Wellington Scoop

NewDowse: renowned potters in “best of” Blumhardt collection

Media release – NewDowse
Dame Lucie Rie and Kawai Kanjiro are just two of the internationally renowned potters whose work is featured in Best of the Blumhardt, a celebration of the life and vision of Dame Doreen Blumhardt. The exhibition opens on 4th September at TheNewDowse and features a selection of the ceramics collected by Blumhardt over a period of 60 years.

Included in the show are works by Japanese potters Arao, Fujiwara Kei, Tomimoto Kenkichi, Kawai Takeichi, Hamada Shoji, Shimaoka Tatsuzo and Takahashi Rokusai; and New Zealanders Harry and May Davis, Len Castle, Peter Stichbury, Muriel Moody and Mirek Smisek.

A selection of Doreen’s own work is a highlight of the exhibition which also marks the first anniversary of her death on 17th October.

Well-known as a passionate potter and a generous arts educator, Dame Doreen Blumhardt was an inspirational force throughout her lifetime and continued creating in her studio well into her 90s. Following her death, her entire collection, of ceramics, books and ephemera, was gifted to The Blumhardt Foundation, which she founded as an advocate for the decorative arts. According to Doreen’s wishes, her significant collection of pottery was offered to TheNewDowse, from which around 120 works were incorporated into TheNewDowse collection. A selection of these pieces, curated by Leanne Wickham in consultation with The Blumhardt Foundation, make up the Best of the Blumhardt..

Doreen played an instrumental role in New Zealand‘s pottery movement from the 1950s. A passionate, experimental potter and an avid traveller, she frequently returned from her travels abroad with boxes of ceramics from Japan, Petra and Mexico to share with other enthusiasts. She also encouraged celebrated international potters, such as Bernard Leach from England and Kawai Takeichi and Hamada Shoji from Japan, to present workshops here.

The Potters:

Dame Lucie Rie was one of Britain’s most eminent potters with her trademark elegance in shape and form making a huge impression in the post war years. Blumhardt purchased her work through retailer Stocktons in Wellington.

Auckland potter Peter Stichbury shared Doreen’s passion for teaching. Blumhardt’s friendship with Stichbury led her to acquire works made in the 1950s and 60s, when Stichbury was taught by Bernard Leach at St Ives (1958) and Michael Cardew at Abuja, Nigeria (1958-59). English potter Michael Cardew was also taught by Bernard Leach and Stichbury introduced Doreen and him during his visit to New Zealand in 1968.
Wellington potter Muriel Moody was the first president of the New Zealand Society of Potters. Moody showed a preference for ceramic sculpture rather than domestic ware and her work reflects an interest in Picasso and the shaped heads and fluid movements of Middle Eastern and Asian human forms.

Len Castle was one of New Zealand’s foremost potters. Doreen helped teach him to centre clay on the wheel at Wellington Teachers College. Like Doreen, Castle visited Japan and other important centres of pottery around the world. Harry and May Davis established Crewenna Pottery in Nelson in 1962 following their move from Crowan Pottery in Cornwall. Crewenna produced domestic pottery specialising in stoneware thrown from the potters’ wheel and decorated in brushed wax resist patterns. The couple were fellow travellers of Doreen.

Mirek Smisek’s work is renowned for its high quality wheel thrown shapes and salt glazing. Born in Czechoslovakia, Smisek moved to New Zealand in 1951 and in 1956 set up his own studio in Te Horo, becoming one of New Zealand’s first full-time potters.

Honoured as a “National Living Treasure”, Kawai Kanjiro is a highly significant Japanese master potter who in the 1920s, with Hamada Shoji, Yanagi Soetsu and Tomimoto Kenkichi, led the Mingei folk art movement in Japan, a craft philosophy that signalled a move back to traditional materials and glazes. Tomimoto Kenkichi was also acknowledged for his inventive patterns on porcelain, which is an esteemed material in Japanese Culture.

Blumhardt visited Japan in 1962 and met Hamada Shoji in Mashiko. His thrown and moulded shapes strongly influenced her and have been upheld as iconic 20th century pieces. Hamada came to New Zealand in 1965 and gave a number of demonstrations for Doreen’s students at Wellington Teachers’ College. Kawai Takeichi was Kawai Kanjiro’s nephew and was taught by him. Doreen visited Kawai when in Japan in 1962 and Kawai came to Wellington two years later. Kawai and Doreen formed a strong working relationship, demonstrating at venues including Wellington Teachers College.

In 1962, Doreen also visited Takahashi Rakusai in Shigaraki, one of the great pottery areas in Japan, as well as Fujiwara Kei, another of Japan’s master potters, also designated a National Cultural Treasure. Doreen lived in the Fujiwara family home and worked in the pottery with Kei’s son Yu who explained the processes to her. Also on this trip, Doreen met Arao and spent time working with him at his home in Kyoto. Shimaoka Tatsuzo, a former apprentice of Hamada, became famous for his signature rope impressed inlay patterns and Doreen acquired some of his works during a visit to his workshop in Mashiko. Shimaoka was awarded the status of Living Treasure of Japan in 1996.

Best of The Blumhardt
Selected works from the Doreen Blumhardt bequest

4 September – 17 October 2010
TheNewDowse | FREE ENTRY

1 comment:

  1. Polly, 1. September 2010, 22:19

    And to think Wellington was offered the Doreen Blumhardt collection to go in the ground floor of the Chaffers Dock development (along with the Printing Press Museum) but was turned down by the Mayor and a number of councillors at the time who said Wellington could not afford another museum. This would have been a great waterfront drawcard for Wellingtonians and visitors. What an irony that seven of the eight ground floor retail units in the Chaffers Dock complex have sold under valuation in a mortgagee sale.