Craft Potters Nelson Inc is made up of a group of enthusiastic members who enjoy coming together to gain support and inspiration for their interest in pottery, to attend classes, use the rooms and enjoy social events. We encourage all persons interested in trying the craft to join one of our classes or just call in to explore what we have to offer. Our large bright building at Ranzau Road, Hope near Richmond (Nelson) has extensive facilities including:

  • 12 electric wheels
  • 4 electric kilns
  • 1 gas kiln
  • A raku kiln
  • A slab machine
  • Shelf space and large work tables
  • Prepared studio glazes slips and oxides
  • A library
  • A small kitchen and toilet
  • Gallery space for members work and exhibitions
  • WIFI access

Weekly classes with experienced tutors are offered from February to December for 4 terms. These take place on Wednesday mornings and may be attended by members or non members on a casual basis.

Craft Potters usually has four key workshop weekends during the year. These workshops are varied in content and taken by different potters from the Nelson region, each bringing his or her considerable talents so workshop potter learners can be exposed to and explore an extensive variety of pottery techniques.

We also offer classes to children in the school holidays.

Handbook

To download the Craft Potters Handbook 2016 please click here.

History

In 1973 an eager group were attending classes with Mirek Smisek at Nelson Polytechnic. The facilities and time available to them didn’t match their enthusiasm and some of the members decided to set up a working group of their own. Ngaire Hands and Ronnie Read placed an advertisement in the paper looking for premises and Diana Heatherbell at Zenith Orchard in Hope replied. A meeting was arranged and 20 people turned up. From this beginning Craft Potters became the first organised potters group in Nelson. In February 1974 they signed their charter as an Incorporated Society, the aims and objects being to foster the art and craft of pottery.

The group flourished and by 1975 had a membership of about 140, with a waiting list of about 50. First president was Ronnie Read. They rented a part of the orchard’s packing shed, the Waimea County Council gave them a specified departure to sell pots and a gallery for the members was opened. Waimea College provided the tutors, Ross Richards, John Crawford and Stephen Carter, and later Justin Gardner. Over the years there have been many tutors and day and weekend schools have also contributed to the wide range of pots made by members. The classes were an extension of Adult Education and the group received some funding from the Provincial Arts Council and the Waimea County Council.

Their annual exhibitions began in 1974 and in 1975 they had a working members section, invited Len Castle as their guest potter, and began to include the local professional potters. Sales were high, and interest great. In 1976 a good number of the Nelson members left the group to form Nelson Community Potters. The group continued to thrive and the annual exhibitions became an important event on the pottery calendar of Nelson, with most Nelson potters invited to exhibit, along with two featured guest potters, and members of the group.

Early on Bob Heatherbell built a double chamber diesel kiln that he hired to the club. This kiln became a great catalyst for members and was seldom cold. Many friendships were “fired” by the kiln as well as many hundreds of pots. In 1984 a celebration was held for the 600th firing and soon afterwards the kiln was dismantled and rebuilt at the new premises in a different form.

After ten happy and eventful years at Zenith, the orchard was sold and the club now decided what had been a vague aim to one day have a property of its own, was a necessity. Over 18 months searching for a suitable place to build began along with many fundraising activities. Eventually the Club was able to purchase, by Specified Departure, a 1/3 of an acre of land in Ranzau Road, Hope. A great deal of work was done by enthusiastic and dedicated Club members, raising money and building. An enormous amount of time was put in by Barry Savage, David Packer and the late Marjorie Johnston (the president at the time), with much support from Gordon Johnston who had the knowledge to deal with the various bodies necessary at the planning stages.

The club moved in to their own premises in 1984. Mr Gwyn Thurlow, Chairman of the Waimea County Council, officially opened the building on the night of the opening of the 11th exhibition. Mr Peter Rule, of the Central Regional Arts Council, opened the exhibition. Both these people represented the bodies that had made grants to the club. Apart from grants from the Lotteries Board and a small grant from the Waimea County Council, club members raised the money themselves. The building opened with a mortgage that was quickly paid off and the whole facility was debt free within two years.

In 2013 Craft Potters is still in good heart, thanks to always having a good hard-working band of members. The group’s membership has remained strong, and in fact is attracting new members. The membership has never again reached the numbers of the early years, but is around 40 people. In recent times the group has continued to put energy into increasing and diversifying its facilities, especially concentrating on its kiln firing facilities. There is now an efficient gas kiln, a modern raku facility, a small wood kiln and a new electric test kiln as well as the older electric kilns that are still in almost continuous use.

The Gallery area has been upgraded and is now an attractive display area, and the whole front car parking area has been sealed.

Only one weekly class is operating at present, but there are also in-house workshops and the group also caters for other groups within the community by running workshops or demonstrations.

Since 2008 Craft Potters are contracted by Otago Polytechnic to provide the facilities and tutor for a 2-year full (as well as part-time) Diploma of Ceramic Arts course which is supervised by Otago Polytech. Details on www.otagopolytechnic.ac.nz, but after having no students in the last few years, this course is no longer being hosted by us.

The gradual slowing of interest in the sales of work, and subsequent donations, has not so far threatened Craft Potters as a non-profit organisation. The group is still financially healthy, and subscriptions are still being held at a comparatively low level. Craft Potters now has some younger members coming forward to take up the reins from the older ones who were beginning to worry about the long tenancy. New blood brings with it new and creative ideas. It also augurs well for the group’s future as a valuable contributor to the world of pottery in Nelson.