Vases have hu­man char­ac­ter­is­tics


A life­time of re­work­ing clay into shapes has been an as­tound­ing jour­ney for one of the coun­try’s top pot­ters, whose work fea­tures in one of Pataka’s win­ter ex­hi­bi­tions.

Richard Parker, who lives and works near Kerik­eri, has been work­ing in ce­ram­ics since the mid-70s, and says while pot­tery goes in and out of fash­ion like any­thing else, New Zealand pot­ters don’t usu­ally get the recog­ni­tion they de­serve.

‘‘It’s lovely to get to the age where some­one wants to do a ret­ro­spec­tive and to see [these pieces] again, and han­dle them again.

‘‘This is the first time I’ve seen a lot of these pieces since they were made and sold, be­cause quite of­ten be­cause of your fi­nan­cial needs you open the kiln and then sell them.’’

The ex­hi­bi­tion is a col­lec­tion of Parker’s ir­reg­u­lar, quirky, ex­pres­sive vases, his sig­na­ture work, with the old­est in the col­lec­tion made in about 1982.

Pataka ed­u­ca­tion co-or­di­na­tor Mar­garet Tol­land said it was ex­cit­ing to have an artist of his sig­nif­i­cance in Pataka. ‘‘This is a small dot of his work, but it’s a good rep­re­sen­ta­tion.’’

Parker says his vases are fig­u­ra­tive. ‘‘They are like peo­ple, they stand with their hands on their hips and some­times they point a foot and stand so, and other times they stand other ways, so they have a lot of at­tributes that hu­mans have, and so they set up the same vi­bra­tions be­tween them that hu­mans do.

‘‘When you put three of them to­gether they talk like hu­mans do, though we don’t al­ways know what they are say­ing, but it’s none of our busi­ness any­way.’’

Be­ing able to sus­tain 35 years in the craft has taken dogged per­sis­tence, but it has been a priv­i­lege, he says.

‘‘I feel hon­oured to be a prac­ti­tioner in a very an­cient field of art, one that’s gone on for hun­dreds of thou­sands of years.

‘‘Work­ing as a pot­ter has got all the things that I al­ways wanted, it in­volves a tech­ni­cal side, it’s got a his­tor­i­cal side that I to­tally love, it’s a three-di­men­sional form of art – I find I need three di­men­sions – and it has the op­por­tu­nity for lots of ref­er­ences like what I was just de­scrib­ing about ref­er­enc­ing hu­man form, or Chinese his­tory.

‘‘Un­der­ly­ing the whole lot is that it in­volves tak­ing ma­te­rial from na­ture and re-work­ing it.’’

Richard Parker – Mas­ter of Craft is on at Pataka un­til Au­gust 28.

Mas­ter crafts­man: Pot­ter Richard Parker at Pataka with some of his work on dis­play for the win­ter sea­son.

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