Monday, 13 August 2012

Chester Nealie at ASP

                                              CHESTER NEALIE’S A.S.P.DEMONSTRATION

Auckland Studio Potters was the place to be on Sunday 22nd July 2012. The weather was fairly rugged so a Chester Nealie demonstration (indoors)) was very welcome to the group who’d braved the elements.

The majority of people present were well positioned around Chester’s kick wheel, so it made for quite an intimate gathering. What was evident was Chester’s ease in a group situation, which made his explanation of technique and potting practice very easy to take in. 

His arsenal of tools was impressive and a few of the items laid out for use were...
A huge stainless steel knife, procured from the ASP kitchen drawers, a man-size gas powered flame thrower, 50mm in diameter, chopsticks and a shapely Westpac bank card.

There’s something about watching a potter throw a pot on a kick wheel, whether it’s the rhythm
of the pedal turning the wheel or the fact that the clay is rotating  slowly which in turn  makes it easier for a viewer to take in  the transformation from raw material into something tangible.
I can’t put my finger on it, but I think it makes learning a little easier and the business of potting more inviting than when the practice is shown on an electric wheel.

Chester talked of his day to day practice, admitting to finding throwing in the morning uncomfortable due to the temperature in the studio, so preferring to work on other tasks such as applying handles etc.  And getting his hands stuck into the clay later on in the day.

When the first pot was ready to be altered Chester cranked up the gas and ignited the vapour with one of those huge BBQ lighters.  Next came the whoosh of the blue flame and he was ready to cook.  After a few intense doses of heat, the flame was extinguished, leaving a steaming, shapely pot ready to be finished off with some tweaking, slicing and lugging.... 

Chester was quite honest about his approach to potting, admitting that he” doesn’t like to overwork a pot”.... but sometimes felt the urge to play with it and ultimately “bugger it up”.  I think all of us could identify with that confession, as we were all of different skill levels but the one common thread was the ability to play with and ultimately overwork our pots.
Once Chester’s pots were ready to work on he began faceting with the kitchen knife. Slicing, shaving and smoothing the base with a credit card. Finishing one vase with lugs, which were then pierced
with the chopstick.  (Check out the images.)

He talked of the pot as a blank canvas in need of working without over doing it, and that every touch, incision, addition made to it should have some kind of purpose or reason for being there. Otherwise it could appear contrived or unnecessary with the original vitality being lost in the process.

These demonstrations are so important for N.Z. pottery today, for us to see the creativity and passion still alive and evident in master potters of the type that Chester Nealie is one of.

To invite the public to see that we have a vital art form that is not ‘stuck in the 1970’s,’ but
in need of recognition and support from the business sector, galleries etc. Instead of purchasing
that $10.99 special for x5 bland, sterile, white (for example, but not always  the rule.) coffee mugs...
Spending a bit more on home grown, thrown and fired, highly individual studio made pieces.

Any person attending one of these demonstrations cannot help but be affected (in a positive way.) by the infectious passion, potters like Chester Nealie and others bring to our studio......
                                                    May the ‘Demo’s’ continue!!

By Guest Blogger: Mark Goody

Cleaning up the bottom with a section of credit card.