Author Archives: moyraelliott

Loewe Craft Prize Finalists

The Loewe Craft Prize today announced that they had selected 29 artists from an entry of over 2,500 submissions. The finalist’s works will now be shipped to Japan (as will the artists involved) for the final judging process and on 25 June the winner will be announced by the panel of eleven (it is European…) judges including architect Wang Shu, industrial designer Patricia Urquiola and Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson… The principal prize is 50,000 Euros,  there are also interesting residency opportunities…see my blog of September last year.

The Moon Jar, The life of..., Akiko Hirai. Photo LOEWE Foundation Craft Prize THE MOON JAR, THE LIFE OF…,  Ceramic. AKIKO HIRAI. PHOTO LOEWE FOUNDATION CRAFT PRIZE. One of this year’s entries.

The international cohort of finalists – revealed by LOEWE today – work in a broad spectrum of media, from metal to paper, and include everyone from fairly recent graduates to well-known names.

The LOEWE Foundation Craft Prize, now its third edition, champions artists who have ‘made fundamentally important contributions to the development of contemporary craft’ and ‘whose talent, vision and will to innovate promise[s] to set a new standard for the future’. The work of the shortlisted makers will go on show at Isamu Noguchi’s indoor stone garden ‘Heaven’ at the Sogetsu Foundation in Tokyo (26 June – 22 July 2019).

Mandala bowl, Giovanni Corvaja. Photo LOEWE Foundation Craft Prize MANDALA BOWL, Spun Gold. GIOVANNI CORVAJA. PHOTO LOEWE FOUNDATION CRAFT PRIZE. Another entry in this year’s Award exhibition.

Here is the list of finalists

Akiko Hirai (b. Japan, lives and works in United Kingdom)

Andrea Walsh (United Kingdom)

Annie Turner (United Kingdom)

Deloss Webber (United States)

Elke Sada (Germany)

Gentai Ishikuza (Japan)

Giampaolo Babetto (Italy)

Giovanni Corvaja (Italy)

Harry Morgan (United Kingdom)

Heeseung Koh (Korea)

Henar Iglesias (Spain)

Jim Partridge & Liz Walmsley (United Kingdom)

JingFeng Fang & Mi Dong (China)

John Eric Byers (United States)

Jokum Lind Jensen (b. Denmark, lives and works in Sweden)

Junko Mori (b. Japan, lives and works in United Kingdom)

Kazuhito Takadoi (b. Japan, lives and works in United Kingdom)

Koichi lo (Japan)

Kye-Yeon Son (b. Korea, lives and works in Canada)

Youngsoon Lee (Korea)

Masanori Nishikawa (Japan)

Mayu Nakata (Japan)

Michal Fargo (b. Israel, lives and works in Germany)

Minhee Kim (b. Korea, lives and works in United Kingdom)

Ruudt Peters (Netherlands)

Sachi Fujikake (Japan)

Shozo Michikawa (Japan)

Sophie Rowley (b. New Zealand, lives and works in Germany)

Tomonari Hashimoto (Japan)

So, of the finalists, 10 are Japanese,  4 Korean,  5 U.K., 2 each from Italyand China, one each from Israel, Netherlands,  Germany, Spain and Denmark plus one from New Zealand. However, a number are nationals of one country yet resident elsewhere. Who knows where they received training? Interesting to see a New Zealander included. Anyone know her and her work?



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John Mason 1928-2019

 John Mason, who died a week ago at 91,  made big things out of clay. Very big things. Abstract sculptures and walls that had to be fired inside a walk-in kiln. Artworks that required the strength of more than one man to move.


 Mason was one of the band who joined forces with Peter Voulkos and other adventurous artists – like Ron Nagle, Ken Price, Henry Takemoto and Paul Soldner et al – at the Otis Art Institute in the mid-1950s and helped to lead a revolution in clay.

Suddenly,  clay was hot — and cool. No longer restricted to utilitarian objects, clay could be pushed to its physical and expressive limits. Further, it didn’t have to be craft; it could be art. And that made clay irresistible to a variety of artists, mainly male, who resisted craft-based media but were drawn to the idea of breaking boundaries and ignoring rules. It was labelled Abstract Expressionist Ceramics (in a famous essay by Rose Slivka) and it modified the experience of some very old Japanese pottery tropes and Zen and gave it a new contemporary context to the sound of modern jazz. Ceramic tradition and Fine Art tradition were both involved in parallel ideas and sensibilities at the same time.

While Voulkos was leader, he mostly spent his time making his own work and expected his students to develop their own interests. Mason took on scale, in a grand way particularly for ceramics. He said. “I had a studio, and I had access to the materials and the equipment, it was like, here’s the challenge: Mix up a ton of clay and go to work. To make it happen, for me, was to make sculptural pieces and to make big walls. There were no prescriptions for any of this that I knew about. It was, do it and see if it works. And if it doesn’t work, change it and make it work.”

His critically acclaimed work, “Red X,” a red-glazed sculpture measured about a metre and a half square and was 40cm deep is often on display at its home, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in west LA.

John Mason's "Red X," 1966, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
John Mason’s “Red X,” 1966, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 
His works initially seem minimalist but when looking at his art the surfaces are jammed full of information. You can almost envision their passage through fire. He shifted to metal, brick and stone in mid-career but in later life returned to ceramic.
Mason taught for many years and was famous for his long pauses finally followed by thought-provoking remarks and includes artists such as Chris Burden and James Turrell among his sculpture students. More of his work can be seen in the sculpture garden at the Pasadena Art Museum, east LA.
His final exhibition was at Scripps College in Claremont just last year in 2018 at age 90.
John Mason's "Geometric Form, Dark," 1966, 59 inches by 43 inches by 25 inches.
John Mason’s “Geometric Form, Dark,” 1966, 150cm x 110cm x 65cm at The American Museum of Ceramic Art in LA.
Only Nagle, who was youngest of them all, remains of that group now. He is still exhibiting regularly, with new work via Mathew Marks Gallery.


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“Not a Retrospective” at The Suter

So said Steve Fullmer, formerly of California but for the past 40 or more years, from Tasman in Nelson Province. Steve bothers that if it’s called a retrospective, ‘that would mean my best work was behind me and people could smell death on me’. So it’s a survey.

I have not seen the show. Sadly, nor can I unless it travels this way. But I have seen the refreshingly modest and charming catalogue which informs me that his oeuvre is somewhat wider than I thought. Yes, the two vessels that won, in 1986, and jointly in 1987, the Fletcher Brownbuilt Premier Award, plus the first ‘Pilot’ pot which he sent up as his first entry for the show and that won a Merit Award in 1985 are there in the catalogue, as you’d expect. But in addition, there is a range of large scale discoid and vessel forms, stamped, scribed, sprayed and sponged on, which push his ideas, narratives and humour beyond what we are familiar with up this end of the country, where he has not exhibited for a very long time.

I still recall the effect that first ‘Pilot’ had. ‘The Fletcher’ in 1985 was still largely monopolised by NZ entries and Anglo-orientalism remained paramount within the national oeuvre despite a few venturing into the newly available colourants from Europe or displaying an awareness of the fresh international winds blowing through concept, form, function and firing temps. The subdued sobriety of reduced stoneware retained its dominance via market preferences and exhibiting opportunities. And suddenly, there was ‘Pilot’, glowing with neon insouciance – all day-glo oranges, yellows and pinks so very evocative of the American south-west desert landscapes. What was it? Well, there was a spout, and possibly a handle (of sorts – or was it a fin?) but that was all the familiarity on offer. It was clearly far too large to function as a pouring vessel. The rest was colorific planes adorned with stamps, scribed lines and piercings here and there. And all in this extraordinarily intense, almost iridescent, hue. Labels, for such work, were scant at the time. It was perhaps one of the first, we had seen here, of what Garth Clark labelled ‘the super-object’, although the dry low-fire glaze derived more from Funk. Both were American movements with ‘super-objects’ being newest – begun in the late 70s. We had not seen its like before. It was quite something.

Fullmer Pilot.jpg

‘Pilot’ , 1986.  500x830x500mm. Not the prize one but very similar and produced in the same period as part of a series of ‘Pilots’.

When Steve followed up the next year by winning the Premier Award with ‘Sapodilla Canyon’ and the year after that by doing it again, with ‘Cutting a New Orbit’, in joint with Chester Nealie, he became established as one of our major players.

Already somewhat proficient on arrival in New Zealand in 1973 he began here by working as a production potter beside the redoubtable Dan Steenstra at Beach Artware. Steenstra was a Dutch-trained production thrower who had been imported by Crown Lynn. Steve followed this up with travel around and further production work in Australia (where he went while awaiting permanent NZ residence permission).  This achieved, he returned to NZ and soon moved to the Nelson area where, in 1976 he built his own wood-fired kiln in Mahana, firing with modest success. But those early years were something of a struggle.

The transitions in his work from wood-fired stoneware to a drop in temperature, a change in atmosphere and a highly personal approach to surface appear to have taken place on return visits to America over the three years from 1979 to ’81. He had returned there with the honed skills learned in production throwing in New Zealand and Australia. This experience served as foundation for that American visit because what he saw were his ‘roots’ and ‘North American and Native American pots …where the story-telling is so beautiful’ and while his skills allowed him to take chances, in America he ‘saw what really taking chances in design and art could look like. These were abstract paintings but in clay’. He came back ‘really excited and full of new ideas’.

If the catalogue, which is otherwise charming, is lacking it is in not offering more detail on what he observed over those three years and how his thinking altered. America is huge with a very lively ceramic culture that offers, for obvious reasons, far more diversity than might be found in Australia or here. His experiences there would make interesting reading. There is a Timeline at back, and attending workshops by firstly Yvonne Rust then Harry Davis here in NZ and later, in the USA, another workshop from Otto and Vivika Heino in Los Angeles could have been useful to some degree. Davis was a superb thrower, as was Vivika Heino, while Otto was a well-regarded glaze chemist.  A later journey to, and stay in, California (1981), records workshops by Paul Soldner, Kris Cox and Jack Troy while his return to Nelson included workshops again by a visiting Jack Troy and also Ray Rogers plus Australian Alan Peascod (in ’85) demonstrate that he was, for a long period, very open to investigating what might be learned, absorbed and transformed.

The innovations in thinking and technological approaches to his work that manifested in his first success, in 1985 at the Fletcher Awards, are still recognisably present as foundations although he has clearly encouraged variations as they surfaced and embellished them with his humour. He also cannot resist what might be called ‘animalia’ which might be human or piscine, bovine, canine or…  anything… or its hybrid really. They often have legs no matter the derivation, are going somewhere in his personal and inimitable style and all are designed to produce a smile, and do. Take a look at the following images and their dates.

The catalogue will be available from the Suter Gallery in Nelson and is absolutely worth getting. In it are Steve’s often delightful responses to a wide range of questions put to him by The Suter’s curator, Sarah McClintock. I’m told the show looks great – it’s still up but closing soon –  10 February. Clearly, worth the visit if you can.

For sure, there’s not a whiff of death. He’s still got a ways to go and in his words, ‘Just see what happens’. It’s not a retrospective but his first survey.

Fullmer In the Trench - main.jpg

In The Trench,  2018. 260x455x340mm. One of the most recent works in the show – wonderful use of pale slips over dark clay and some idiosyncratic mark making.

Fullmer Cities.jpg

Cities, 1990.  300x363x360mm. The text says, ‘Jesus said Buy Steve Fullmer art”


Fullmer  Flaco.jpg

Flaco, 1990s 360x410x400mm.

Fullmer Pupster.jpg

Pupster, 2000. 150x550x170mm.

Fullmer Steven come and tidy your room now.jpg

Steven, come and clean up your room now, 2000.230x215x92mm

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New (old) Discovery

Many are the uses of ceramic as we all know. Here is one we probably were blissfully unaware of that has been displayed, on and off but always upside down, in the British Museum for many years as a ‘vase’. Imagine the below image turned around and you can understand how that came about…Mace-head UMMA city State, Sumeria. 2400BC Brit Museum.jpg

So, what actually is it?         It is a mace-head.

A mace is a heavy club of something (latterly metal and often spiked) that was used as a weapon of death. First, the enemy would be immobilised by a thrown mesh net and then executed with a mace. This one is fired clay.  Once the inscribed cuneiform was translated it became evident this was made for  King Gishakidu of Umma – an ancient city-state in Sumeria (Mesopotamia – what is now the ‘middle east’ ). It dates from the Early Dynastic period, c.2400BC.

Who would know?   Ceramic’s uses are manifold!

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Another Competition…

This one is a major though. It’s the LOEWE Foundation Craft Prize. LOEWE is a Spanish high-end leather goods manufacturer which began as a craft cooperative in 1846 and now being run by its fifth generation.  They have provided a private Cultural Foundation since 1988 which supports creative, educational and heritage programmes in the fields of poetry, dance, photography, art and craft. One of their primary functions is to support design and craftsmanship and, since 2016 they have offered a competitive, annual, Craft Prize to celebrate excellence and craftsmanship that aims to set a standard for the future. Artists in areas of applied art such as ceramics, bookbinding, enamelwork, lacquer, glass, jewellery, metal, wood, paper or textiles etc are invited to enter.

The prize for the winning entry is Euros 50,000 (over NZ$91,000 ) and along with other finalists be featured in a catalogue and exhibitions in Loewe galleries in major cities around the world. The judging and initial exhibition will take place in Tokyo, Japan. Entries may be single works or a series – understood as a number of objects considered as a single artistic creation.

They state, in this search for excellence in craftsmanship,  ”Craft artists who leave their individual imprint on their work dig into the quicksands of art and claim the chance of making trades flourish once again, recycling and not forgetting the past. The LOEWE FOUNDATION aims to recognise outstanding works that show artistic vision and innovation, and which reflect the personal language and distinct hand of their maker. The LOEWE FOUNDATION aims to support artistic craft and acknowledge leading artisans from around the world at the forefront of their fields. The winning work should reinterpret tradition to make it relevant now and demonstrate the continuing valuable contribution to the culture of our time.”    So,  it seems they seek a contemporary, innovative version of the traditional that acknowledges its history somehow…

As you’d expect with a European based event, entry process is a tad complicated. Two to five good images or film of the entry, a portfolio showing up to five other works from the maker’s career,  CV information with short biography, a brief conceptual statement, copy of passport or ID document.

Initial judgement will be from images and by a panel of nine experts consisting representatives of LOEWE  and museums and magazines featuring Craft, plus expert makers of high reputation. Following this initial decision the resultant 15-30 finalists are notified and the selected works will be sent to Japan for the final decision by another, different panel of eleven experts. This panel is somewhat different in that the only artist involved is the previous year’s winner (Jennifer Lee – ceramist, U.K., was winner for 2017) The remainder are Heads of Museums and Arts Trusts, well-known designers and architects and representatives of LOEWE. All organisation and costs of transport to Japan plus insurances are covered by LOEWE. Winners are also taken to Japan at LOEWE’s expense and as their guests.


Time is short this year as entry must be made by end of October. Initial judgement will be made in January and finalist’s works to be in Japan by April 1, 2019. Decisions announced in May, 2019. However it’s not impossible if you have good work on hand plus good images of earlier work.  Entry fee not required. There is a heap of information about copyright issues for both entrants and to protect LOEWE, plus, clearly, LOEWE intend to control all press information.                                                                                            Obviously you need to be confident  about your work and CV but if so this seems aimed at being one of, if not the, world’s major competitions for craft media as other European events reduce in presence or have narrow constituent aims and some Asian competitions are either implicated in discredited practices while others simply do not offer access to international press and resultant prestige for finalists. Much more information can be gained from or or or

It would be great to see a Kiwi among the finalists.

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Robyn Stewart – 1938-2018.

One of Robyn’s large semi-enclosed pieces that are, perhaps, her signature works. This one, 52cm dia. x 14cm h., is finished in burnished and matte surfaced style.



Robyn Stewart came to clay in the mid-70s, like many others of the time, after another career. She learned some basics from Pat Perrin and Margaret Milne knowing she was moving, with family, to a Northland farm where there was ample earthenware clay beneath the thin crust of topsoil. She wanted a creative outlet while there and it was while she was attending classes with Margaret Milne that the students were shown a film about the Native American pueblo potter, Maria Martinez, from the San Ildefonso pueblo near Santa Fe in New Mexico. In it Martinez demonstrated her re-making of traditional vessels –something that had faded in vigour due to the advent of enamelled tin pots and jars well suited for cooking and uses for ceremonial vessels reduced as the culture declined. Martinez led a revival that economically revitalised not only her own San Ildefonso Pueblo but, along with Nampeyo from the Hopi tribal group, did much to restore cultural values in several tribal areas by identifying and pioneering a route to economic independence through making pots in traditional styles. This activity generated toward Santa Fe becoming the second most valuable art market in the USA. Maria Martinez’s method of leavening the clay with sand, coiling, burnishing and dung firing (loosely covered with discarded vehicle number plates) immediately struck Robyn as a perfect methodology for her intended activities on that Northland farm.

She experimented and after about eighteen months of failures where improvements came frustratingly slowly she succeeded in producing some small, charming, burnished vessels with Maori designs that she continued to expand into a considerable oeuvre over the course of her lifetime of potting. She was never tempted to join the ranks of domestic ware makers – dominant at the time. Within NZ she pioneered burnished vessel forms and experimented boldly with scale, form and decoration. Early on she went to a Northland Polytech Summer School where she met Manos Nathan who had returned to his marae from the UK in response to a call from his seniors. He, a design graduate, was wanted for carving and worked at Matatina learning from Mauri Marsden. Nathan had books brought back by his father who had been with the party that went to the USA as part of the Te Maori exhibition that toured to several main centres. The books were on traditional Southwest potting, Nampeyo and Maria Martinez. So when Robyn met Manos there was much to discuss and they subsequently worked together. Manos found the burnished surface a perfect vehicle for his carving and developed new forms in clay for Maori traditions in returning umbilical cords and afterbirths to home soil, and Urupa uses. Robyn was subsequently invited to join the first art hui that Manos set up at his marae at Matatina and from those hui the Kaihanga Uku group of clayworkers was formed (although they called themselves ‘the muddies’! Robyn was made an honorary member.

Robyn subsequently travelled to many places to teach her ‘low tech’ method of making in clay, often returning several times to places such as Rarotonga, or Zimbabwe and other east African countries, Indonesia and India. Wherever she landed she made friends through her enthusiasm, warmth and enjoyment of her meditative processes. Her work had enormous appeal due to scale, tactility, a refined gleam of surface and the elegant simplification of design. It was interesting to hear the credit she gave, for the immaculate finish, to her jeweller’s ‘bloodstone’ – her principal tool, apart from her clever fingers. Vessels would range from a few centimetres to more than 50cm across and her work was regularly in great demand by various government departments for official gifts, for they fitted their criteria to perfection.

Robyn, always was sensitive to the troubles of others and kind and thoughtful in her responses. She has maintained a low profile in recent years due to health issues she could not overcome. Her friends will be relieved that she is no longer suffering but will miss her and mourn her passing.



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On Europe…

There are off-shore events and competitions you might like to consider. Here are a couple in Europe that will be happy to receive entries or attendances from Downunder if you’re prepared for the costs involved…

ITALY: One of their most prestigious galleries for ceramics is in Milan. Officine Saffi is only seven years old (2011) but very active and has gained a solid reputation for good shows and top level artists. They apparently host this international competition to find new talent for their gallery. They are funded by a ceramics materials manufacturer and also sell materials, rent out studio/workspace, offer residencies and have a publishing house that produces art catalogues and the quarterly magazine FRAGILE ( They are called Officine Saffi and included in their stable are, Torbjorn Kvasbo, Anders Ruhwald, Ann van Hoey, Lucie Rie and Hans Coper to mention a few you might know, plus Jim Cooper exhibited there in 2016/17.

Prizes: Eur. 5000 each to Art and Design sections plus…

Residencies in the following places-

EKWC – Netherlands; Int Ceramics Centre – Sasama, Japan; Seinajoki – Finland; ICRC Guldagergaard, Denmark; Faenza – Italy, and Museum Mondari – Italy.

Plus – Cover Award and Article Award in FRAGILE Magazine.

The Jury, as you always get from Europe, is huge and comprises eight members headed this time by Felicity Aylieff from Royal College in London. Ranti Tjan who heads the EKWC is also on plus assorted designers and institution heads.

The competition details are…

OPEN TO ART Ceramics Award 3rd Edition

Deadline September 21st

Entry by 3 images of the work, plus CV, portfolio and written description. You may enter the art or the design section. Cost? 50Euro if over 35 and 35 Euro if under!

Further info at


Then there is…

The European Ceramic Context 2018 will be held on the island of Bornholm, which is Danish but off the coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea, between 15/09 and 11/11 this year. It happens once every four years. All interested in ceramics are welcome.

There are Masterclasses, a conference, many exhibitions and seminars for all levels. There will be studio visits, and artist’s talks plus workshops that intend to investigate current issues and enter discussions around ceramics, artistic development and theory, plus historic and ‘wild clay’ tours.

The two principal exhibitions are a main feature. One is ‘Open Call ‘ where curators, artist’s groups and individuals were invited to apply. Through this they hope to show collaborative works, experimental pieces and current activism etc. They received hundreds of applications for this category and have selected 51 to exhibit.

The other show is ‘CURATED’ curated by six curators who have nominated artists from their region Selection still to take place.

Bornholm is very beautiful.  I have seen it – houses and cottages are all lime-washed with yellow ochre or iron oxide-red colorants and most foliage is either a very dark or a silvery soft pale green – it all looks gorgeous. I can recommend the many galleries and antique shops while the art gallery, but a few years old, is breathtakingly contemporary with a minute stream running through the middle and enormous cows grazing in the fields outside!  Bornholm is a couple of hours by ferry from Malmo in Sweden. It’s in the Baltic Sea, with Finland, Russia, Poland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden and Denmark all unseen but close. If you are going to be in Europe this September or October, maybe give it some thought. More information is available from


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