Magazine Article – Ways of Living

ways of living

Dreamhouse for potters

by Kate Contos

BRUCE and Estelle Martin work silently in their roomy, airy pottery; Bruce pulling handles for cups, Estelle at one of three wheels.

Their work is brilliantly lit by sunshine and daylight, they need no artificial light even on the dullest days. There are no visual distractions – their view is of the countryside, a few kilometres south of Hastings.

The simple concrete block building in a setting of total peace exudes an atmosphere most creative people yearn for and never get.

“It has serenity,” as Estelle Martin puts it.

Photo captions –

Estelle and Bruce Martin take a break, in front of their pottery. On left is a showroom for finished pottery, centre is their workroom, on the right under a roof is a kiln.

Bruce and Estelle Martin at work in their pottery. Bruce pulls handles for cups, Estelle works at one of three wheels.


They have plenty of space to spread their work around, inside and out. An indoor storage area leads directly to a large outdoor kiln, roofed in. Pots ready for sale go into a small showroom a few steps away. The Martins can hold their annual pottery show right on their own lawn, setting up sun umbrellas, chairs, and a coffee tent.

It was lack of space that decided the Martins, five years ago, to leave their Pakowhai Road home and build “Kamaka’’. Plus the fact that they found it impossible, as potters, to comply with local by-laws preventing the combining of residential and commercial enterprise.

“To live away from your work is impossible,” says Bruce. “We cannot complete things in eight hours. We must return in the evening.”

With considerable difficulty, they found their present site at Bridge Pa, bought four hectares of land, and, as the soil is pumice and undesirable for agriculture, won a specified departure from the council.

“The code of ordinances has no provision for cottage industries such as ours,” points out Bruce. “But it will have to someday because more and more people are going into pottery, woodworking and weaving.”

Fifty steps behind the pottery is the Martins’ house which is of the same basic design and materials as the pottery.

There’s a ceramic figurine on the patio. Vases, jugs and trays line shelves at a kitchen window. A cupboard displays pottery plates and drinking vessels.

Serving morning tea at a round table, with yellow flowers in a pottery vase, the Martins bring out pottery cups, saucers and plates. “We

Photo captions –

ABOVE: Lounge.

BELOW LEFT: Finished pottery on display, for sale. “Kamaka”’ pottery.

BELOW: Looking from the dining area to the kitchen.


don’t like artificial things,” says Estelle.

The house itself has a pottery feeling no wallpaper, but unpainted concrete block; no carpeting, but smooth red patio tiles in every room. Colourful tiles over bathtub and hand basins.

Even the name of the place – ‘‘Kamaka” – means rock of stone. “There is no equivalent word in Maori for pottery because it didn’t exist,” explains Bruce.

Light floods in high narrow windows, filters through bright draperies, heightening the woody hues of polished rimu, kauri, totara and matai. The feeling of natural texture continues in Douglas fir ceiling beams, stained black.

Comfortable upholstered furniture and woven throw rugs add the soft touch.

The Martins say they had no fixed ideas about what they wanted in their new house except to ‘‘have as little maintenance and housework as possible,” hence no venetian blinds, no wallpaper, no carpeting.

Left to architect

They left it entirely to the architect, John Scott, of Haumoana. “We felt that an architect is like ourselves, trying to create something,” says Bruce. “We don’t like being restricted by people saying ‘We want this size, this colour, this everything.’ Surely an architect must feel the same.”

Estelle adds, “John builds for individuals and got to know us before he began on the plans. He’d drop in at our other house to see how we lived, what we liked to do.”

The house is small, the rooms cozy, intimate. Yet, as Estelle says, “There is a feeling of space. John builds on a human scale.”

The residence is in two facing parts, connected by a covered walkway the left section for the Martins’ three sons (now grown up and living away), the right section for the adults.

The idea of two separate buildings was born when the eldest son drove his parents crazy with high decibel amplification, so they had to banish him to a room over the garage.

At Kamaka, the boys were given their own lounge, bathroom and three tiny bedrooms, one with two beds.

“They could have their music and we could have ours,” says Estelle, “and everybody got together for meals. They loved it; and they love to come back. When you give kids freedom, they come over and sit with you more than you expect.”

Bruce adds, Teenagers have to have a place to bring friends without taking over the whole house, a place where parents don’t have to leave in order to be out of the way.”

“And it will work out in the future,” continues Estelle, “because when they’re married and have families, they can bring small children without disrupting anybody. It makes it possible to get together with them more often.”

Looking at the house and pottery, the unusual pitch of the roof, the high windows, Bruce says, “If we had been put into a place like this, we might not have accepted it so well. But watching it develop, seeing the different ways of doing things, we realized this was right for us.”

“It works,” Estelle sums up. “It really works.”

Photo captions –

Open day at “Kamaka” – the public can walk around and see a potter’s dream place.

Boys lounge.


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Magazine article

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  • Kate Contos

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