a bag of just-delivered mussels at her feet.  Inside her rambling old, art-filled house, she begins shifting uncomfortably when talk turns to her school days.  She was among the island children who regularly caught the ferry to board at Epsom Girls Grammar almost 20 years ago.  Sarah recalls how quickly her eagerness for the wider world was dashed by her inability to fit in with mainland schoolmates.  The matron greeted her with the comment, "Oh no, not another Barrier girl".

It can be quite a harsh world at boarding school if you don't look right and wear the right clothes.  It's a long way away from the unconditional love of family.  But I'm really, really grateful I went away because I so needed it.  This is not the place for a teenager to be - the lack of opportunities, of seeing people around you doing different things... there's a tendency to have a pretty limited world view.  Being on the island shrinks your world."

Sarah's horizons were expanded by a polytechnic craft design course, travel and work.  After almost a decade off the island, she returned to the Barrier to establish a pottery studio and showroom beside Tryphena Harbour.  With help from her family and a small grant, she survived the first few, lean years and bought the property after her father died four years ago.  Now, she is able to meet the mortgage by selling her hand-crafted bowls and mugs, mosaics, funky tiles and miniature tea sets to tourists.  She raises her daughter with partner Nyal Smith and pots when she can.

"I earn my income between December and May and I just have to be good at budgeting to last the rest of the year.  I do sometimes wish it was easier.  In my weaker moments or depressed moments, when my batteries are dying... or the water pump's broken down and the generator's blowing out smoke, I just wish I was on the national grid.  But overall, I'm glad I'm not.  I enjoy that independent lifestyle.  It's bloody interesting."

"There is something that keeps bring you back here.  There's so much diversity... and that sense that we're all in this together because we're all on this rock together."


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