The Portage this year is offering a scholarship to attend a course at Peter’s Valley in New Jersey, USA. Those who attended the last Waiclay event in Hamilton or were students at Otago Polytechnic in its hey-day of the ‘90s will recall Bruce Dehnert, Alfred graduate, ceramist, teacher, artist, winner of two or three Fletcher Award prizes. Bruce was lecturer at Otago and during his time, turned out some of the best grads to evolve from there. He left these shores, in about 1998, for Kuching – capital of Sarawak, a wealthy slot of land on the north coast of Borneo, part of Indonesia, there to teach at the university. Following that he returned to the USA and is Head of Ceramics at Peter’s Valley. He did more teaching here a few years ago when he returned as Artist in Residence in Hamilton for the Waikato Potters while he worked on his exhibition for Waikato Art Gallery. During that time we saw The Portage together and agreed that off-shore experience might be a very good thing for NZ ceramics.
He has, in fond memories of his time in New Zealand, arranged this scholarship with the Management Board of Peter’s Valley. It is, providing the first one is successful, to be ongoing. Peter’s Valley can be found in the north of New Jersey tucked into a National Recreation Area that surrounds the Delaware River. It’s rural, redolent with names like Kitatinny and Minnewaska that recall the Native Americans who were its earlier occupants, and extremely pretty. And only a bit over an hour from New York City, by bus.
This prize includes fees and materials for the winner’s choice of one workshop, accommodation and meals during the workshop, and return transport from Newark International Airport to Peters Valley. (Newark is across the Hudson River from NYC). You, if interested, need to go to the Peter’s Valley website and see what is on offer and be prepared to take up the scholarship next year. It cannot be postponed. There will be a new list of workshops available for then, they run from 2 days through to 2 weeks, but you will get the general range of things from this year’s publication – practically oriented, they range from domestic ware mould-making, altering or decorating pots to glaze science through to a full anagama stacking and firing with break between while the kiln cools – when you can take a jolly tramp in the countryside, visit local antique galleries and interesting eateries or investigate the pleasures and surprises of New York City or anything in between. It’s not possible to stay there between if you decide to take an extra course while there but they will help if it’s necessary to get there a few days early so you get over the jet lag. Personally I’d get over any jet lag in the town that never sleeps!
Yes indeed, fares to and from Newark Liberty International Airport are the responsibility of the Scholarship holder but assistance in the form of letters of support can be readily sourced from the Gallery and Peter’s Valley. Both are committed to that, if necessary. Or there is always crowd-funding these days, or helpful spouses or sell a bunch of pots!
It is a great addition to the Portage Awards and with Peter’s Valley’s orientation to domestic ware a great asset bearing injection into our culture of making. While it may not be a possibility for some it may just be what the kiln gods ordered, for others. Just what is needed too for an artist happy to escape some of our winter and head up to summer/autumn in the northern hemisphere for a break and a possibly tax-deductible learning experience. Meanwhile work is ongoing to source other opportunities that will feed into NZ ceramics in unpredictable ways. Watch this space.
Here are some images of Peter’s Valley in the middle of winter….few people but deer, beavers, frozen streams, lakes and gorgeous countryside.
This was in the retail shop at Peter’s Valley on a big poster at the entrance to the store…
“When you buy from and independent artist, you are buying more than just a painting, a novel or a song. You are buying hundreds of hours of experimentation and thousands of failures. You are buying days, weeks, months, years of frustration and moments of pure joy.
You are buying nights of worry about paying the rent, having enough money to eat, to feed the children, the birds, the dog. You aren’t just buying a thing, you are buying a piece of heart, part of a soul, a private moment in someone’s life.
Most importantly you are buying that artist more time to do something they are truly passionate about; something that makes all the above worth the fear and the doubt; something that puts the life into the living.” Rebekkah Joy Platt
This might be a tad over-reaching for a clay egg cup but there will be many for whom it carries some echoes that make sense.
If you’re going to be in Europe this coming northern summer and would like to pick up on matters ceramic there are a couple of events that could provide interest……
The island of Bornholm is in the Baltic Sea. It is Danish but situated closer to Sweden, through which, if getting to Bornholm by road, you must pass before boarding the ferry from Malmo for the last leg. It takes just a few hours or you can fly from Copenhagen in a half hour. Bornholm is gorgeous – dramatic granite cliffs and pale sandy beaches, clear water and wind-blown woodlands. The small housing clusters and fishing villages that dot the island have lime-washed buildings and steep red-tiled roofs. Some buildings date from the Middle Ages – the most exceptional being the four round churches with black shingle roofs while the most contemporary was finished recently and serves as art gallery and museum. It straddles a sacred spring which trickles through the entire length of the building.
Of particular interest is the migration to the island of potters, sculptors and glass workers over the past eighty plus years. Today the island is well-known as a destination for art. Every two years they hold the European Ceramic Context festival which encompasses much of the island and hosts delegates from every country in the EU, for about ten days. (September 9th-19th) It’s Europe’s principal gathering for ceramics, on a grand scale. Potters come from every country in the EU, I am told.
From Tuesday September 9th through to Saturday 13th is a series of exhibition openings and gallery talks all over the island with a variety of artists – recent Artists in Residence present their works, Ceramics from Estonia as country of focus, a new graduate show etc and the two major exhibitions – European Ceramic Art with representation from each country in the EU and New Talent for emerging artists. Artists are nominated by a commissioner appointed for each country and places are highly competitive. Participation is a major marker on the European CV. Following this there are numerous Master Classes over the remainder of the time to 19th. Interspersed are seminars and presentations hosted by the Royal Danish School of Design on issues around Materiality – The values of matter and making. The blurb reads…
Clay is a common material. It has endless versatility and usability, from functional ware to a matter that has the ability to transform artistic ideas with its material tactility. It is sensual, plastic and is responsive to the primal instinct of making things by hand. Clay allows the artist to create form in spontaneous and direct ways that no other material does.
- Why is crafts and making important to being human?
- Why are the tactile and haptic qualities of materials important to humans?
- What role does the use of clay / ceramics play in contemporary society?
If you are interested in such subjects and would like to present a talk/paper the deadline is June 1st.
For more information on this ten day saturation in things ceramic, go to http://www.europeanceramiccontext.com
The other major gathering is also held every two years, not just in Europe, but somewhere in the world. This year it is in Dublin, Ireland and is the Assembly for the International Academy of Ceramics. It will be held principally at Dublin Castle and while some sessions are for members only it’s possible for anyone to attend general sessions. It’s a very different muster to the Bornholm gathering which is, I understand, mainly informal and a bit like a sprawling but well-organised, much larger version of NZSP national events, as they used to be. The IAC is more formal and mostly consists of senior artists plus academics, curators, collectors and writers. There is a member’s exhibition and there will be a number of smaller exhibitions around town in various venues. Mainly though, this is about the Assembly itself with discussions around issues and the networking opportunities presented at the various social events that are principal focus, but there are usually visits to ceramic depositories in the city and to places of interest such a factories or Museum repositories generally otherwise unavailable to the casual tourist. For more information go to AIC/IAC.org The dates are September 7-11 so it’s possible to attend both, just.