In Objectspace

Go to Objectspace where there are two interesting shows recently opened. In the main gallery is an exhibition by Julia Morrison, sent up from Christchurch Art Gallery. Morrison is from a fine arts background but has reportedly been working with clay for some eleven years. And it shows. The exhibition has a theoretical underpinning of signs and symbols based within somewhat esoteric knowledge systems such as the Jewish Kaballah, and other recondite frames of reference. I started to look up some of this but decided life is too short as the only thing I know about the Kaballah is that it was very popular with some Hollywood movie stars about a dozen years ago and was signified by wearing a particular bracelet. Unless you have the time to research, it’s maybe best just to experience the show.

This manifests as a series of open ‘rooms’ bounded by long shelves that hold many dozens of heads, abstracted from anything bodily.  There is a  palette largely restricted to shades of grey and brown – all very sombre. Single flashes of colour draw the eye swiftly.  But it’s the repetition and variation that overwhelms all. It’s a marvellous lesson in pushing a single, simple form into so many variations, themes, adaptations, revisions, modifications and transfigurations as it’s pretty well possible to envision. It demonstrates how, given time, the imagination can continue to develop another angle on a given motif. Morrison has considered various aspects of the head, without and within and allowed other thoughts to bring forth something else – eyes, teeth, hair… While gestures made by heads as communication are also here. It is worth spending time with just to experience the different feelings this show creates in the viewing – wonder to revulsion, (does she know there’s a NYC singing group called roomful of teeth?) laughter to nausea.  Why it’s in a gallery that exists for the exhibition of Craft, Design and Architecture and not ACAG is another topic. Ponder that but …. Go see.





While there do not miss the very fine survey, in the small gallery, of jewellery by…

ELENA GEE. Curated by Elle Louis there were talks at the opening event by Elle, Jeweller Lisa Walker and myself as an old friend of Elena’s.  I have been asked by several to put my talk on this blog despite the subject not being ceramic. Here it is. Some images of her original and very fine jewellery follow.

I don’t recall exactly how or when I met Elena but it would be some time in the early to mid-eighties when we were both members of a craft community that was largely dominated by its male members and had been that way for some 20 or so years. This applied to her craft, that of jewellery, and my own – the ceramic tribal association.

Elena came from a family who were all makers and constructors of various sorts. From an early age she made dolls and multi-piece marionettes, then, following school, worked in a trade jewellers for a year or so while also selling her personal jewellery through the Bribiesca pottery stall in iconic Browns Mill. She was fired from that trade jewellery job for being too slow – signpost of things to come. In her early 20s, she left for Australia and stayed there for over ten years.

In Australia, Elena expected to need another job but soon found she could successfully support herself with her jewellery sales, again via a local potters shop. Her jewellery was noticed and she began to exhibit, initially tentatively, then regularly. She returned to NZ for flying visits to family and also to attend occasional short courses in jewellery making. By the time she returned to New Zealand permanently in ‘81 she was an established member of their craft community, her work had been taken into a number of major Australian institutional collections and included in touring shows. She had earned a considerable reputation for her inventive approaches to jewellery as body adornment.

Soon after her return, she was invited to join Fingers, by then very well established as a premier outlet for artist’s jewellery. She was cautious though, as regular rent contributions are part of the membership and she was unsure of her ability to meet her obligations but did so in 1988 after showing with them from 84.

Elena looked around for a group of women artists as she had enjoyed in Australia. She found our Women Artists Association and she and Beth Sarjeant enjoined me to go with them to the meetings in what was then Artstation at the end of Ponsonby Road. We were all ‘Westies’, Elena in Henderson, Beth in Green Bay and me up in Waiatarua and we were all of the ‘lesser arts’ – jewellery, printmaking and ceramics but the welcome and acceptance were as fulsome as for any painter or sculptor of fame and substance.

For me, it was a very new experience. At the Women Artists I heard great ideas and support for exhibitions of women’s work of the broadest genres and listened to debate around subjects I had no awareness of previously…  and I recall, lively discussions around how five years should be maximum tenure for an Elam job, which, in those days, was high on the desirable list. Or why curators seemed to all be male–and who in turn chose male artists for some juicy off-shore exhibitions and residencies and more importantly – what might be done about this situation? Members ranged from working artists such as Claudia Pond Eyley, Carole Shepherd and Christine Hellyar to academics and leaders such as Pricilla Pitts, Merilyn Tweedie and Juliet Batten. I found them a formidable lot and felt my way cautiously, as ceramics of the time was pretty accepting of the dominant male patterning that prevailed. However, one thing I do vividly recall is Elena’s fearlessness in addressing such subjects. It was clear there was an intellect there very equal to any of the others. She spoke quietly and economically but her points were cogent and relevant,  and she was listened to with respect. I learned much and gained pride and confidence in what we craftworkers might be able to achieve within a wider world of art.

Her own achievements were considerable. It was she who tackled Auckland Museums then curator of Applied Arts, Brian Muir, and suggested that as they collected ceramics they should also collect jewellery. She acquainted him with Fingers of which he knew not a lot and he forthwith visited and began to collect artist jewellery from the region.  Two pieces of Elena’s were among the early works taken in and since then a further 16 works of hers have been added to that collection – mostly in the 80s and 90s as well as added to other public collections in other cities. Further, she was generous, my own career was increasingly taking me offshore for various events and Elena, most kindly, offered that I could borrow pieces of hers to wear at official functions. I never did but remain grateful for the offer.

It was Elena who was chosen to be the inaugural guest curator for the Dowse Art Museum’s biannual series of invitational survey shows around the current state of NZ artist jewellery. Hers was called ‘Open Heart’ and she chose first artists whose work she considered good rather than fit things to a curatorial premise. She was included in the next two Dowse instigated, touring, Biennales.  And she was one of the featured artists in the internationally touring NZ jewellery exhibition, ‘Bone, Stone and Shell’ of 1988/9. This, Foreign Affairs supported show, went to Australia, and some major centres in Asia like Singapore and Tokyo. Other major shows included the Crafts Council of NZ’s swansong touring show Mau Mahara where very few contemporary artists were included and there was also the Dowse’s curated No Mans Land featuring many of NZs leading women artists who operated in 3D over a range of media… She showed in Shmuckzene in Munich and finally her work made the cover of the American Jewellery magazine, Ornament. These are but few of her considerable achievements.

But all the while, the slowness for which she was fired from that post-school employment back in the 60s gathered strength. Her energy levels, for a long time deteriorating, became more severely debilitated, and in 1990 she was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalitis,  M.E.,  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or to put into Kiwi vernacular – Tapanui Flu after the south island town where it had some prevalence. Its cause and cure are still beyond reach.

Never one to give up easily, Elena continued to make jewellery and found ever simpler answers to the craftsperson’s ongoing encounter with challenges of making. She left incorporated materials in more natural states, interfering with elements as little as possible. She found surprising solutions to presenting her work in containers such as car engine parts – often elegantly topped with sliding perspex lids. She took more to casting some parts of her work so that completion was closer. Despite the apparent straightforwardness of manufacture, her pieces retained her own subjective language that transcended obvious connections between place and the corporeal.

She quite enjoyed the unpretentious simplicity of what she was making and continued working and exhibiting, as able, for another decade or so but by 2004 she was forced to say that she was now retired. Her energies too exhausted.

We are fortunate to have well-chosen representations of her work in some eight public and numerous private collections in Australia and New Zealand, a handful of good articles on her work in journals and catalogues and now, hopefully,  an over-arching catalogue resulting from this survey that Elle has carried out,  and I, personally, have some great memories of good conversations, inspirational home cooking and an important body of work. Don’t miss it.





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On a couple of competitions…

The Korean International Ceramic Biennale competition  (Kicb) will open soon.  It will run Sept 27 to Nov 24…just one month. This is the world’s biggest competition in every sense. There were over 10,000 entries by 1599 artists from 82 countries. There seem to be two levels of exhibitors (the website is complex and as can sometimes be the case with such things – difficult to navigate for everything you’d like to know) However… it’s better than it has ever been before.

Selected for the online exhibition are 300 artists from 41 nations. Selected for the competition exhibition on site are 42 artists (chosen from the 300).  Winner of the over US$50,000 prize will be announced at the opening later this month. By far the largest number of exhibitors are Korean (52) and Australia did well with 8 exhibitors. NZ has no artists in the line-up at either level. Not surprising as we have no Masters Level tertiary education in ceramics. All the represented countries do have. It looked like Japan and USA were runners up in numbers (but I got tired of counting!). There were, as is common in Asia, many on the jury – in this case eight.

It is possible to view all works included in the show by heading to the website ( and navigate around from there.  They are being inclusive and you can do a “People’s Choice” vote) 3 times by clicking the hearts under each image. Further images are accessible by clicking artist’s names, but nowhere could I find anything about scale – and some works appeared very large while others seemed small and a number was impossible to tell. Names of the selected ‘invitational artists’ (that is the finalists for the top prize I guess) are listed. They include some well-known names such as, Aneta Regel, Tip Toland, Michael Flynn, Bruce Taylor, Ken Eastman, Nao Matsunaga, Maria Geszler Garzuly and Walter McConnell but most are new, at least to me. There are also names familiar from former FCCA exhibitions here and recent and next year’s Gulgong event in Australia.

As well as the competition exhibition, there are mentoring opportunities, residencies, artists exchange programmes, a symposium and opportunities for the invited artists to participate in numerous other events (Spend some time with the website and be amazed)

There used to be, as well as the competition, an invitational curated exhibition (which, when I was an invited speaker in ’05 for the symposium – that lasted 5 days), was a way better exhibition, in my view, than the competition as the curators could for artists from all over the world who never entered competitions as well as very famous names, and up until that time I thought it the best show I had ever seen, anywhere. Now the invitation is extended exclusively to the previous winning artist (Torbjorn Kvasbo of Norway won in 2017) and another – Neil Brownsword from UK with a large project involving other artists. Both have opportunity to talk to their work to the opening invitees gathered from across the world. The opening ceremony is always spectacular, even when I was there, and now is, I am told, more so. It lasts all day and includes dancers, drumming, and performances of many different types.

This event has also made connections with  other similar events around the world to facilitate, among other things, exchanges of artists and residencies. These events include the British Ceramic Biennial (which will open later this month), Sundaymorning at EKWC (Netherlands), Yingge Ceramics Museum (Taiwan) , Clayarch Gimhae Museum (Japan) and Guldagergaard (Denmark).  Do take a look if you have any interest in the international.

On a slightly smaller scale I was very recently sole juror for the Northland Craft Trust ceramics competition held at The Quarry in Whangarei.  It was a most pleasant weekend and a lively competition with 64 entries. While many were from Northland there were works entered from as far away as Christchurch, Nelson, Wellington and Napier, not to mention Hamilton and Auckland.  More are encouraged to have a go for the $1000 prizemoney. There are also a Runner-up prize and a People’s choice. I await with interest for the end of exhibition time to find what the viewers think most enjoyable. In conversation with some of the organisers of this event we agreed that the winning work should be a personal choice and the work I’d most like to take home with me. Here is what I had to say at prizegiving time…

We have a spectrum of what is currently practiced in NZ under the name of ceramics here in the show. Early influences here in NZ have been mainly British and we have been a nation of vessel-makers. That is in evidence here although the functional vessel is little represented while decorative vessels are abundant. That’s often common to many competitions. What is surprising is that there is an unusually high number of the figurative – be it animal, human or object and this has not been a NZ tradition and it’s good to see this arena being traversed. Figuration is the oldest area of ceramics –  the votive piece made to marry with offerings and many early cultures have, on excavation, offered up the votive piece- usually referencing fertility in some way; a goddess figures symbolising safe childbirth as was made in what is now Slovenia, or the early Japanese bell-shaped works sited at the corners of rice fields soliciting help from the gods for a good harvest, and so on – the figurative connects us to the earliest uses of ceramics – links between clay and magic. These are the two principal divisions with sub-groups within them. Some make reference to commercial uses of clay – perhaps the narrative or written words with a message on the surface of a platter. Others utilise clay’s mimetic qualities where it can imitate other materials or other things. There are many ways of referencing our long and rich histories, and we should celebrate them for ceramics is often self-referential in that way and it’s something I personally enjoy recognising. We need to celebrate our own! Ceramics can be powerful vehicles for meaning through their encounters with so many contexts and points of reference.

What do I look for in a pot? First and foremost – good form whether a vessel or a figure – proportion must be ‘right’ which is hard to prescribe but easy to recognise , or not, when there. I look for good confident clay handling and finishing – it’s often the first ton through the fingers that is the worst! I seek not immaculate completion but prefer just enough for excellent functionality – I don’t much like to see clay ‘fiddled with’ to perfection of ‘finish’, it’s a hand-made work, not factory produced. Just the same I look for appropriate completion, particularly underneath. Don’t just take a slice of clay, cut it into four and plonk the mini blocks on the base to form feet – make something that tells me you are using a malleable material to elevate your piece. Then, surface needs to be appropriate whether glazed or not. Weight also – and in keeping with the function.

So, what do I choose? This vase is the piece I’d most like to take home. It’s heavy, vases should be or the weight of the flowers can tip them over. It’s not a teapot that should be light for its size because it will be filled with hot liquid and handled. It’s a good height for many a bunch of flowers and will hold them well. It was wire cut from a solid clay block, and not fiddled with, the surface left fresh, then later hollowed once the outside had firmed. The form is dynamic – its method of making is evident. It’s different on every facet and the glaze sits perfectly while being a great colour for a vase – green – what could be more appropriate? The glaze carries an interesting history – T’ang Chinese in style and colour it also has T’ang inserts – those ancient potters would scrape out small hollows in the surface and place medallions of the same glaze in different colours – which often ran during firing. It’s happened here. T’ang is one of the most celebrated of Chinese wares. Those glazes were about 95% red lead but this was made with modern materials but is just as beautiful. While the surface was redolent of a period over a thousand years old, the form it sits upon is very current. Then the clincher for me was underneath the pot – when still a little soft it was set down on a bed of ferns which have left their mark. Its a link to the place the piece was made. If you think about it – there’s a lot going on on this apparently simple piece. When the staff are not looking, lift it (carefully) and look at the most beautiful base on this pot. Every surface has received consideration. I’d be pleased to take it home. It receives the principal prize. (Richard Parker)

My second prize goes to this work – a pot really designed to stand alone. It does not need flowers as there is much happening on this surface. We have wood ash effects upon the bare clay left at the opening at the top gifting a vibrant orange, while most of the exterior carries this copper bearing glaze offering this subtle matte surface, stunningly beautiful and gorgeously modulated all around the pot, changing with every viewpoint….violet, grey, turquoise, blush pinks and wine reds in areas – truly a fantastic glaze finish for a well scaled pot – I have had my hands deep down into its depths – it’s also very well made indeed. It receives the second prize of the subscription to Art News. (Greg Barron).

Here are images from a few works in the show – with apologies for lack of names (lost my list!) and more for the quality of images…. lighting difficult and just the phone camera!









Greg Barron


Richard Parker


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Simon Manchester (1958-2019)

We of the clay community should note the passing of the well-known ceramics collector, Simon Manchester.  Often a larger than life figure, Simon made some impact upon the scene from when he first became interested in collecting in the late ’80s and continued to do so as an animated presence who would give his opinion readily and whose passionate views on who he felt was important as an artist carried weight for many. He ‘adopted’ various ceramists and supported them and their work by not only buying it on primary or secondary markets but aided their work gaining credence via his knowledge of how the secondary market worked for contemporary artists. He made a number of those artists into personal friends. His collection was a fluid thing as he bought and sold constantly working to improve the quality of his holdings, knowing at the same time that the secondary market affected values for the primary and that those he supported gained from his activities. Something he loved explaining. He was a businessman who gained wealth via commercial property and once acquired he turned his attention to art and while he began with antique tourism posters once he began to learn about ceramics he took it up with great relish and over the latter years his collection generally held about 2000 works. This fluctuated with occasions such as earthquakes and adjusted property values and there was a time when he had to sell a large number but, always positive, he soon recovered and began adding again. 

One of his great friends, potter Paul Maseyk writes, “Simon literally exploded through the front door of a studio/shop I maintained and began talking, gesticulating, fizzing
and saying I’ll take that, that and that – all at once. I had never seen anything like it (or him) nor will again. After this initial introduction, we steadily grew to become great friends largely through our mutual symbiotic relationship of maker/collector.
He was a lot of different things to a lot of people. I found he could be a polarising figure as is often the case with passionate people. However, with me, Simon was always such a generous, interested, gentlemanly figure. He supported me by buying my work and promoting me to anyone he thought could give me some help with my career. He would
lend works of mine he owned to any institution who asked.” … “Of course being a larger than life character and always interested in living life to the full Simon had dabbled in his fair share of stimulants – shall we call them. He was always open and frank with me about any of his past and I grew to learn a hell of a lot about him and his life. I found this side of his life fascinating too. Like everything he did – his work, his collecting, his voracious appetite for knowledge, his other varied interests, he indulged in “living his life” to maximum effect.” … “For many people like me Simon will leave a huge hole. There will never be anyone like him again .”

Another friend, Rick Rudd, said in eulogy at the memorial service, “Simon’s collection was not just for his own enjoyment. He wanted to share it. There can have been few major curated historical ceramic exhibitions organised by museums that have not included works borrowed from him. … When I set up a museum in Whanganui, he offered to lend a group of works. I didn’t have to ask. He wanted to be a part of what I was doing. … Simon has given so much  to New Zealand’s ceramic community and environment; as a patron to living potters, by respecting and attempting to raise the desirability and values of works on the secondary market, his involvement with the Blumhardt Foundation and of course, by building a collection of national significance.”

Simon Manchester has left that collection in the care of Rick Rudd and his Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics in Whanganui. In Rick’s words, “…the collection will quietly educate and be enjoyed by as many people as possible. My fellow Trustees and I intend to create a space where his contribution can be contemplated, remembered and celebrated.”

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An Exert fromThe Guardian newspaper…

If street protests are too shouty, craftivism may offer an alternative and still powerful means of political expression

A cross-stitched mask on a mannequin in a shop window in Shoreditch, London.
 A cross-stitched mask on a mannequin in a shop window in Shoreditch, London. Photograph: Robin Prime/Robin Prime/Craftivist Collective


Since the dawn of time, humans have been compelled to make – just think about all the pots and jewellery you see at the British Museum.”

According to the(British) government’s Taking Part survey, all forms of craft – be it pottery, embroidery, lino printing – have been undergoing a revival in the UK at the same time as art and design education has fallen off a cliff; since 2010, the number of people crafting has jumped by 24%, while the number of students taking art, design and tech GCSEs has fallen by 57%.

People are aghast at “the weird dichotomy between the creative industries being the fastest-growing sector in the economy but so undervalued in education”. The broader picture is more encouraging. “What is interesting is the huge rise of people engaging with craft now,” says Melton. “Since 2014 it’s been a 25% jump for white people and a massive 70% for those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Craft is growing at a faster rate than any other creative discipline.”

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Merilyn Wiseman.

October 25, 1941 – June 13, 2019.


It’s with great personal sorrow that I record the passing of Merilyn Wiseman.

Merilyn was for many years, one of our most prominent makers in clay which she always called, ‘hands-on, hands-in stuff’. As a maker she was pretty well supreme, a perfectionist who could do almost anything with her beloved ‘stuff’ from small, immaculately thrown works through to large scale press-moulded pieces and a lot in between.

Following what she sometimes said was a ‘pretty priviledged childhood’ in Auckland’s eastern suburbs, she experienced a memorable journey. As a young woman, in 1960, at the end of an amazing few months travelling, with her twin sister and her younger sister under guidance and leadership of their redoubtable mother (known to family as ‘the Ayatollah’), through much of North Africa, the Near East and Europe, she undertook a period of study majoring in art teaching at Goldsmiths College in London. Those travels stayed with her for the rest of her life and she often referred to some of what she encountered from that rich period.  After Goldsmith’s, she embarked upon a work experience at a pottery in Ireland and seriously ‘caught the bug’ for working with clay. By this time she had more than adequate resources banked as a result of those travels around many of the best archaeological sites and museums of the countries they had visited and she returned to NZ to set out to be as good as she could be.


Merilyn with her ‘Fletcher’ winner.

This was very good indeed as she was the most honoured and very possibly the most successful of all of her generation. She came to national prominence winning the Premier Award for the 1984 Fletcher Brownbuilt Pottery Award, and the judge of that year, American Don Reitz, referred to what attracted him to her piece by explaining that her decoration – slip trailed – touched the edge of the wood-fired dish rim and this was something also practised by Native American potters, ‘so that the spirit might escape’. She was, in 1988 a member of the only national symposium in clay ever undertaken in NZ, where the self-styled ‘Lucky 13’ lived and worked together for three weeks in Otago School of Art, with all found: accommodation in student quarters, food, transport and all the clay that could be heated toward being unofficially groomed for the Faenza event as country of focus – that eventually did not transpire due to funding, or lack thereof. I shared a workspace with Christine Thacker (as the two most junior members of the troop along with Philip Luxton), and Merilyn and Ann Verdcourt were also in the same large room. I recall being impressed with Merilyn’s ability to concentrate on her work when the rest of us were too easily, willingly distracted.  The experience was memorable, if less for the ‘new work’ expected than for the close working quarters shared with artists from all over NZ,  often known only by reputation. There developed a sense of collegiality that for most has never departed. We learned so very much on every front.

Shortly after this, Merilyn was the clay artist selected to represent NZ at an international ceramics symposium held in Australia where she observed much about the international scene and reported back with useful information. Following this there came a fertile time of experimenting, making, developing, firing and exhibiting at highest levels in NZ and off-shore.


In Dunedin at Otago SofA.

In 2005 she won The Portage Award where the judge was Robert Bell – Decorative Arts and Design Senior Curator of the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, and who loved her Arctic Rim piece that flared gracefully to more than 1.1metres wide (and by then she was in her mid-60s!)  I was ‘Production Assistant ‘, that year, and so at the award ceremony positioned myself so I might see her face at Robert’s announcement. She was so genuinely surprised she almost dropped and I thought I’d have to pick her up from the floor! She made more work in that series  – lyrical dishes, elegant candlesticks, handsome lidded boxes and large moulded vessels on a scale, combed, slip trailed or finger modelled in her characteristic style, with sumptuously rich, colour charged, turquoise and green glazes. The clay responded in rhapsodic fashion to her stroking and persuasion of touch so that edges of dishes and attachments of feet displayed such distinctive flourishes that they could be by no one else, while she made slip trailing her very own.


‘Arctic Rim’. Portage winner.


Meri with the ‘Rim’ Series mould.

In 2007, she was the first ceramic artist to receive the prestigious Laureate Award and with the (then) $50,000 free-from-tags gift she was able to invest in converting a newly built double garage into a very functional studio that came at a propitious time when she had made the decision to be a solo, self-supporting artist.

After wood firing for many years then to a gas kiln and finally to electric with its computerised controls she turned, again with the use of moulds, to making decorative vessels of two and a half dimensions, most often in a simple pearly white glaze that offered a serene surface for her carefully applied textures. Always stylishly varied, these vessels demonstrated her continued ability to adjust the variables she sensed, based upon simple generative forms. Sometimes their stance was defiant with arms akimbo while others’ postures were quietly demure. Without doubt, Meri was always a vessels girl but her vessels, from the looser, wood and ash-flashed early work to the more recent, crisply linear late pieces, could be as expressive as sculpture when she chose.

But alongside the many dishes that carried her familiar rich palette and with pale green and soft blue later developments, I only ever knew one teapot and it was a cracker! Ovalled, soda’d copper blue and straight sided while tacitly elegant, like much of her work, it nevertheless demonstrated that she knew how to get a good pour and prevent a lid dropping out! I am unsure what happened to it – but hope it’s in a good collection somewhere.

We discussed at length, several times, the prospect of a survey show covering all her series and variations of work as I, and several others felt sure there should be ample interest. We even, once, got as far as loosely planning the show’s layout. Always, she had ideas and opinions. She eventually disagreed and thought there would be little support and decided that she would not, even with the temptation of a well-illustrated catalogue to record her achievements and work. It’s hard to understand why she was apprehensive of the prospect, for of the many members of this senior generation and their various survey shows that have graced a variety of venues, she, as possibly the most rewarded and awarded of all, surely deserved an opportunity for close engagement with her total body of work, more than most. It would have withstood any challenge with grace.


She disliked and could be scornful of displays of ego, particularly where she sensed it evidenced in work. Over a number of years, we went together, often with others, to exhibitions and events and no one could match Meri in scorn, on the way home again, when she discerned that it manifested. She could rage, like no other, on what she considered missing opportunities presented in work and no carefully articulated counter-arguments could persuade her of merits when she saw none, or too few. Her opinions were always worth considering and it was very possible to agree that priorities could differ hugely no matter the acknowledged conjoined passions. But when she liked something, some work or some aspect of a work, she was generous and unstinting in her praise. Ever engaged, her standards were high.

There was always a warm welcome and a cuppa, if one dropped in, and sometimes a showing of perhaps part of a film she had watched and kept just to show something she thought wonderful (such as the opening shots of ‘The English Patient’ with its cave drawings, or a written passage to share, like part of ‘A Room of 0ne’s Own’), for her interests were manifold and discussion points various and intelligent. However no matter how receptive she was, we knew we had to be gone before 5pm, or if she was out she always left in good time, prior to five, because that was family calling time and that was always a priority. When her son, Paul, was playing cricket for NZ she kept the TV on inside while throwing in the shed with the radio turned to the match coverage. As soon as his name was mentioned she hopped off the wheel and went inside to watch him play and only returned once his innings was over.  When her Kate was due to give birth we knew she’d be in Christchurch. She held family close and most dear as her family also clearly held her, and our sympathy must extend to them in their loss.

She will be greatly missed by all.


Any who would view her service,  Go to Dils Funeral Services, Oneroom and click on Merilyn Dawn Wiseman. Held on 21st June. password: ONUNOV

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and the other coast…


On my last day in the USA, I spent in Los Angeles with Bari Ziperstein – most recently our juror for the 2019 Portage Ceramic Awards. She had helpfully arranged some visits for us. We had three, in different parts of the city – about all that’s possible in such traffic. Following a visit to her studio,  we visited Brian Rochford in east LA and his spotlessly clean enormous studio space with many displayed completed vessels. Arrayed in sizes I could not be clear if I was viewing glaze/texture tests or if the mug-size bowls and small vessels (slip cast) were actually pieces for display/exhibition and sale. The two larger sizes were clearly destined for exhibition somewhere and it seemed there were a number of shows lined up at galleries around the world in various cities. That appeared to be his main interest – travelling to various places for exhibitions of his work and who could blame him? (He’s been making pots, he said, from age 14). Colour and texture are his principal concerns for the work while form and the foundational clay/ceramic, often made for him, serves as simply a support medium.  He certainly appeared to have reached maximum potential in both surface categories, which are also requisites for a few NYC white cube galleries, I spoke with, that are currently seeking ceramic artists.



Bari’s studio in east LA. Clean, well-lit and efficiently laid out.


New production work under development and below, Bari’s personal work in storage.IMG_0575 - Copy (2).JPG

Below, Bari and Brian Rochford in his studio…IMG_0579.JPG

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The cup shelves.

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Two cup close-ups.

Approx 12-13cm H. x 8-9cmDia.


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Brian Rochford and a piece still warm from the kiln.

Below -another view of above work – Variably 38cm H.IMG_0592.JPGIMG_0587 - Copy.JPG


I asked how many kiln shelves get ruined in a month and he said he had that pretty well under control now! This work approx 24cmH.

Two final close-ups…

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Next we visited Stan Edmondson in Pasadena whose studio roamed in varying measure all around his large garden and into his large house (wherein was his almost 100 year old mother!) Many are the memories of Voulkos, Frimkess and Mason playing cards there with Stan’s father who also was an artist.  While Stan’s personal work concentrates, currently, on painting, his clay work is a lot about facilitating other artists, trained mainly outside ceramics, to achieve their vision in clay.  He has large kilns, a Soldner clay mixer,  a unique slab roller plus ample space and lots of experience as assistant for artists, such as the late John Mason, so I’m sure they receive the best of support. One recent client was our own Robert Rapson who was in LA for an exhibition with South Willard Gallery which has carried his work for some years.

Stan with one of his small kilns and that’s his slab roller at his feet!



The trusty Soldner where clay bodies are made to order or individual requirement.




A piece left behind by Peter Voulkos some years ago….

Currently some large scale figurative work is happening. This young artist,  preparing for a white cube gallery show, is working to a time-honoured technique – carving and modelling through slip painting on terra-cotta cylinders. These measure about two metres high.




Again, surface seems to be the primary concern and supporting form kept simple and basic.

Our last call of the day was to Los Angeles’ far-to-the-south/west Long Beach College campus where Tony Marsh has taught for close to thirty years. Apparently each summer break, for many of those thirty years he has gathered the best talent he can muster for an intense workshop session where, ‘ having the person next to you making great work is a major spur!’ This was a philosophy that had certainly worked as it was warm and sunny, beaches were nearby and it was vacation time but inside the very spacious ceramics department were over a dozen artists drawn from many quarters all working away with great energy and enthusiasm. Everyone did not want their work imaged yet and others had not developed work to where it could be photographed, while others’  situations made it difficult to get a shot that might do it justice. However here are a few of the works in progress…IMG_0629.JPG






Then I flew home! Some more about what was in between will come shortly…







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On…. a tale of two coasts

A recent journey to both coasts of the USA offered some insights into some of what’s happening there. Here are a couple of highlights of all that I viewed, with images where possible. First however a scene with no images as ‘not allowed’! I went to The Frick Museum – that turn-of-the-century NYC robber baron’s home in uptown 5th Avenue and now part of New York’s celebrated ‘Museum Mile’.

The Frick is a grand mansion with many large imposing rooms and elegant furniture scattered around as though a (well servanted) family still resided there. Lush carpets cover floors and ormolu vitrines line walls displaying, among other ceramics, Chinese porcelain from the original imports into Europe back in the 16thC and a piece by Bottger – credited with being the European alchemist who found the secrets to porcelain manufacture for Europe due to his imprisonment, until he discovered it, by the mad Augustus, in Dresden.  European sculpture, by such as Michaelangelo, Cellini and Bernini, is displayed in entranceways and along corridors. Prime among such fabulous and extraordinary riches is a range of old master paintings by such as Rembrandt, Hals, Goya, Gainsborough, Velasquez, Bruegel, Durer, Rubens, Van Eyck and Van Dyke, Turner, Titian and Tintoretto and on and on and on to the three incomparable Vermeers with their glorious side-lighting. This shrine to the power of wealth and the prevailing taste of the times is cause for much pondering of value systems while wandering among the contained treasures. Imagine, this used to be a family home!

I have visited previously but high on my list, this time, was the exhibition (installation?  intervention?) called, Elective Affinities,  by Edmund de Waal, of his contemporary works into the spaces there. Not the first contemporary artist to show amongst the constellation already acquired, nor the first in ceramic – De Waal has clearly been allowed to choose where his works might gather, accompanied by music of his choice (Bach to Britten, Philip Glass to Steve Reich). Somewhat dazzled by what was adorning the walls my first encounter was a surprise. In the middle of the huge West Gallery were two over-lapping, simple, dark vitrines upon a large oak table that made up one install in variously deep to mid-grey porcelain and stacked steel rectangles. Their lack of colour amongst the panoply of hue in surrounding works had at first disguised their presence but then it occurred that this was deliberate by De Waal. I found other works by being more aware of unlikely situations as well as the obvious placings – one even beneath a library desk. De Waal has added to his porcelain cylinders – from white to darkest grey in tone – glazed and unglazed, other media such as stacks of patinated steel slices and shards, plexiglass strips, marble, then aluminium and alabaster with applied gold leaf in places, positioned so that reflections cast a golden radiance onto furniture or porcelain.

De Waal is not the first ceramist to group his cylinders and bowls into still life arrangements. Probably, and arguably, earliest were Gwyn Hanssen Pigott pairing bowls in a FCCA entry in memory of dead friends and our own Ann Verdcourt in response to an invitation to complement still-life wall works at Manawatu Gallery,  both back in the late ’80s). Since then the trope has come and gone – after all what else can a vessel maker do when elevating works into an art context?  De Waal, however, has really turned the concept into something inestimable with his ability to command ever more precious situations for his works from British Dukedom’s country houses to the V+A’s bell tower to Gargosian gigantic vitrines in NYC, Basel and Hong Kong.

These installations, for me, were justified in taking themselves so very seriously. In such a locale how might it be otherwise – despite my gut feeling that Verdcourt would not have been able to resist a sly bit of sabotage, somewhere. There were also distinct contrasts in the finish on the clay cylinders – slight wobbles or asymmetry to rims here and there – and the precision that served cessation to the cut plexiglass or steel stack – that bothered me a tad initially but knowing how difficult can be the material, made it matter less. De Waal must be aware and can live with it after all. Further, there was the frustration attached to not being able to weigh elements of the works in the hands made ever more compound by their being behind glass. The fingers itch, for the information they could transmit. But cylinders, matte and glossy, leaning slices and open, stacked bowls can pull this viewer in as close as the carefully watching grey-suited minions will allow – not even a hint of breath on the glass is permissable.

To see the installations and their situations – although too far away to see clearly and in detail as we are used to, it’s possible online by going to The Frick Collection and entering Edmund de Waal. Or try  which is the introductory video. Better, if heading NYC way go see it for yourself – allow several hours at least.

Next instalment to follow shortly.


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