Celebration of the Nelson Pottery Industry
A celebration of the region's pottery and clay industries was the major event planned by the Libraries for the 2020 Heritage Festival. This was planned with Steve Austin from the Marlborough Museum, the Suter Art Gallery, the Nelson Provincial Museum and input from local potters and industry experts. This page provides a taster of the event and resources for you to discover more.
Red Wall: A timeline of the Nelson Pottery Industry - read the timeline, the pottery story and list of resources on the Prow:
Glass Cabinet - The work of Nelson Potters : a display from local collectors.
To sample the work of other artists to have featured in the cabinets, have a look at some of the works in the collection of the Suter Art Gallery (images available on NZ Museums):
Waimea Craft pottery/ Jack Laird / Mirek Smisek / Margaret Milne / Steve Fullmer / Peter Gibbs / Harry and May Davis / Christine Boswijk / Darryl Robertson / Len Castle / David Brokenshire / Vic Evans / John Crawford / Paul Laird / Bob Heatherbell
Pre 1840 - Māori use of clay
Kokowai - obtained from clays rich in iron and aluminium silicates - was highly prized by Māori; depending on chemical composition, reds, oranges, yellows and browns were produced. Onekaka and Parapara in Golden Bay were important resource areas. The clays were dried and ground, then mixed with oil for personal adornment and to decorate (and preserve) waka, buildings and tombs. The former died out soon after European settlement, perhaps because of Pakeha attitudes.
Robin Slow was to present on kokowai. Robin uses kokowai in his paintings, as well as soot, ground stone, gold leaf and harakeke. He is a Golden Bay artist who has worked with the whanau at Onetahua Marae producing murals, traditional instruments, kowhaiwhai and carving, and the completion of the wharenui, Te Ao Marama. For more, see a profile and work at the Little River Gallery and view Bob this stunning soundtrack and video accompanying an exhibition of Robin Slow and Brian Flintoff's work which was presented at the Little River Gallery in 2019 to mark Matariki.
Clay and brick-making
Clay was found widely in the Nelson region. By 1842 the clay industry was already established in Nelson: four brickfields and a number of brickmakers were operating in the Moutere Hills, Redwood Valley, Brightwater and Spring Grove. Significant clay deposits were later found at Puramahoi, supplying the Onekaka pipeworks and near Tapawera - the significant Kaka clay mine. Presenting on these themes:
- Mike Johnston, geologist and historian, who in 2018 received the New Zealand Order of Merit for services in both of these fields, was to talk about the geology of the region, and its clay soils. For more information, see: Rattenbury & Johnston (1998) Geology of the Nelson area. Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences [PDF]
- Rob Packer, an expert on the wares and containers of Nelson's early manufacturer's, was to present on bricks and the early brickmaking - as a well-informed collector.
Aspects of the Nelson Pottery industry
An exploration of some of the key figures of the industry and artists working today, with:
- Vic Evans - see Vic's MA thesis for a comprehensive overview of the industry, 1956-76: Evans, V. (2007) Head, heart and hand : studio pottery in Nelson 1956-1976 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University and some background to why and how he wrote it.
- Royce McGlashen served a five year apprenticeship in the 1960s at Waimea College, during which he estimates he threw thousands of pots. In 1980 he opened his pottery in Brightwater with his wife Trudi and later established a commercial clay production operation in Brightwater – Mac’s Mud Company. See: McGlashen, R. (1981) Royce McGlashen - production. Potter. 23(1) p.34-36 [PDF}
- Sarah McLintock - Curator and Collections Manager at the Suter Art Gallery was to talk about the significant collection of works by ceramic artists of national and local renown (see image links above) at the Suter, and the recent Fire & Earth: Contemporary Ceramics from the Top of the South, a biennial exhibition that highlights the best ceramicists in the region.
- Darryl Frost - a successful student of Nelson Polytechnic (NMIT) in the 1980s, now running and working at Frost and Fire Gallery in Tasman. Darryl's distinctive style of Anagama wood firing has gained him national and international recognition as well as several awards including a Diploma of Honour from Korea. Watch Darryl firing his new kiln (Facebook video)
- Jane Vial - Independent art historian, specialising in 19th and first half of the 20th century's Australasian art history, New Zealand impressionism and early studio pottery. Last year she published Elizabeth Lissaman : New Zealand's pioneer studio potter with Steve Austin. Read more about the book, the artist and the authors in this Stuff article.
Go on your own journey discovering the region's rich cultural heritage in the pottery and clay industries -
- New Zealand Potter - every issue of this iconic magazine (1958-1998), sometimes known as Potter - available online 1975-1995 through Christchurch Art Gallery.
- Nelson's ground breaking pottery on the Prow. Check out the list of resources for further reading - much is available online.
- Katie Gold – House and Garden video and article
- Paul Laird at work (YouTube)
- Crewenna pottery - the 2013 fire which ended a legacy and youtube clip
- Mirek Smisek - saving his Kapiti kiln from road development. The potter's passion: unique kilns to be saved from highway works