Meet The Maker: Five minutes with Mystery Creek Ceramics
Tucked away in the solitude of Kihikihi is small team driven by a dedicated ceramist, Alex Wilkinson, the founder of Mystery Creek Ceramics. Alex goes by many names, student, teacher, creator. Folding love into her tableware from a very impressive garden shed. Alex, Alex! You'll have to tell us! What the heck is Nerikomi!?
R: So, Whats's your name, and what do you do with your time?
My name is Alex Wilkinson. One of the things I do is work in Mystery Creek Ceramics! We are a small tableware business, and specialise in the art of Nerikomi, which is the folding of clay to make tableware, cups, bowls, plates. We have just started slip casting in what we call our sprinkle range, which is really exciting, and throwing! So I work as an artist, I'm currently studying, and I also teach.
How long have you been a ceramist?
Nearly eight years now. I took a night course at Waikato Society of Potters and just never looked back.
And now you teach there, right? When the student becomes the master!
Yes! I teach their diploma programme.
Now, our crushes community would love to know, how long does one mug take?
We have never done the time because we do a little bit, then stop, let it dry, then do a bit more. But what we do is stain the clay, turning it into a liquid. And that alone can take a couple of days on and off. We let it dry out again until it becomes what we call 'plastic again' so we can work with it. It sits in our wet cupboard (which is an old fridge) and then we roll it out into fat slabs, build up the block, turn the block on its side and slice it. So that process alone is for one colour mugs.
Then we slice it up, we call it slicing and dicing, our cute lil ceramic lingo for our studio. Running it on the slab roller, and cut out the template of the mug. We like to let it dry overnight to the point that we like to call 'leather hard'. Then we form it, usually leaving it overnight again, It will get a base and a handle, gets dry for a couple days, then takes a sponge bath to make sure all of the lines are as clean as possible, and all the sharp edges aren't there. Final stages are that the mug gets a bisque firing, that'll take three days, a glaze and then a final glaze firing, so thats another three days. So the one little mug hangs around our studios for about a month from start to finish.
That is so intense!
It's probably the hardest possible way to you find to make pottery
How many mugs can you put in the firing kiln at a time?
I would say about 100, so quite a few.
Do you own any of your own work?
Oh no, gosh that's boring. I collect other potters mugs, because if I collect my own work, I spend the entire time looking at it thinking "should have done the handle better' you know? So Kim Morgan, Paul Maseyk, those are my favourites at the moment, it shifts!
We would LOVE to see your mug collection! Do you think there will there be a time when you have made something you are proud of to own?
I think about this a lot, because in your own art practice, you're always striving for the perfect work. But I just don't think you arrive there, and that is kind of the point? It's just this like journey you go on where you make work, maybe you're happy with it for two days and then you're thinking "I could have done that better, I am going to do that again" But that's what makes us creators good and what makes this a lifetime worth journey. I don't think you will ever arrive but I think that's okay. You just go go go, but you go because there is something that drives you to make, and if you don't make then you cease to exist, it's just as simple as that really.
Can you paint me a picture of your studio?
Yes, So we are in Kihikihi which is kind of a small town next to Te Awamutu. We have this four bedroom home, if you come down the drive way, hidden behind the house are our two studios, it is quite a big studio. We were just so lucky, we bought it because there are so many sheds *laughs* two are mine and one is my partners, he's a welder so he builds kilns for me, which is just the best.
The main feature that is different from other studios is that it's insulated, a lot aren't and they are freezing! Then we have a garden shed that stores our chemicals.
Nice! I would say, it's not a farm eh?
Hmm, It's semi rural, big side section. You can see your neighbours but can't hear them.
What is the future for Mystery Creek Ceramics?
I actually don't know, It's gotten so big so fast. Really at this point we are just trying to play catch up, get all our ducks in a row. But one day, we will be bigger. Teaching is my ultimate passion and I do that currently for Waikato Society of Potters but I would like to do more of that. For Mystery, I think just an every changing range will be the thing, as to not get stuck on a set design
So it won't always be Nerikomi?
That process will always play an element, but we may at some point! Ditch the stripes for something else? Who knows?
Shop Mystery Creek Ceramics here, and help us continue to love and support local New Zealand businesses, just like Alex!