Pottery in Nelson is a planned series of small spotlight exhibitions on Nelson’s thriving potters and ceramicists.
Nelson has a long history of clay mining and brick building, with as many as four brickfields in existence in the Nelson region in the 1840s. However, it was not until the 1950s that studio pottery became established with the arrival of Czech Mirek Smisek, followed in the early 1960s by Harry and May Davis, who moved from Cornwall to settle at Crewenna, in Wakapuaka. Jack and Peggy Laird arrived soon after and set up Waimea Pottery, running an apprenticeship scheme providing work for local people, as well as a workshop environment for training young studio potters. This played a major role in introducing formally trained potters into the district.
The 1970s saw a big influx of new potters to the region from around the world. It was a time when many people were questioning society’s expectations and values and opting for a return to a basic self-sufficient life. Work was sold hot from the kilns, to a marketplace that valued the handmade.
The independent pottery groups, which played a major part in the development of pottery in Nelson, started at this time: Craft Potters Nelson first, followed by Motueka Pottery Workshop, Nelson Community Potters, and Nelson Potters Association.
Although the number of new potters dwindled in the 1980s and 90s, there was a noticeable increase in the number of visitors to the region, with greater emphasis placed on cultural tourism. The Nelson Potters’ Map The Tourist Guide to Nelson Potters, was an excellent promotional tool and visitors also made great use of the Nelson Regional Guidebook – Art in its Own Place, produced by the Nelson Bays Arts Marketing Network.