are get­ting their hands dirty in an old church in Auck­land’s North Shore. Led by teacher Teresa Watson, they silently fash­ion art pieces, plates, cups and even tea strain­ers, each ob­ject re­veal­ing the maker’s devel­op­ment and idio­syn­cra­sies.

“Their work grows, and if they’re true to them­selves, it will re­flect them,” Teresa says. “I can pick up a pot and tell you who’s made it.”

Teresa taught sec­ondary-school home eco­nomics in Christchurch and Dunedin be­fore mov­ing to Auck­land to raise a fam­ily, but has been fash­ion­ing clay since she was 15. While rais­ing four chil­dren, she ran classes out of what she calls a “wash house” stu­dio in Auck­land, as well as var­i­ous com­mu­nity cen­tres, be­fore up­scal­ing.

When the al­most 150-year-old St Michael’s Church in the sub­urb of Bayswa­ter came up for sale four years ago, Teresa started Ce­ramic Col­lege. It has proven pop­u­lar, with loyal stu­dents con­gre­gat­ing weekly for two-hour ses­sions, and Teresa now en­lists the help of her long­est-stand­ing pupils, daugh­ters Latasha and Leis­beth – ce­ramic artists in their own right – to help teach and run the col­lege.

That pop­u­lar­ity is a sign of a shift in val­ues, says Teresa. Ceram­i­cists suf­fered when cheaper, im­ported prod­ucts hit New Zealand, but “now there’s been a big change, with restau­rants want­ing home­made ceram­ics”. Latasha is one such ce­ram­i­cist sup­ply­ing restau­rants and cafes, and along­side Teresa she sells her work through the col­lege, un­der the name Miss Tash Ceram­ics.

The value shift has had a flow-on ef­fect, with most stu­dents want­ing to cre­ate things for prac­ti­cal use at home. “Peo­ple want to have their own plates, their own cups; they want to take away all the mass prod­ucts they have in their home to have more of a hand­made prod­uct,” Teresa says. “So they’re mak­ing their own.”

Stu­dents quickly be­come ad­dicted to creat­ing their own stuff, and Teresa en­cour­ages them to clear their minds of day-to-day wor­ries when they come to class. “If you’ve got your mind on work, you’re not go­ing to make your pot.”

That sin­gu­lar fo­cus is re­gen­er­a­tive, she says. Teresa’s stu­dents must think so too, for classes are hard to get into. More than 80 per cent re­turn af­ter their first term at the pot­ter’s wheel.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.