Paeroa based ceramic artist Duncan Shearer creates earthy, richly coloured pottery.
"I love to experiment with new clays and since moving to Rahu Road I have been using clay from my land – a rich, wild Coromandel clay. I respond to the different characteristics of the clays, seeking out qualities that I enjoy when throwing pots on the slow moving treadle wheel.
My firing methods of using a wood kiln and spraying a small quantity of soda ash solution in at high temperatures creates the variegated flashings and speckled glaze patterns – different on each piece. The combination of the clays and the firing process is why I get such rich surfaces on my functional work."
What initially drew you to create ceramics?
Although I was interested in pottery when I was a teenager and taken classes at the Auckland Studio Potters, it wasn’t until after I had returned from a year away on an OE that I decided on a change of direction. So I dumped the video editor job and enrolled in UNITEC on a four year ceramics degree - I realised that that I was looking for a tactile and permanent outlet for my creativity.
You are located in the beautiful bush setting of Rahu Road in Paeroa. How long have you been practising pottery here?
My partner and I moved here in mid 2014, but it took a few months to sort out a temporary studio, kiln shed and re-build my wood kiln. So it wasn’t until 2015 that we established Rahu Road Pottery. We’ve added a gallery, studio and other buildings over time as we establish our roots on this land.
You work with a wood fired kiln which creates gorgeous results with your ceramics, alongside this you experiment with different glazes and firing methods. Do you have a favourite technique that you enjoy working with?
My favourite technique is throwing with the slow moving treadle wheel and soft, plastic clay. Part of the appeal lies in the freedom, especially when making the one-off pieces, the way the clay moves through your hands and forms appear without much thinking. Using my wood kiln and various slips and glazes is a way of finishing my work that keeps a spontaneous and sympathetic quality to the forms.
What does a regular day in your studio look like?
It’s hard to have a regular day, I usually work in cycles of about 2 months. Making clay, throwing pots, preparing wood and the kiln, bisque, glazing, firing and cleaning up the work all happen in order. But I’m often away teaching or helping others with their kilns, so it’s a chaotic schedule.
You also teach ceramics from your studio. Is it satisfying seeing your students learning a new skill set and to see their enjoyment having created their own pottery?
I’ve taught ceramics for 20 years now and it’s great to be able to pass on what I’ve learnt to others. It also helps me clarify my own knowledge and develop as a potter. Seeing my techniques or glazes translated through a student’s work is always fascinating as it shows the potential of the ideas and technologies far more that what I use for my own work.
Lastly, do you have a treasured place either locally or anywhere in New Zealand?
I don’t really have a favourite place, I love the huge variety of landscapes that we have in New Zealand, Aotearoa and enjoy getting around the country whenever I get the chance.
To view Duncan Shearer's ceramic works, click here