Three ceramicists who are kiln-ing it in the pottery world

By Craig Beardsworth

Featured in Capital #39.

This is part of Capital’s 10 year birthday retrospective, where we look back at some of our favourite stories over the past decade. To read an update of this story, see issue #90 of Capital.

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Mass production has made our lives easier – it’s become progressively easier to buy affordable merchandise, easier to feed and easier to clothe people, but there is a groundswell of support for the honesty and inimitability of a handmade thing.

Whether to preserved peaches or to hand-knitted jerseys, we are returning to the handmade and revelling in its personalised simplicity. Craig Beardsworth looks at some of the changes happening in Wellington.

Ceramics are also being embraced – pottery classes and workshops are popular again, and again artists are being drawn to clay. Domestic ware is big. Several cafes and restaurants in the region routinely serve up their creations in handmade plates and bowls. 

Felicity Donaldson takes tableware commissions from cafes and restaurants. She supplies them with white stoneware, which she makes using slump moulds. She also makes pots, planters, and vessels, and runs workshops in her Brooklyn studio. Her brand Wundaire sprouted after she completed a beginners’ course at Auckland Studio Potters. After several years of working two jobs and potting into the night, making ceramics has evolved into her full-time work. Mug Mates is another initiative of Donaldson’s. Subscribers can sign up and receive a new mug by each of four potters annually. The four are delivered over four months. All different, they are curated to complement each other.

Another potter who has blown into Wellington and put down roots is Sue Dasler. The Nelsonite with 25 years’ potting experience moved into her Lyall Bay studio four years ago, and has noticed a surge of interest in handmade ceramics. “I get a lot of young people wanting to learn and buy – I think they’re all sick of all the mass-produced stuff and want something with a bit of substance and meaning.”  She thinks the renaissance in potting is linked to the craft beer movement “People are more conscious of where things are sourced from and tell a bit if a story. You feel more of a connection.” She suggests that the trend is a reaction to a world full of digital, virtual commodities. “People want to commit to something actually physical. Even macramé is coming back into fashion!”

The Wellington Clay Collective Is another enterprise establishing a presence here. Still is in its infancy, the collective is the brainchild of Wellington ceramic artist Maia McDonald who wants to establish a professional studio environment for clay artists in the capital. Her idea, she says, is to allow them to “move out of spaces that are used heavily by the public and into a space shared by people who wish to make a career from their clay work.”  McDonald has grand plans for the collective. “The dream would be to have a very small number of private studios and one communal area for the running of workshops, the crowning jewels would be our very own large kiln and a small gallery.” 


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