Bringing beauty from clay is the focus of Lake Hawea potter Melanie dos Remedios.
Originally from Australia, she came from an artistic family.
‘‘My mother was a practising artist for some time and my stepfather used to do cartoons for magazines and newspapers.
‘‘My mum was also an art model so I used to go along to classes and draw her naked.’’
When she was young, dos Remedios entered many painting competitions ‘‘and got quite a few prizes but it wasn’t my forte’’.
When she met her husband the realm of pottery opened up for her.
‘‘His mother and grandparents are all involved in potting, so it is a little bit like a family extension, but I’ve married into the family — so, hopefully, one of my children might take it up.’’
Pottery was very tactile, and the soft and pliable clay meant ‘‘you are really only restricted by your imagination’’.
Each clay type had unique properties to understand — ‘‘how long it takes to dry, whether it is going to crack’’.
But once she understood the different types, ‘‘I can express myself in many different ways’’.
Being part of an ancient craft was very grounding, dos Remedios said.
‘‘Once the clay goes through the firing process it turns from being mud, clay, into a ceramic piece.’’
‘‘You can make it usable or functional or sculptural by adding another element.’’
The raw materials were mostly imported, but one of her missions this year was to find some ‘‘wild clay — some local clay and just do some tests on it and find out what firing range it is in, and find out what glazes fit’’.
‘‘But most clays in New Zealand are imported,’’ dos Remedios said.
Since moving to Lake Hawea, dos Remedios has encouraged others to try pottery.
‘‘I felt it really important to try to make a community of potters, and there are so many who want to learn the craft and have a go.’’
Taking on students by donation, she has shared her skills with others, and they meet regularly to share and discuss their work.
‘‘So now we’ve got this little community, which is really beautiful.’’