The Clay Vessel


My husband Adrian at home wrenching before we launched our crowdfunding campaign for RSW in 2013

My husband Adrian at home wrenching before we launched our crowdfunding campaign for RSW in 2013

We’ve endured a lot since the idea for Rising Sun Workshop left my parents garage four years ago. The process has turned us into business owners, leaders, managers, directors, ball-busters, politicians, diplomats, activists… whatever it took to get through the gauntlet that is setting up a community-centred business, not to mention one never seen before in this city* (or the Continent), throw in the usual assumptions made of motorcyclists and honestly I think at times it’s a miracle we’re still here.

After a tough day, I wonder often what the hell am I doing this all for? The thousands of hours poured into designing, communicating, liaising, defending… and that’s just within my own team… then the many more consultants, authorities, lawyers, landlords and agents outside us, all just to be able to exist. I think of the person I was before we started and now find it hard to believe where I’m at. With harder edges and a discomfort in feeling content.

Now we’re all grown up, our responsibilities have also become more serious. We have a lot to lose and a whole lot more to gain when it works out. We’re taking no risks where possible and being very calculated when we’ve no choice. We are always looking ten steps ahead of anything and anyone that may stand in the way of our workshop, our cafe, our community…. then we’re looking further again in our plans to build the knowledge-base of rider and a general awareness of riding and wrenching. Our idealism is still driving us, however I can’t help but feel like I’m getting caught up in the self-importance that comes with becoming a professional, a business owner, entrepreneur or whatever it is this journey is turning me into.

I feel on edge constantly, desperate to protect what we have while RSW is under construction for its permanent location** and thus feel vulnerable. The construction phase feels like an open flesh wound that any hater/douchebag can stuff their finger into just because they can, it's happened to us before and it really hurt. Amongst that stuff we have to lose is our egos. That fear of failing, letting everyone down, not delivering on a promise. Those doubts are the hardest to silence but also keep us moving forward. 

An archer competing for a clay vessel shoots effortlessly, his skill and concentration unimpeded. If the prize is changed to a brass ornament, his hands begin to shake. If it is changed to gold, he squints as if he were going blind. His abilities do not deteriorate, but his belief in them does, as he allows the supposed value of an external reward to cloud his vision.
— Ken Fox

Taking leaps were way easier back when we were nobodies with a dream. Now we’re all grown up, a little wiser and making it happen, there are times when I’ve lost sight of why we did this in the first place.  

Today I forced myself to take a minute to reflect on all this and asked myself “what is the measure of success?” and wasn’t satisfied with any the normal answers: debt free, notoriety, fame, glory etc. The usual stuff we seek for all our hard work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely virtuous, the money stuff I could totally do with right now… but that isn’t enough to drive me. 

I realised the real measure will be the day I see Adrian in the workshop, standing over a lift, finally wrenching on his SR400 without anyone bugging him to pay bills, or run coffee or discuss an “opportunity” or talk business… just him, wrenching shoulder-to-shoulder with others, his dog (he’s always wanted a chocolate labrador with blue eyes… or whatever we find at a rescue) with a photo of his father on the wall watching over him.

It sounds so simple, but this is why I’m still here. For me, the journey really started wanting to see Adrian have the courage to create his own world. A place where he could wrench, talk to people, learn from others and pass on his own knowledge. A place where it is OK not to have any qualifications or degrees, just the willingness to learn and a place to start. A world that would sustain him spiritually, mentally, physically and financially so he would never had to work because he had to, but rather because it is integral to who he is.

The moment this happens will be the moment we achieved what we set out to do, and in the process elevated those around us to do the same.


* For those who don’t know, RSW is based in Newtown, Sydney. 

** We opened a (partially-illegal) pop-up workshop & ramen bar for six-months last year (2014) in conjunction with Harley-Davidson. It was also in desperation to prove to local authorities that RSW was a positive contribution to any urban neighbourhood and worth supporting.

Heleana is a force of nature. The founder of In Venus Veritas and The Petrolette, and a co-founder of Rising Sun Workshop. Heleana shares her love of vintage cars, riding motorcycles, and (not-so-secretly) dreams of flying planes and piloting a riva aquariva (a la Sophia Loren) very fast through the canals of Venice. Supportive and connected, community is her lifeblood, and she is as real as they come.