The next exhibition in The Hive at The Mandarin Tree features ceramic artist Christine Whiteley. She tells Annette Taylor how she become involved in art and why it’s important not to worry about the rules.
Where are you from, and what is your background?
I was born in Rotorua and brought up in a farming family. I loved animals and did the vet nurse certificate when I left school. After three years travelling in Europe doing vet nursing, polo pony groom and pub work, I returned to New Zealand with an English husband. We came to Hamilton so I could do a science degree and after a stint at Ruakura research station I went to Waikato Hospital in Cardiology as a physiologist – still there, four days a week, 31 years later!
I studied landscape design at Wintec about 10 years ago and I am the designer for Landmark Design, doing about one plan per fortnight.
Where are you based now?
We bought one acre in Eureka when the children were young and continue to enjoy the rural location.
How did you get started in art?
About 6 years ago I took my daughter to pottery classes at Boys High and I found a passion for sculpturing clay.
When do you work?
I do my ceramic work when I’m at home – mainly evenings and weekends. Fortunately I have a very supportive husband who cooks and house cleans for me.
Could you describe your work.
My ceramics are all hand sculptured; I love creating things and I take my inspiration mainly from the garden. I have decided to make floral objects my focus as it fits with my landscaping interests as well. My work is simple – I like a clean finish and my glazing is uncomplicated. I ensure it is easy and practical to install in the home or garden and I like to deliver pieces in secure and attractive packaging.
How did you art career progress?
Initially I gave my work away – easy Xmas and birthday gifts – mum loved everything I made!
I used the facilities at Waikato Society of Potters until I decided to invest in my own little hobby kiln.
When my very supportive friend Rowan had her garden in the Dio garden day 2015 she installed me as the ‘Artist in the Garden’ – I had to create saleable pieces, this was my first public appearance and it was hugely successful.
Now Claudia sells my work as fast as I can make it.
What challenges do you face?
Working on a small bench in a busy cluttered family garage and storing pieces safely while they dry without getting knocked and broken. Then storage of finished pieces and packaging – my daughter’s empty bedroom has come in handy.
The kiln has always been a bit scary as it reaches 1200 degrees and when it breaks down who is going to fix it? And yes, last night when full of fragile exhibition pieces my kiln decides to fail!
What have you got coming up?
The present – this poppy exhibition at The Mandarin Tree has kept me busy for the last few months. I have enjoyed doing a large installation, made up of over 200 flowers. I would love to do more large installations – I like making things repetitively, creating an efficient production line – it’s therapeutic, like knitting or stitching.
In the future – with the recent passing of my mum I believe there is a place for ceramic flowers in hospitals and in cemeteries.
What is your advice for someone starting out?
Just do what you love, don’t be concerned with rules just try things and discover for yourself.
There are successes and failures – just learn and move on. The Waikato Society of Potters have good facilities, many different classes for all levels and they have some kind members that are happy to help.
- Poppies for Anzac 2017 by Christine Whiteley, opens on 8 April at 1pm and runs until 25 April. The Mandarin Tree is at 1035 Gordonton Rd, phone 027 777 8733.