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A New Plymouth artist casting her mark in clay

From cakes to pottery, Juliet Larkin’s studio in Moturoa is a place to savor clay.

The expansive space underneath Tiger Town Café used to be Anderson’s Pies’ production kitchen, but is now filled with organic, almost science-fiction-flavored clay sculptures, a few functional pieces, including bowls, mugs and mugs, and bold ceramic earrings. .

There are four ceramic wheels he uses for lessons, two ovens, one his grandfather used for enamel, a printing machine that belonged to his grandmother, a selection of hand-made inks and drawing books.

“There’s definitely a clay pattern appearing and reappearing in my life, as if I’m not done yet.”

For the first time, Larkin will open his studio for the Taranaki Arts Trail from October 28 to November 6.

She is one of 79 artists on the route, which runs alongside the 10-day Taranaki Garden Festival with 43 entries and the Taranaki Sustainable Backyards Trail, with 30 properties.

The New Plymouth potter artist was introduced to clay by a Dunedin neighbor when she was four or five.

“Artist Zuna Wright invited me and other neighborhood kids to make clay animals on her kitchen table,” says Larkin.

Larkin's second experience with clay was as a teenager in night school.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

Larkin’s second experience with clay was as a teenager in night school.

When she was 15, Larkin and a friend took an evening clay hand-building class – the couple had previously attended polytechnic silver jewelery evening classes.

At the end of the dirt path, they freed themselves from the unwanted works.

“We took all of our ugly parts and tore them up outside in an old parking lot. There is a nice relief when you destroy the pottery.

In the early 1990s, he studied for a Diploma in Fine Arts at Otago Polytech, specializing in sculpture.

She also made some ceramic modules and enjoyed doing raku firing and working with heat and fire, including soldering and soldering.

In the mid-1920s Larkin spent two years in Japan teaching English and joined a small group of neighborhood pottery.

“The teacher was this 80-year-old old man who had been a prisoner of war,” he says.

“Japan was where I learned to work behind the wheel and fell in love with pottery, met great people and was welcomed into a community.

“There were all kinds of people in that class, from truck drivers to students to moms.”

Before pottery, Larkin worked in journalism and communications.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

Before pottery, Larkin worked in journalism and communications.

Returning to New Zealand, she sporadically produced pottery at the Invercargill Pottery Club and then moved to Taranaki in 2012 (after living in the region in 2000-2002).

Since the early 2000s, Larkin has followed a path in writing and journalism and then in communication and public affairs.

But the clay continued to haunt her.

In 2021, she was fired from her communications role at Methanex in northern Taranaki and had time to stop and ask herself, “What do I want to do?”

For a couple of years he had been teaching wheel classes at the New Plymouth Pottery Club and loved it.

The answer became clear: “Do a little, I’ll do more, do what makes me feel good.”

“This” is his studio full of art, full of light and promise. “This place looks perfect to me.”

In addition to dedicating himself to the art of making, he spends two days a week working as a communications consultant for Wild For Taranaki, Tō Tātou Taiao – Maranga Papatūānuku, an organization dedicated to restoring, improving and protecting Taranaki’s unique biodiversity.

While making dinnerware, Larkin says she is not a production potter.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

While making dinnerware, Larkin says she is not a production potter.

Fit and energetic, she loves the outdoors, especially surfing, climbing, ski / ski touring and running.

In his studio, Larkin also focuses on the environment by recycling clay and water and never puts clay or glazed water in the cap hole.

Making with clay, especially working on the wheel, is a calming process for the artist.

“When you’re fully in the flow, you’re not thinking much,” he says.

“You are so absorbed in work that nothing else exists. I think it’s just a sense of still time, you’re not thinking too much, you’re not full of thoughts, (it’s) a kind of well-being and joy.

Laughing, Larkin explains that he isn’t always happy.

“I can have a bloody awful day behind the wheel and you don’t get it (the flow).

“I’m definitely not a production potter,” she says.

But she enjoys making tableware and appreciates using and connecting with hand-made pieces rather than mass-produced ones.

“I think we don’t value objects in general,” he says.

“We are disconnected from how things are made and this is part of our disposable society and the environmental problems the planet is facing.

“When you create things, whether it’s sewing, knitting or cooking from scratch, we start evaluating things more.”

Larkin's focus right now is hand-built sculptural pieces.

VANESSA LAURIE / Stuff

Larkin’s focus right now is hand-built sculptural pieces.

The mother of two points to a table made for her by husband Greg Larkin and son Harrison, which she fully appreciates because it was built from scratch.

“At the moment I am focused on my hand-built sculptural pieces. I like to push myself as far as possible, but that means I have total failures, “she says, picking up a big job that failed in the oven.

“For now, clay is my primary medium, although I’m interested in other materials. I am interested in the materiality of the objects, which informs my work. I’m not interested in making pretty objects.

Daughter Sylvia would agree with that.

In December 2021, Larkin was named Supreme Winner of the 48th Annual New Plymouth Potters Show, featuring a large hand-rolled bowl, which took two weeks to prepare during the block.

“My daughter said it was the worst thing she had seen in her life.”

But for the potter, the bowl represents growth and change.

“The making, building things by hand, throwing on the wheel or just a variety. It’s about seeing your ideas realized. “

Sometimes those creative thoughts come at weird times, especially at night when he’s in bed.

“I have to get up and write things down, otherwise too much comes to mind.

“The ideas have been going on for a long time and now I just need to go ahead and do a body of work and then do a show.”

Local treasures

For brunch, lunch or dinner by the sea, head to the Gusto Restaurant Café and Bar in Port Taranaki. When the tide is high, you may be able to see stingrays gliding as you feast on seafood, top-notch burgers or eggs Benedict, or enjoy a plate while sipping coffee, cocktails, wine or craft beer. Open seven days at 31 Ocean View Parade, New Plymouth.

Sentiments Flowers is a place for blooms, gifts and cards, centered around New Zealand grown flowers and Kiwi products. Found in the Moturoa mall, the longtime florist is the perfect place to find those extra goodies, including candles, soap, bath salts, jewelry, wall art, books, and candy. Open Monday to Saturday at 502 St Aubyn St, Moturoa, New Plymouth.

For high-end second-hand clothing, the Moturoa Shopping Center is the place to visit. It houses three such shops: August Pre-loved Boutique, specializing in New Zealand and Australian labels, The Style Counsel, which describes itself as “New Plymouth’s most stylish and fun pre-loved shop” and Petals Pre-loved, a place to find treasures.

• This story is published as a collaboration between the Taranaki Daily News and the TAFT charitable arts festival.

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