I hope that you have been having a safe and peaceful Christmas/New Years out there enjoying the really great weather…especially Christchurch!
As mentioned in the most recent news letter I have been doing very little. Mooching around home and delving into a box of book goodies given to me by my sister that originally come from my late Grandmothers bookshelf. They are all Pottery magazines from the late 50’s to the mid 80’s. Mostly ‘New Zealand Potters’ with a scattering of ‘Australian Potters’ filled with amazing insights into the beginning of New Zealand studio pottery. There is a great deal of reference to Risingholme being Christchurch’s first learning center for pottery, established in 1945, with many of our potters having explored and conquered clay in the pottery rooms then going on over time to form splinter groups which developed into the cities clubs as we knew them prior to the 2011 earthquakes. New Zealand Potter was the only publication for our potters and was connected to the membership of The Society of New Zealand Potters’ which still exists today, though sadly to my knowledge the magazine is no longer published. It appears to have been published at least twice a year since 1958 and offered practical advice from building kilns, materials knowledge, essays on important international potters of the time and also provided a platform for critical discussion of what was happening in New Zealand pottery. They include comprehensive critical reviews of the National New Zealand Pottery shows held each year in varying main city locations sometimes with beautiful sketches of display layouts and images of the pots shown. The critical reviews are mind blowingly (is that a word?) critical! I found myself sucking my teeth and whistling as I read the first 10 years or so of the magazines. It would be rare that to find such critical responses to ceramics today. I think that this illustrates that the leadership wanted pottery to be taken seriously.
So in the beginning there was ‘New Zealand Potter Volume 1, Number 1 August 1958′. It was hand published in Wellington by the committee organizing the second New Zealand Potters’ Exhibition’, designed by Doreen Blumhardt and edited by Helen Mason. In part of her introduction Blumhardt writes;
“There is room for everyone in the pottery movement. Even though we many never learn to throw a pot, we may still learn to love clay and to have an appreciation of hand-made pots we can use in our daily living. New Zealand has always felt the lack of folk art on which to base a craft movement. Perhaps pottery, with its use of the materials all around us, and its production of something we can feel and use is fulfilling this need. Our roots are in the English culture, but we live in the Pacific and cannot help but be influenced by the East from which some of the world’s best pots are from. We have the burning enthusiasm and the urge to create. Perhaps one day when our skill catches up up with our enthusiasm we may even produce some worthwhile pots.”
Words that still ring true today…a burning enthusiasm to create! That sense of needing to practice more, glean more useful information which will enable us to reach a goal that we are plotting in our heads. Getting together to learn, create and critique to reach our goals…this has not changed at all.
The next article is written by Barry Brickell. In another universe where Hollywood stopped making ‘New Zealand Idol’ to torture our creative sensibilities with, but produced a show called “NZ Mud Monkey Idol’ Barry Brickell would have been Stephan Tyler. Unique, individual, a madly passionate pioneer, generally a rock star of our pottery scene. Especially if you have seen early pictures of him at his studio, not in an ordinary apron but only in his infamous pottery loincloth…in fact Stephan Tyler’s costumes look positively tame compared to Barry’s! Fabulous! Brickell was only 23 when this first NZ Potter article was published. I love these words from it…
“How would life be if we were not allowed to let off steam in the form of creation? Indeed, how many people are there now leading empty, uncreative, bored lives. Juveniles becoming delinquent, homes starkly unimaginative, the superficial blase attitude, and our senses dulled by an age of commercialism, are factors that at least some cannot help noticing now in our population. So sterile are we becoming in a land most fertile.”
Again, I cannot but help to feel that these words apply just as strongly today. My teaching at Risingholme and the objects that I make in my studio work towards providing anybody the means to cast off a dull disinterest in life and objects. As I was talking with a very creative and clever friend in the craft world we both expressed a feeling of being in ‘that time of life’ where quality of life not quantity in possessions or superficial relationships was important and as I re read the thoughts and words in this little magazine I become more grounded in the belief that the ceramic enterprise that is currently my life is an ongoing commitment to forging great creative relationships using materials that tell stories and bring an ancient satisfaction.
Oh dear, I am only up to page 3 of this little magazine! I’ll speed things up…there is a little poem called “Thoughts from a Potter” by Lee Thompson. A “Slice from a Potters Diary” from the East by Professor C.L Bailey, which provides a description of Malysian pottery as recently observed on a trip. Another poem called “Pottery” by H.A.W an attendee of a Pottery Class for the Blind in Hutt Valley Memorial Technical College. There is an advertisement for electric kilns costing 20 pounds made in Christchurch…with a dubious description of it running from “…an ordinary light socket”?!! Our lovely Merik Smisek selling kiln props. Then there is a section of News from the main centers and people of interest featuring the announcement of the 1st New Zealnds Potters’ Exhibition in Dunedin the previous November in which 15 Potters took part and “…made potting history in New Zealand.”, a summer school held in Auckland by Barry Brickell and Len Castle, who had returned from working at the Leach pottery in England, Mirek Smesik becoming a full time studio potter, the formation of the Wellington Potters’ Association after their first exhibition where 4,400 people attended and “…sales were good.”(cor blimey!). Then comes Christchurch with Risingholme classes going strong under the guidance of Doris Holland (my Grandmother!), Jim Nelson and his Craft Center and a pottery school offered for Adult Education attended by over 50 potters organised by Yvonne Rust. Then follows images and articles relating to Shoji Hamada of Japan, the potter who influenced aesthetics and ceramic philosophies in western culture during the 20th Century. The last article is about the setting up of the ‘Craft Center Incorporated’ in Springfield Road, Christchurch with aims to provide a space “…where research can be carried out and where craftsmen can work and meet”. Note to self… we need another one of these centers! Finally there are a smattering of invitations to exhibitions and some more advertisements for wheels and materials. All in all there are 32 pages with a great deal of information offered about and for New Zealand Potters’.
Right, it is time for tea, toast and marmalade…the meal of champions, as ascertained by Paddington Bear!
Please, please, please make sure that you are enrolled for your class…we start soon…I mean really soon, 2nd February! Remember classes will not start unless enrollments are confirmed and paid for…office policy.
Have a great weekend it looks like another sunny one!
Tatyanna a.k.a The Busy Finch
p.s for those of you who were in a class with Rachel Wiseman on Wednesdays she had a wee girl, Alexander James Wiseman who arrived safely on 17th December, weighing 3.74kg!