The Black Summer bushfires came at the worst possible time for Steve Harrison.
Just before the fire destroyed his Balmoral Village studio, he was one of three ceramic artists given the Willoughby Bequest from Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, but he hasn't been able to make the work for the museum's collection.
"I'd love to make those pots and earn that money, so I'm keen to get back into it," he said.
"I was going to make a series of porcelain bowls, but that may change now seeing that I've lost all the porcelain clay that I'd dug and prepared - it all got lost in the fire so it's a bit up in the air now exactly what I'm going to do.
"I'll have to renegotiate with the curator - what I can do and what they'd like," Mr Harrison said.
His porcelain clay was just one of the things lost on the fire, which also destroyed works worth tens of thousands of dollars.
But not all Mr Harrison's work was destroyed.
"Just before the fire I was told there was a collector who wanted to purchase quite a large body of my work," he said.
That resulted in pieces being taken into the house so they could be measured, photographed and catalogued for the collector, and the house survived the fire.
"I had all the best pieces in the house when the fire came, so I lost all my other work but I had just those few pieces in the house."
It proved fortunate, as the saved pieces were bought during the first year after the fire when Mr Harrison and partner and fellow ceramic artist Janine King were going through the difficult task of cleaning up what remained after the blaze.
"During that first year the Art Gallery of NSW purchased 12 pieces of my work for their permanent collection in Sydney - that was another honour which I was really pleased about," Mr Harrison said.
It was also during that time that Mr Harrison received encouragement, support and even financial donations from people all over the world - including some he had not heard of before.
Despite the heartbreak of the fire and the difficult, two-year process to rebuild and get back to creating, Mr Harrison said there was never any thought of giving up.
"I love making my ceramic work so there was no chance of giving up, it was more a case of 'How can we get back into this quickly'," he said.
The time off also meant lots of experimentation with new rocks and substances found close to home, particularly when health restrictions meant they could not travel more than five kilometres from their residence.
"We're just beginning so we're making a lot of experiments with the local rocks that occur around here to make our glazes out of local stones. So I go fossicking and there's a bit of a basalt extrusion at Hilltop, which is just up the road from us," Mr Harrison said.
"I collected the basalt from Hilltop and brought it home and ground it up and crushed it to a powder and made it into glazes. It's nice to use local material to make the glazes.
"There's still more work required. It takes a long time to develop the chemistry for glazes, to test them and perfect them."
The results of Mr Harrison and Ms King's work will be on display over the weekend when they open their Loopline Pottery to the public as part of the 9th annual Australian Ceramics Open Studios.
Also open on both days will be Meg Patey Ceramics in Colo Vale, with both studios open 10am to 4pm each day.
Mr Harrison said the display on the weekend would not be extensive.
"We'll have a range of just very simple things - bowls and cups and mugs and platters. We've only been back at work for a month and we're working as quickly as we can."
Images: Meg Patey Ceramics