Seductive ceramics

Lyttelton’s Grace Uivel always felt a “deep pull” towards the ceramics craft. She talks with Julia Strelou about her journey and her art.

“I’ll never forget the feeling of trying the [pottery] wheel for the first time; it was like finding the love of my life,” says Grace. “I just had to figure out how on earth to make a life out of it.”

Grace studied art history and anthropology at university, but there was always a feeling of something missing. When she sought the tutelage of master potter Frederika Ernsten she found what she was looking for.

“She taught me that it wasn’t just about making a pretty object; she was teaching integrity in the craft, functionality, and expression.”

After training for six years, Grace made pottery her job, setting up Ata Ceramics, a teaching studio and shop, alongside fellow local potter Coralie Winn.

Its light-filled studio displays the beautifully handcrafted yet functional works of Grace and other local potters. All of the pieces are original, none the same, allowing art lovers to select a ceramic that speaks directly to them.

“Like a sculpture for everyday use, it should give you a feeling,” says Grace.

A diverse colour palette is on show. Feeling the intricate textures imparts a special knowing that each one was handcrafted by a local potter.

“A piece of pottery tells the story of its materials and its maker; it carries the hand of the potter who made it, each piece, even in a set, is unique,” she explains.

Grace’s work is inspired by the natural beauty and colour palette of Aotearoa. “I love the way imperfections and variations that exist in natural objects like rocks, wood, and leaves are often replicated on the surface of handmade pottery.”

Incorporating raw local materials such as wood, ash, and granite into the glazes and clay, Grace creates pieces that are at home in the landscape, and respect the planet as much as possible, while still being beautiful.

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