Inside the Mill on the Last Days

I learned to draw on the Burnie Bond paper my grandfather would bring us from the Mill. The Mill was always there, from way before I was born. It’s hum rumbled through the steep valleys of Burnie. My father helped ship its paper around the world and while at art school in Hobart I would come back to Burnie in the summers to work shut downs, maintaining the Mill. In April 2010 I heard that the Burnie Paper Mill would cease production for good in late June, so I wrote to the Mill manager Chris Hinds and he was receptive to the idea of me coming on site and drawing the working Mill before it closed.

I arrived there on the 15th of June, thinking paper production still had two weeks to run but in fact there were only hours before the last paper would be made. “So if you want to draw the machine running you'll have to do it now. We're switching No. 10 off at 7 in the morning.” Chris Hinds explained. Despite the fact that Chris and other staff made it extremely easy for me to get around I was unprepared for that level of pressure. I had to get this now, I hadn't drawn for some time and I had no real plan. I fumbled around with the camera for a while and eventually found a corner where I could see the dry end of No.10 and pulled the drawing board out. Foolishly I thought from my shut down work that people would be visible, but no more, they were safely enclosed in sound proof control rooms. However, as I rendered No. 10, workers would emerge to attend to the paper's production, so they too were rendered.

Over the next four days I made four drawings of key parts of the paper making process, showing the Mill as it was at the end and depicting some of the layers of history in the 73 year old factory. These drawings are on grey paper in pen and wash, a simple and fast way to capture detail with light and shade. It was my intention to record much more of the working Mill this way. But time was against me, the paper production line was being shut down as I drew so I took hundreds of photographs.

Tony Thorne

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