Our story so far…

This project started in May 2014, when Charade and I moved out of Paeroa. We were lucky to find a north-facing hill, in an old mining town called Mackaytown, next door to the beautiful Karangahake Gorge, up a quiet road with existing tourist traffic. Our dream of setting up a pottery similar to what we saw in Europe years ago could now become a reality.
The consequences of living here soon hit us – it’s a wet part of the country, suffers from the occasional high wind event and the property was a tiny two bedroom cottage with a deck and ½ an acre of scrub and gorse. Our entire pottery studio contents, gas kiln, bricks and half the household goods had to spend a damp winter under leaky tarps. Our neighbour took pity on us and lent us space in her garage and I fixed up the back porch and closed it in making it a small, but warm studio for Charade.
DSC_1210My kiln was a pile of bricks at the bottom of the hill; most had survived being in two kilns before and so were very fragile. I built the kiln shed out of old bits and pieces of a garage left behind by the previous owner and started hauling bricks up the hill and re-building my wood soda kiln. Each brick needed cleaning, often grinding and although I thought I’d been clever when dismantling the kiln and stacking the sorted bricks on pallets, in reality it was a confusing jigsaw. The upside was it gave me a chance to do some engineering tweaks to my previous kiln design, like increasing the amount of metal work around the kiln. By December 2014 the kiln was mostly finished and I built a small lean-to off the kiln shed to house my gas kiln, finally getting it out of the weather.
Our game plan when we moved here (such as it was) started with the kilns – without them operational we couldn’t make a thing. Next I thought that a gallery/stockroom would be a quick summer project before I cracked into the studio build. The gallery took longer than I thought and ended up also costing a bit more – my ‘grand design’ in miniature. It was fun designing it, mostly fun building it and I’m happy with the way it turned out. A lick of paint on the outside before Christmas and our door will be open to every passing customer.
We have ploughed all our energy over the last 18 months into this land and it has rewarded us. We have modest gardens underway, tamed most of the lawns and scrub and improved our little cottage making it warmer and slightly less cluttered. I’m now underway with the studio build and hope to have some kind of shell up by Christmas. One pleasant surprise that our land has given us is clay, we’re sitting on a big pile of famous Coromandel terracotta that I’m increasing using in my pots, along with sand from the stream across the road.
Our goal for the future is to have a studio to make pots in. To teach others how to make vessels that function, that are made of the land, that relate to the food from the garden and serve as an enriching experience when used. We need an antidote to the bland and impoverished commercial crockery that is unashamedly about our place and our time.
What I have learnt along the way is to dream, to have a passion worth pursuing. To be prepared to work constantly at it, chipping away at the hundreds of tasks, but to stop every now and then to listen to the stream and the Tui.