West Auckland Potter Renée Boyd has been working with clay for over twenty years, which belies her youthful nature, her abundant energy and enthusiasm for her craft. We have personally admired her work for many years and catching up in her studio is always entertaining. In between the laughs we asked Renée a few questions about her work and her process.
What drew you to work with clay originally?
I was brought up among lots of people who would make things over the years. Everything was handmade and it seemed a way of life living out west. My Mum used to take me to the Titirangi Community House as I child and we would muck around having fun making lumpy things. Then I would come home and make more things with my Dad. l was a lucky kid. Clay was one of the more easily obtainable materials to work with and it was everywhere, we just dug it up back then, therefore it became my thing that I loved to work with. As soon as I started working with clay, everything fell into place.
What interested you in this material and art form?
Clay is incredibly versatile and exciting, you never get bored. There is so much to learn both technically and conceptually. I enjoy almost every stage of the process but I get enormous satisfaction from opening the kiln after the final firing and seeing the results.
Can you tell us about your design process? Where do you begin?
I always begin by scribbling out ideas on paper. I then live with them for a while scattered around my studio, just in my peripheral vision. Sometimes, something I think is great, a week later I will see some other way to improve it, or see it all in a totally new light. That gives me time to work on it more before I start making it in clay.
You make a wide range of work from functional tableware to decorative wall hangings - do ideas cross over between the two types of work or inform new ranges?
Yes, my ideas always cross over between decorative and functional. There is a lot of making and trying things out and thought that goes into even the simplest looking work. I’ve found over time with clay that one type of work will then lead me on to the next. It’s totally a continual learning process, I just have to be patient which I’m not. And things that look really simple are actually quite complicated.
Why do you think that there is such a resurgence in pottery and interest in clay at the moment?
There seems to be more of a desire for a unique and sustainable product, and people are seeking out more ways to connect with the maker. They want to know how it is made and where the materials come from. I have always had an interest in how things are made. I use many other potters' work in my life, and I love the care and thought each of them has put into it.
You have found your niche and created longevity in a difficult industry. Do you have any advice for aspiring potters?
There is something to be said for just doing it. I’ve spent years working for other potters, refining my skills by repetition, while always having the intention of creating my own work.
Can you run us through an average day in your studio?
At the moment my little boy Jed is just about seven years old so, after I drop him off to school, I grab a coffee and go downstairs to the studio where I work all day until school pickup. I have days of slipcasting or throwing, mixed in with fettling and some glazing while I wait for work to dry or the kiln to cool down. There are so many different stages of pottery that there’s never really a time when there’s nothing to do. Potters are busy little bees drinking lots of cups of tea and spending far too much time on Instagram, lol.