Lifetime of pottery not been easy
Pottering is a way of life for Fiona Tunnicliffe, reports Petrice Tarrant.
They say if you love what you do then you will never work a day in your life.
If that saying is true then Putaruru potter Fiona Tunnicliffe has had it sorted since the day she failed art in high school.
The New Zealand famous clay sculptor has been named as a guest exhibitor at this year’s Marton Arts and Crafts Centre exhibition, not that it is anything new for Tunnicliffe.
Her skills are hot on demand and she has done workshops for almost all the North Island pottery centres.
And how did she become so successful you might ask? Failing school C art was certainly the starting point.
‘‘My teacher said I should try sculpting.’’
Rather than noting certain potential in the budding 17-year-old’s work, Tunnicliffe believes her teacher made the suggestion out of sheer desperation.
‘‘But I was selling my work before the year was out.’’
She said her teachers were amongst those lining up to purchase her work – mostly clay dragons which were all the rage at the time.
She said it is hard to pin-point the difference between her skill with ceramics and her obvious lack with paints.
‘‘I guess it’s working with three dimensions rather than two, I’ve never really thought about it.’’
The creative 45-year-old said between now and then she has never worked one day in a ‘‘real job’’, just spent countless late nights and weekends in her workshop.
Best described as a cosy clay zoo in the winter, her Bledisloe Ave shop highlights her love for animals. From rabbits to rhinos, there are not many species she hasn’t moulded inside those walls.
But passion is not always enough to keep people doing the things they love and Tunnicliffe admits she has weathered hard times in such an evolving industry.
‘‘When I first started out people were doing a lot of domestic ware but changes in imports meant people could buy cheap factory teacups from China . . . [Pottery makers] couldn’t afford to keep going, there just wasn’t the market.’’
It has been hard going for the past couple of years but the tide seems to be turning, she said.
‘‘It [pottery] used to be something that hippies did in Coromandel but it is coming back to being a valid form of art,’’ Tunnicliffe said.
Despite the struggles, she can’t see herself anywhere else.
‘‘It’s what I’ve always done, it’s what I want to do . . . maybe one day I’ll get a hobby.’’
Workshop: More like a clay zoo.
Clay rabbits: Popular amongst the Parnell population at the moment.