Newspaper Review Letter 2005 – Survey of two potters

Survey of two potters

In his review of “Kamaka: The Ceramics of Bruce and Estelle Martin” (Hawke’s Bay Today, October 12) Terence McKenna says the exhibition falls short of being a survey.

However it includes 90 pieces covering 40 years of work by the two potters. There are examples drawn from both periods of Bruce and Estelle Martin’s work on display; oil-fired pots from 1964-1982 and anagama-fired  ones from the following decade. As curator of the exhibition I worked closely with Bruce Martin to select pots that would give the show detailed retrospective coverage.

Mr McKenna writes that Japan and other Eastern countries served to revitalise Bruce and Estelle Martin’s work and that of other Western artists. Bruce and Estelle Martin did not seek to revitalise their previous work. They simply changed their firing method quite deliberately in order to follow an interest in anagama-fired Japanese tea ceremony wares. The Japanese interest is visibly there from the beginning. All of this was also clearly pointed out in the catalogue.

In Mr McKenna’s view their work is a little old-fashioned. Fashion is an irrelevance with regard to anagama-fired tea ceremony ceramics. They have been produced in the same way for hundreds of years and continue to be. However, today oil-fired domestic pottery from the 1960s and 1970s is keenly collected in New Zealand auction rooms. It is very much in fashion.

The reviewer describes Bruce Martin’s kanuta-shaped pot Crashing Waves as a small vase. It is not small, neither is it a vase. It is a sculptural piece. It did not slump during the firing; it was deliberately made like that.

Finally he implies that the questions about culture posed in the exhibition do not, however, stop it being enjoyable. One would think such questions would make an exhibition more, rather than less, enjoyable.

Peter Shaw

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Newspaper letter

Date published

1 November 2005

Creator / Author

  • Peter Shaw


Hawke's Bay Today


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


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