Fire and Clay

More than a cen­tury of ce­ram­ics has found a home in Whanganui.

North & South - - Contents - GRAEME WIL­SON

RICK RUDD has made a shrine to the craft he loves. Af­ter a life­time spent twist­ing and shap­ing clay, the 68-year-old pot­ter has paid the ul­ti­mate com­pli­ment to his fel­low prac­ti­tion­ers of the ce­ramic arts by es­tab­lish­ing a per­ma­nent home for their work in Whanganui.

In 2014, the mul­ti­ple award-win­ner sold his house, bought an in­ner-city com­mer­cial build­ing (“I love the ar­chi­tec­ture, it’s a good ex­am­ple of bru­tal­ist mod­ernistic de­sign”) and set about cre­at­ing a paean to pots by dis­play­ing ex­am­ples of the best work from more than a cen­tury of New Zealand pot­tery, plus a smat­ter­ing from in­ter­na­tional artists.

The idea for a mu­seum had been brew­ing for a long time. “I’d seen other pot­ters’ work auctioned off af­ter they died,” he says. “And I didn’t want that to hap­pen to my col­lec­tion.” That col­lec­tion not only in­cludes his own cre­ations but some 50 in­ter­na­tional pieces and a large num­ber of works by other New Zealand stu­dio pot­ters (www.quartz­mu­seum.org.nz).

There are three lead­ing lights of English pot­tery, says Rudd: Bernard Leach, Lu­cie Rie and Hans Coper. Rie and Coper are “my per­sonal gods”. But the name for his mu­seum of stu­dio ce­ram­ics, Quartz, was in­spired by Leach, who wrote that “quartz, raised to a red heat, quenched in wa­ter and ground to a pow­der, is a most valu­able ma­te­rial to pot­ters both in clays and glazes”.

“There are mu­se­ums in New Zealand that have col­lec­tions of pots, but you rarely see them,” notes Rudd. “There was nowhere where you could see a chrono­log­i­cal his­tory of New Zealand stu­dio pot­tery. And I wanted to set up a foun­da­tion that would en­cour­age, fos­ter and pro­mote New Zealand ce­ram­ics. I run the place on peanuts. I’m di­rec­tor, cu­ra­tor and cleaner.”

There are well over 400 pieces (and grow­ing) in the col­lec­tion, rep­re­sent­ing more than 150 lo­cal and al­most 50 in­ter­na­tional pot­ters, fo­cus­ing on “the movers and shak­ers of their time” and rep­re­sent­ing four dis­tinct pe­ri­ods. The early days, 1900-1960, with artists such as Jova Ran­cich, Briar Gard­ner and Olive Jones, are fol­lowed by 1960-1980, “the era of high­fired stoneware and do­mes­tic ware”, as in the work of Len Cas­tle and Doreen Blumhardt. The next 20 years were a time of “ex­per­i­ment­ing with bright colours, when we started break­ing the rules. And then there is the work of the new prac­ti­tion­ers, who have swept us aside.”

Uk-born Rudd earned a Di­ploma of Art and De­sign from Wolver­hamp­ton Col­lege of Art be­fore sur­ren­der­ing to wan­der­lust in his mid-20s and find­ing him­self in Whangārei, where he met the “scary” but fe­ro­ciously en­er­getic pot­ter Yvonne Rust. To­gether they set up a craft mar­ket, and Rudd be­gan his love af­fair with fire and clay.

Then came a decade amidst the bright lights and in­vig­o­rat­ing ce­ramic scene of Auck­land in the 70s and 80s, be­fore a move in 1985 to Whanganui, which re­minded Rudd of Great Yar­mouth in Nor­folk, where he was born. “A small town with a river and miles of sandy beaches,” he says. “New Zealand be­came home and Bri­tain be­came some­where else.”

Rick Rudd at Quartz mu­seum, where his own work is among a huge col­lec­tion of ce­ram­ics on dis­play. Right: “Dog­gomo­tive” by Barry Brick­ell (above) and “Wa­ter Logic” by Helen Yau.

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