Newspaper Article 1996 – Coloured by fire

Coloured by fire

By Theresa Garner

Two Hawke’s Bay potters who no longer pot have had work accepted in the 1996 Fletcher Challenge Ceramics Award.

And Bridge Pa couple Bruce and Estelle Martin might well be winners again in the future, thanks to the enormous firing- power of their now-disused wood-burning kilns.

After the last firing of their small anagama kiln last year, the Martins were left with hundreds of pots, which will take years to sell.

They will “take one off the shelf” to enter next year.

The Martins’ unusual pottery has given them years of success in the prestigious ceramics award.

Out of 11 years of entering, Estelle has had work accepted six times and Bruce, seven.

This year the international competition attracted 975 entries from 47 countries, of which 165 were accepted for exhibition.

“Our pots have a unique quality that comes from the extended wood firing in the anagama (kiln),” Estelle said. “This quality seems to appeal to the judges.”

“The natural colours of anagama pottery blend with and enhance the colours of nature in a way that cannot be achieved with any other type of firing.”

The work they produce is alien to most people’s perception of pottery, Estelle said. She brings out an example of a rugged stone pot in the Japanese tea ceremony style. “Some people can’t abide it,” Estelle said with a smile. “It takes a while for people to accept what it is.”

Bruce Martin’s work Of Melting Ice, and Estelle Martin’s work Sundance, pictured above, were fired in a wood-burning kiln.

There are two kilns dug into the ground on their property – a large one built after the Martins visited Japan in 1978, and a smaller-dimensioned “baby kiln”.

The Martins gave up using their large kiln six years ago, after the physical effort of firing it became too much. “We ran out of steam,” Bruce said.

Firing the kiln was a mammoth annual exercise that required 25 tonnes of wood, and two teams of stokers working 12 hour shifts for nine to ten days.

The kiln held a thousand pots, which were not glazed, but were coloured by the flame, woodash and smoke from the long firing at 1300degC.

The baby kiln was last fired in July last year.

The Martins could continue potting and use electricity and gas to fire their work, but they have no desire to do so as anagama is the style they love.

The award exhibition, judged by Canadian potter John Chalke, opens tomorrow at the Auckland Museum.

Photo captions –

ESTELLE and Bruce Martin, and their anagama kiln, the only one of its kind in New Zealand.

OF MELTING ICE . . . strong geometric forms.

Original digital file


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Newspaper article

Date published

24 July 1996

Creator / Author

  • Theresa Garner


The Daily Telegraph


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today

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