Potter’s wheel comes full cycle

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Working as a potter is a return to the ’70s for Robert Franklin, of Bannockburn, but he now has a fresh perspective.

“I came to ceramics in about 1974 when my wife and I were in Oamaru with a young family.”

Over the next 10 years they ran a “semi-commercial” operation, supplying seven shops with their creations.

They moved away from pottery after that, focusing on family, and Mr Franklin established a career in banking and finance.

Mr Franklin and his wife retired to Central Otago and four years ago a love of ceramics resurfaced when a friend encouraged Mr Franklin to “get back on the wheel”.

Since then, he has rediscovered his love of ceramic art, and from his small studio and gallery at his home he creates pieces that show a deep love of the craft.

“It was very strange because it was as though nothing had ever stopped really in my mind – the ideas and pots just poured out of me.

“In some way it had been storing up inside of me all those years.”

The artistic community in Central Otago meant he could connect with other artists, Mr Franklin said.

“There are a lot of artists, well-known artists that live here.

“If you get deeply involved in the ceramic world it is all encompassing, it takes over your thinking. The art world is like that.”

The process of creating was “a very satisfying thing to do”.

“You start off with a piece of mud and end up with a thing of beauty, if you are lucky.

“Basically you take this piece of clay and by the way you manipulate it you create something.”

A sense of history influenced his work, as pottery had been a part of human activity “since the beginning”.

“It is the only way that people from the Stone Age right through were able to contain their food.”

The process of creating had not changed much, although some of the tools had become easier, Mr Franklin said.

“When I first started I built my own kick-wheel out of an old car fly-wheel and one thing and another.

“It never worked very well, it was difficult to use, but way back when people didn’t even have that, they just used to have a round stone on the ground which they might have turned around and used that to get some circularity in the pot.

“Nothing changes and nothing is necessarily new. It is all about the ideas of how you do it. ”

Influences for Mr Franklin included raku, a type of low-firing process inspired by traditional Japanese pottery, and saggar firing which used different stains and metal oxides to create dramatic effects and colours.

Experimentation with different surface treatments to stoneware, earthenware and porcelain gave his pieces a unique and individual quality.

“Every pot I make is experimentation and trial and error.

“If you are going to be a ceramicist now you have got to be different.

“In other words you have got to be creating pieces that are worthy of being looked at as art pieces.”

VIDEO: www.thenews.co.nz

Signature style . . . At work at his potter’s wheel is ceramic artist Robert Franklin, of Bannockburn. PHOTOS: SIMON HENDERSON