It is with sadness that we farewell Helen Mason, potter, first editor of the New Zealand Potter and great friend and mentor of the craft/arts community.
Helen Mason’s involvement in the arts, from the early days of the studio pottery movement to her more recent endeavours, has become legendary.
Her early training typified education for potters in the 1950s: she attended pottery classes through a local technical school and bought a kiln from Elizabeth Matheson, which was later rebuilt by Barry Brickell.
Her passion for pottery changed, and shaped the direction of her life. From 1958 to 1967 she worked as editor of the magazine New Zealand Potter with a committee that initially included Doreen Blumhardt, Terry Barrow and Lee Thompson. The magazine captured the New Zealand pottery movement in its infancy and promoted information sharing and a sense of community amongst potters.
Helen Mason’s keen interest and support helped also memorialise the movement: her generosity included the funding of the 1962 film recording the visit of British potter Bernard Leach (in conversation with Barry Brickell and Len Castle). The gift of Helen’s archives to Te Papa in 2000 has become a record of a woman’s contribution to the arts from the 1950’s but that also captures her later endeavours – including work on behalf of the QEII Arts Council and the Tauira Toru Trust, Coromandel.
Helen Mason’s big heart, generosity and determination to make a difference can be summed up in her comment in 1968, ‘it is important for a potter to be in a community and to try and supply what the community needs’.
– Justine Olsen, Curator of Decorative Art and Design