Felicity Donaldson outside her Greytown studio. All photos by Anna Briggs for Your Home and Garden Magazine, see more online
It's been a while since a Meet the Maker post, but now they're back because now, more than ever there is nothing more important than connecting to those who make the things you own. Why is that? As consumers, we have the ultimate power to determine via our spending how companies and brands manufacture their products. Manufacturing process affects the environment, the health and wellbeing of people and, ultimately, that comes full circle to affect us directly. By being mindful of who you buy from you are also looking out for your future.
Today we chat to Felicity Donaldson of Wundaire who is based in Wellington, New Zealand. We were long-time admirers of Felicity's colourful creations long before Mrkt existed, she has a unique style and is a standout modern ceramicist creating functional pieces that also satisfy us aesthetically. Wundaire products are beautifully weighty, all made my hand and can't help but make you happy as you finish your dish only to find pops on rainbow colours left behind.
1. Can you tell us about your ceramic journey and how you came to be a ceramicist?
When I lived in Auckland back in 2014, I had a great apartment on Karangahape Road, in which I had accumulated a lot of houseplants. After failing to find pots I liked decided to do a ten-week course at Auckland Studio Potters Association and learn to make my own. I started making pots at home at my kitchen table, initially just for myself, and then six months later I moved to Bethells Beach on the West Coast so I could have a house with a garage which I turned into a home studio with my first kiln. I loved this little house by the sea, and it allowed me to experiment more. I took on my first collab and worked three jobs pretty much day and night, now six years on I'm full-time ceramicist (aside from also being a stay at home mum to 2 boys).
2. You live in Greytown, which is a beautiful small town outside of Wellington in New Zealand. Are you someone who finds that their creativity is reliant on a certain kind of surroundings, or are you inspired no matter where you are?
Moving to Greytown meant we could buy a house and purpose build a studio, now on to my fourth studio, I had a good idea of what and how I wanted it to be. Creativity can be found anywhere, often ideas come to me at times outside of the studio, but it is nice to have a bright orderly space in which to explore making or building and to refine previous concepts.
3. Tell us more about your space, do you have your own kiln? What are some of your favourite things about where you work?
I deliberated for so long about what colour to paint the floor of the new studio in Greytown; it's a peachy bisque kind of colour. All the doors and windows were sourced secondhand, and my husband and my family did a fantastic job helping out on the build. It was essential to have the kiln housed in it's own ventilated room, which also doubles as a drying room for the pots. I love that the studio is light and bright and child-friendly! My son can come in, and it's clean and safe for him to play or draw on the blackboard wall.
4. How important is creating a beautiful home space for you? How would you describe your home style?
Our home is cosy and eclectic and child-friendly. I love colour and somewhat yearn for a tidy, minimalist style but having two kids kind of crushes that dream. Our furniture and art have been collected over the years, and the kitchen cupboards are full of handmade ceramics, mostly other potters I've collected or traded with.
5. You host classes for the public where they can learn to make pieces in your terrazzo style. Many artists wouldn't want to share their tips and tricks, why do you feel comfortable sharing this knowledge, do you think this is something that more creatives should do?
The workshops I run are short three-hour classes, we joke they are minimum effort maximum results as a lot of the hard work is done (slab rolling, trimming, glazing) for participants but they get to do the fun part, shaping and decorating. There is a considerable amount of unseen work preparing for these workshops, particularly staining all the different coloured clay. I'm comfortable sharing the decorating techniques as everyone has their style ultimately so, the work always looks different and if anyone could be bothered going through all the faffing of staining their clay then all power to them. I see quite a few artists I admire sharing their techniques, often ones that have been around for a while that are being reinterpreted in a contemporary way, I love watching their videos.
6. You've just had a baby recently (congrats!) so your time will be spread slightly differently, how important for you to allocate time to your creative practice strictly?
At the moment we are still finding a new rhythm to the days, most work is done on the weekends when my husband is home or in the evenings. It's still only very much part-time as Alfie is still so little, but as the boys grow, there will be more time.
7. What is the most rewarding thing about your creative practice?
Recently I've had a lot more time to think about concepts than create them so when I finally see an idea come to fruition and turn out as imagined its hugely rewarding. Ceramics is a real rollercoaster of emotions. The highs when a piece turns out great are high, and the lows when it all fails are low.
8. You're recognised for your use of colour and your distinctive terrazzo design. How did this technique come to be? Where/why did it start?
The technique evolved as I'd had pretty mixed results with using glaze and so had started experimenting with tinted clay. I like the way you could see where your design was going and get a general idea of how it was going to look even in the beginning stages of creation. I hadn't seen anything like it back in 2016 when I began the body of work. My first samples were developed for a Christmas collaboration with clothing brand Kowtow; they proved extremely popular and, the technique has become a staple for me, evolving since then.
9. Maker's Mrkt is a platform that intends to encourage people to shop small and support their creative community with their dollars. How important is this to you in your life? Do you have any tips for people wanting to shop more consciously?
I prefer to buy locally made goods, it's become second nature. We are so fortunate in NZ and Australia to have so much talent and unique design. As a small independent business, I know how much each sale means, the amount of love and care that has gone into creating the products. I consider myself lucky to often do trades with other makers.
10. What would be your favourite Wundaire piece for gifting?
The ROYGBIV pieces! This design is around for a good time not a long time so shop them while they're still available.
You can see more of the Wundaire range here.