New Zealand's capital, Wellington, is often compared to San Francisco for its rolling hills and cool sub climate. I spent a weekend working with a great bunch of potters from the Wellington Potters Association. They have an active club that hosts workshops, classes, and a residency. Most of the clay centers in NZ are club driven. By paying dues members are granted access to studio space. In Wellington you could be a member for less than $200 NZD a year. By far the cheapest deal I have ever seen for studio space. This dues-for-membership model could replace the class-fee model for many U.S. ceramic centers. Membership implies a deeper level of commitment and creates a positive sense of ownership that is much needed in educational environments.
My students came energized and ready to work. We were focusing on drop molds and surface design. Each participant was asked to bring in live florals to develop new patterns. Check out the sweet deco on the platter pictured above. This student used a paper resist technique to do a negative space drawing. The brown color you see is the clay showing through the white slip. The stippling and graceful sgraffito lines are a great addition to the drawing. I think I learned more from her that weekend than she did from me.
We talked a lot about food and the role it plays in culture. I explained that grits, barbecue, and biscuits & gravy have become symbols of the south. We had a good laugh because they were all repulsed by the idea of biscuits and gravy. One student chuckled at the connection between these dishes and the soft stature of many southern Americans. We had pot lucks each day filled with NZ dishes and old familiar favorites. My new favorite was a cake called Pavlova. It consists of three inches of meringue topped with goose berries and grapes. The cake was created to honor the dancer Anna Pavlova during her world tour to New Zealand in the 1920's.(For more history on Pavlova click here.) My students filled me in on the culture war that Kiwis and Aussies have over ownership of this cake. Both steadfastly claim to have invented the dish. It is safe to say that who ever actually invented it should be thanked because it is exceptionally good.
This post wraps up my travel series on New Zealand. I have many more untold stories but none will compare to your own experience of NZ first hand. There aren't many places in the world that offer beautiful scenery mixed with adventure sports and an excellent clay scene. I hope you make it there soon.
This post is included in Kiwi Kraft, a mini series of blogs about my visits to potters and pottery centers on the North Island of New Zealand. For related posts click on the following links.