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Best in show .. Timaru potter Pat Currie displays the bowl that gained her the supreme award at this year's South Canterbury Pottery Group exhibition. PHOTO: CLAIRE ALLISON

by Claire Allison

When Pat Currie watched New Zealand potter Paul Fisher in action in the 1970s, she had an epiphany.

“I saw him doing some work on the wheel and thought, ‘that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life!”‘

Fifty years later, Mrs Currie is still potting, and despite her years of experience, she is always learning and trying new things.

Her expertise saw her receive the premier award for one of her signature bowls at the “The Alchemists”, the South Canterbury Pottery Group’s 49th exhibition at The Aigantighe Art Gallery.

The exhibition features a wide range of works from local potters, both beginners and advanced, and includes work from guest artists Ian Dalzell (West Coast), Mandy Gargiulo (Nelson), and Marita Hicks and Dawn Dewar (both of Timaru).

Originally from Central Otago, Mrs Currie came to Timaru to go nursing, “found the right man” and never left.

Like many people in the 1970s, her pottery journey began with night classes at the local polytechnic, but she soon realised she wanted more, and became involved with the South Canterbury Pottery Group.

Married, with small children and a supportive husband who had his own passion of fishing, Mrs Currie said she had a lot of fun.

“There were a lot of members that were in a similar boat to me, all with small children and no money.”

In the early days, everyone was making domesticware cups, saucers and plates – and everything would sell.

“But in the 1980s, import restrictions were lifted and the market was flooded with cheap cups and saucers.”

Potters had to adapt, and turn their hand to other creative items, although Mrs Currie said she was seeing a revival of people wanting functional items, and valuing things that were handmade.

There had also been a surge in people wanting to take classes at the group’s White St studio.

“We can’t keep up with demand. We’ve gone from having one or two tutors to four.

“The place is being really well used,” she said.

Mrs Currie turned her hand to working with porcelain in the early 1980s, describing it as 100 times more difficult than working with clay.

“It’s like working with wet soap .. or butter.”

However, she liked a challenge, going from one thing to another, and had both clay and porcelain work in the exhibition.

“Your just keep on trying new things. That’s what keeps you going, really.

“You have an idea, and then have to work out how to make it work, that’s the thing.”

“The Alchemists” is at Aigantighe Art Gallery until October 17.