Life­time of pot­tery not been easy

Pot­ter­ing is a way of life for Fiona Tun­ni­cliffe, re­ports Pet­rice Tar­rant.

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

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.

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