Show promotes pottery and pays tribute to late Val
International calibre and novice potters of the Hauraki-coromandel have created a lasting tribute to one of their own, whose untimely death came before the completion of her work.
Val Bennett, from Paeroa, had been working tirelessly on a piece to enter in the show Clear as Mud, which draws together potters in an area with a long association with the art form.
Sadly Val passed away suddenly in September and didn’t get to finish the piece for the show. Instead she will have an award given in her name.
Val was aged in her 80s and had worked in clay for more than 40 years.
Friend and fellow potter Dianne Caton says in recent times Val started doing hand work and found an urgency to create in this way, working on a so-called slab technique for the bust that will be a highlight of the show.
Dianne of Caton Pottery on Canon St organised the show with Waihi’s Andrew Killick, of The Laughing Potter on Rosemont Rd, simply to promote pottery.
“We discovered there were so many potters in the area. We have got 113 pieces which is phenomenal. I never knew this many potters existed in this area. It’s really going to help Waihi,” says Dianne.
Andrew and Dianne say they have purposely chosen not to complete Val’s work.
“We’ve finished it with a simple clear glaze because we didn’t want to put our hands on it too much,” says Andrew.
Says Dianne: “Val’s husband [Roy] says she spent hours at the kitchen table meticulously working on this piece. Roy wanted someone to finish it, but I said no, it wouldn’t be fair on Val, it was her piece.
“We have gone ahead and glazed and fired the bust without doing any more to it and will give out the award in her memory.”
The event Clear As Mud is a show featuring the beautiful, practical, sculptural, whimsical or just plain weird work of more than 20 potters from novices to professionals, who exhibit internationally. It runs at the Waihi Arts Centre & Museum, Kenny St, from October 23 to 26. Entry is free.
The aim is to promote potters, attract visitors to the town and add to the area’s vibrant visual arts scene.
Andrew says Waihi — and the Coromandel — is home to several potters who exhibit locally, regionally and internationally. People stopping by to view the show will be amazed at the wide range of talent.
The work is made from local clay, and all the pieces on display will be available for purchase, with all profits from each item going to its maker.
“The reason potters ended up in areas in the early days is because of the availability of the clay,” explains Andrew. “The Waikato clay is extremely good, that’s what we use here all the time.”
According to Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Crown Lynn sourced its clay from kaolinite deposits in the Coromandel Peninsula during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Andrew’s The Laughing Potter business in Waihi regularly draws people from Wellington and Auckland but also brings locals through its doors, to create and fire items out of clay or purchase a local piece of pottery.
Andrew adds sand from Waihi Beach to the clay, and says customers happily await their bespoke purchases.
He says he personally enjoys creating domestic ware for people because he believes items of clay take on the energy of its maker, and these items will be touched the most.
“What we’re noticing, especially after the Covid thing, is how many people are wanting to come and feel things, they’re wanting to know where things are coming from, and how they’re being made,” he says.
“The gist of it seems to be instead of just going to a shop and buying something, they’re wanting to know more about it. We’re noticing that with macrame, knitting and dried flowers, it’s kind of like people just want to touch the ground again.”
One woman who has been working at the Laughing Potter brought in a wine jar that her husband dredged out of the English Channel and which dates back to the 16th century.
“It has the potter’s thumb print on it,” says Andrew. “We’re making history. We’re making things that archaeologists use to date things, that’s the exciting part.”
The show is sponsored by Oceangold, Creative NZ, Waikato Ceramics, Dillimores Waihi, Alitech Window Systems and 100% Waihi.
Clear As Mud runs at the Waihi Arts Centre & Museum, Kenny St, from October 23 to 26. Entry is free.
The late Val Bennett working with the clay that she loved so much.
Val’s piece has been glazed and fired and the award will be given out in her memory.