To commemorate the life of the late New Zealand potter Peter Stichbury our curator of art and design Justine Olsen looks back over his life’s work.
It is with great sadness that we farewell Peter Stichbury – the last of the Leach generation of New Zealand studio potters. Equally at home behind his wheel or firing the kiln, Peter was first introduced to pottery in 1948 at Teachers’ College when Gordon Tovey’s scheme encouraged bringing art and craft to schools. His pottery making was rudimentary to begin with but was later enhanced under the eye of R.N. Field who brought the words of Bernard Leach to life. In the days where kiln building was yet to be refined in New Zealand, pots were strategically fired at Crum Brick, Tile and Pottery Company in New Lynn where salt glazing brought out fabulous streaky accidents as in the work below.
Teaching became a forte for Peter – first at Ardmore Teachers College then later through the Auckland Studio Potters. However, in 1957 a New Zealand Art Societies fellowship led him to refine his craft at Leach Pottery in Cornwall. Nigeria followed, and was to become a turning point in Peter’s practice. It was here that he worked under the British potter Michael Cardew, who was to remain a strong inspiration through Stichbury’s life. Brown Abuja slips, blue chun earthy glazes and techniques like the screw top mechanism were motifs that endured from his time in Nigeria.
Peter’s philosophy was drawn from the importance of local clay, a love of the potter’s wheel and the thrill of firing the kiln. He was a domestic potter first and foremost, imbued with the desire to make functional yet beautiful ware. He continued to do so until his retirement about 2005.
Our condolences to Peter’s family and friends.
Justine Olsen, Curator of decorative art and design
If you would like to explore more of Peter Stichbury’s work in our collection check out Collections Online.