Sarah lives in one of the most idyllic places on the planet on Great Barrier Island. The island is only a 35 minute flight from Auckland but it is light years away from city life. When she was 17, recognizing the uniqueness of Shoal Bay she set her sights on buying a piece of land from her family and 12 years later she took ownership. Her dream was to be a successful potter. I’m not sure when she fulfilled her dream but now as a mother of a teenage daughter and younger son there is no doubt about her success.
Sarah’s studio in Shoal Bay is easily found near the Tryphena Wharf nestled amongst Nikau and fern alongside a gentle stream home to hundreds of tiny glow worms. Recently she had a bridge constructed to a secret bathhouse in the bush. Rustic or romantic(purely functional Sarah says!) you decide. She has a small character filled, self contained unit where you can escape the city for a day or a month. The room has a mosaic floor and other artistic curios adorning the walls and a large tree trunk is the centrepiece of this room full of quaintness. for enquiries contact Go Great Barrier and ask about ‘The Gallery’
In her studio Sarah throws pots and runs two gas kilns and a wood fired kiln – producing a wide range of domestic ware, tile work and hand built sculptures. The entire studio is a treasure trove of ‘stuff’ shared with a few friendly spiders and outside two fat goats help avoid lawn mowing duties.
I was inspired by Sarah’s enthusiasm and dedication and put a few questions to her.
Sarah, when did you decide to make pottery your career? and do you have any formal training?
I went to Carrington Polytech in 1990 to study interior design. As often happens in that environment where you are exposed to a wide variety of materials and techniques, I deviated from my path into design, having been captivated by ceramics. For the last 2 of my 4 yrs there I majored in clay.Returning to the Barrier the year after I graduated to build a studio on my fathers front lawn.Having felt the stigma of ‘stepping back from design to craft’ I was not setting my sights on being a ‘wealthy potter’Rather I was certain that I just needed to have a space where I could make stuff to my hearts content, and if that meant struggling forever to make ends meet then so be it
Have you won any major awards for your pottery/stoneware?
I have found that I manage to make a living mostly selling direct from my studio, as a result I am very complacent about entering into award competitions.However I did grab a couple of mugs off my shelf in 2009 to pop into the mug show at Lopdell House, Titirangi as I happened to be in town at the right time, And was honored to be awarded ‘Best mug in show’
Have you kept your first ever piece or didn’t you realise that would become a treasure?
I have kept one of my first pieces I made on the wheel and it is great to bring out when I am teaching someone to throw…. saying ” don’t give up…. see how bad my first one was!!”
Like your daughter you also went to boarding school at Epsom Girls in Auckland but you are an original Barrier girl. Were you born on the Island?
I was born to the island, coming home at 2 weeks old on Sea Bee Air.
What did your parents do on the island?
My Dad came here to retire in 1966, meeting my mum a couple of years later as she backpacked around and had 2 more children of which I’m the youngest.
You seem to have numerous projects on the go – how do you decide which one to start on every morning?
I have too much to do so I do what I want, usually motivated by what is inspiring me most at the time, although in saying that I’m currently working through quite a long order list so that takes priority…. and yes the lawns are being avoided.
Above is the outdoor bath and her new project is the bridge access.
What is your motivation?
I think I have the best job in the world, I get to create in a wonderful environment and can juggle it around family commitments. It is very seasonal so while I am flat out over summer there is a fabulous off season when I can sink my teeth into other projects.
Many young artists would be envious of your studio and space not to mention your success. What advice would you give to a young enthusiastic artist?
just start….. many things in the beginning were a bit daunting in particular the logistics of getting everything to and from the Island. As I look back I recognize things that used to be a challenge and now are second nature.
So next time you are on Great Barrier Island collect a gallery directory from i-Site and explore until your hearts content!
PS Say hello to Sarah and her goats!!