Talented artist and ceramicist Tatyanna Meharry is the creative genius known on Felt as The Busy Finch. A crafter since she was knee high to a grasshopper, Tatyanna is an advocate of bringing back the quality New Zealand-made homewares our mothers invested in. Her latest work is a series of domestic ware inspired by Delft, Meissen and Jasperware colours and techniques.
What do you make? Mostly I make vintage inspired domestic and decorative ceramic ware…which is a fancy way of saying pottery! I like to add to this by making small children’s picture books and dolls. I really like to make avante garde exhibition work and commissioned purpose designed work as well.
How did you get into your craft? I have been making and making since I was knee high to a grasshopper, which was fortuitous as my mum use to have fabric knee high all the time all around the house! Also my Nana used to have a pottery studio where I would doodle with my brothers and sister. The smell of clay for me is as nostalgic as baby powder!
Your favourite materials, tools and processes? I love clay and fabric and paper…so any combination of them makes me happy. I really like to throw shapes and then put them together and add hand-manipulated vintage-inspired decorations. I quite like to challenge the current minimalist ideals that have resurged over the past years by creating excessively decorative work. I also like to build in quirky and humorous features to my work. Like moths attached to a late night cocoa cup or the chemical symbols for lithium printed onto a container that can have feel goodies hidden inside it!
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft? I have a master’s degree in fine arts from Otago Polytechnic where I trained in what was then known as the Crafty section of the school. So I learnt a bit of everything useful like jewellery, textile printing, weaving and textile manipulation. I didn’t however discover my passion for pottery until I moved back to Christchurch and took classes at Risingholme. Now I’ve banished the loom to the cupboard and invested in a pottery wheel and there’s no stopping me…really it’s compulsive!
Five words that describe your mind: Busy. Focused. Plotting. Easily-inspired. Obsessive.
Is there a philosophy behind your work? I think that you should invest in objects that don’t become landfill when a trend is past. I was talking to another potter a couple of years ago about coffee/tea cups and we were lamenting the fact that the homes we grew up in had handmade cups made by someone local, and these can still be found in our mums’ cupboards, but nowadays most people have what we nicknamed “NZ made in China” cups that last maximum a year in many households. I say bring back the “NZ made in NZ” cup…really you will enjoy your cuppa so much more!
Describe your workspace: My workspace is a garage, two buildings away from my house…so I precariously transfer trays of wet ware between the house and the garage. My son is not impressed and I have been recently banned from bringing clay into the kitchen! I have lots of shelving, a long desk and a pottery wheel. I don’t have water that comes into the workshop so I have developed a technique where I recycle my clay and water 100%…it’s really amazing what you can do out of necessity. I recycled nearly 200kg of clay this past summer!
What are you currently listening to? Ella Fitzgerald and a compilation called Mob Hits – I’ve been waking up humming Hey Big Spender by Shirley Bassey!
Recommend an album: Murder – Johnny Cash. Just listening to the lyrics makes your skin crawl!
Your favourite childhood book? Midsummer in Moominland – Tove Jansson
What are you reading now? Awful End – Phillip Ardagh …I know this is a children’s book but this is really hilarious writing!
Your hero/heroine: My mum who bought up 5 children by herself and my nana, who let me eat clay whenever I wanted… and my sister who still does!
A favourite quote: Relax and breathe…whatever you don’t get done today will happen tomorrow.
Do you have any pets? We have a cat called Moth…who is totally in love with my son…they form a special social pride on their own section of the couch together.
If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Red. __________________________________________________________________________________
Tatyanna’s gorgeous books, dolls and ceramics are available from her Felt shop, TheBusyFinch. She’s currently negotiating a mini exhibition of creepy crawly ceramic “Buttermoths” in The National (formally Inform Gallery) on High Street in Christchurch, so if you’re local, keep an eye out for it!