Gillian Weavers started her ceramics business, MudbirdNZ, on Felt in October last year. Since then she has featured at three markets in her hometown of Christchurch and is becoming a regular at local craft events. Trained as a professional photographer, Gill was born into a creative family and is now passing her crafty skills on to her three children.
What do you make?
Ceramic decorative art inspired pieces that are functional as well. I want to create something handcrafted, that is unique that is not churned out. I design my pieces to be multi use… to be hung on your wall, displayed on a shelf, used in the kitchen, living room, bathroom… or worn around your neck. It’s up to you how you use it. I also have started making ceramic jewellery – loving using new brightly coloured glazes.
How did you get into your craft?
I come from a very creative family and I have always made and created things, mostly self taught. Clay grabbed my attention about 18 years ago when I dabbled a bit in a night class for a couple of months, and then about two and a half years ago just after my father passed away, my husband encouraged me to get out there and find another creative outlet.
I had stopped running my photography company after having my first child, my second baby had just turned two and I wanted to be involved with something crafty that I could do from home. I decided to join a pottery group and I found my passion for clay. I’ve been hooked ever since and recently bought my own kiln. I found out about Felt when a friend suggested I start selling what I was making. Up till then I was just giving it all away.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I work with New Zealand white clay. I design from flat pieces of clay and hand paint all my underglazes and gloss glazes. Textures feature heavily in my designs and I love to search in antique and junk shops and markets for treasures I can use to press into my clay. I spend hours trawling through overseas websites looking for things.
I’ve got a metal type set from the late 1800s that I use and I collect hand-carved antique woodblocks as well. What I love about these tools is they are so unique – I could almost guarantee no one else is using them like I am. I collect antique keys which I press into my clay and my mother bought me a gorgeous old key from a market in Florence last year.
Working with clay is very time consuming – there are over 9 processes involved in every single Mudbird piece, and I like them all to be perfect! I am also very aware of waste and recycle all my clay.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I took classes for about a year at the pottery club and learnt the rest through trial and error (still learning!!). My professional photography training took me to other ‘art’ departments, where I spent a lot of time, so always have had my hand in crafty things!
Five words that describe your mind:
Constant, intuitive, creative, analytical… inspired
What inspires you?
Being behind the lens of a camera professionally for over 15 years gave me constant inspiration – I loved to find the fine details, textures, emotion and designs in what I photographed. I found myself looking for them in everyday life. I am inspired by beautiful things and ideas. When I get an idea or get involved in a project, my mind explodes with ways to make it happen. Now I am working with clay, I can create those details and textures in another form of Art. I love anything and everything vintage – especially French design.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I thrive on creating and love to give. I love the fragility and the strength of clay and what it goes through to get to the final product. I get a lot of pleasure when I unload the kiln after a glaze firing and see these amazing pieces emerge…it’s like unwrapping dozens of presents! Just a week or two before, they were lumps of wet clay and through a time consuming and focused process they emerge beautiful and strong. For me creating evokes a sensory emotional response – as I believe we were made to create!
Describe your workspace:
I work mainly in our small living room on a trestle table – I tend to spread out during the evening when the kids are in bed, and then have to move it all out of the kids reach by the morning! When I’ve got a market coming up I take over the house! Thankfully my husband and three kids are forgiving of the mess I create.
We are almost ready to start building an extension where I’ll have an amazing 9m x 3m attic space to work in (okay, I’ll have to share it with Michael, my creative husband ) – very excited about that! The kiln of course has to live in the garage!
What are you currently listening to? I work well to background noise – TV, radio etc. – half the time I’m not even aware of what it is but for some reason it helps me focus.
Your favourite childhood book? I love old children’s books – I’m very nostalgic and my bookshelves are filled with all my books from when I was a little girl.
What are you reading now? I’ve just finished three Nicholas Sparks books that I borrowed from a friend.
Your hero/heroine: I think my Mother would have to be my creative heroine. She is a designer / crafter / artist of all kinds. From designing and making costumes for the British Royal Ballet and playing in the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, to commissions for paintings and artworks, building her own homes, floral art & design, dressmaking, landscaping, gourmet cooking – you name it, she can do it all. I have learnt by watching her my whole life, and have the mindset that I can achieve anything if I try (although I cannot draw!!).
I hope I can inspire my own children to make and create as well. My 4 and 6 year olds already love to ‘help’ me with my pottery and make their own designs for me to fire in the kiln.
A favourite quote: TIME is the best gift you can give your children.
If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Turquoise aqua blue
Check out more of Gill’s work at MudbirdNZ, and watch out for her new line of personalised ‘made to order’ designs in the next couple of months.