Intent and accident: a fascination with the nature of ceramics

Christchurch ceramicist Emma Turner enjoys telling stories about our every day surroundings in her artistic and functional pieces. From her home studio she produces appealing and practical thrown and hand built ceramic wares, as well as a range of striking, unique necklaces and brooches.


What do you make?
I’m a ceramic artist, making colourful functional wares and ceramic art from my home studio in Christchurch. I love to draw and spend a lot of time doodling ideas and printmaking too.

How did you get into your craft?
I signed up to a night class with a friend at Risingholme Community Centre. The collection of creative and hilarious women I met there and the messy hands-on making was such a contrast to my job at the time and going to class soon became the highlight of my week.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
After a few years of night classes, I decided to enrol in a part-time ceramics diploma through Otago Polytech. The main reason I enrolled was to train under our teacher Tatyanna Meharry. She is a wildly-talented maker and business woman, and such a generous teacher. She has encouraged me and given me the confidence to find and follow my creative passions. I have just completed the diploma this year and our graduation group show, Miscellany, was part of the Arts Centre Sculpture Festival.



Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My favourite tools are simple ones found around the house – a toothbrush, ice block sticks, skewers, fishing wire, an old credit card. I have a few specialist tools too that are made locally and some ‘found’ tools such as large pebbles and driftwood collected from local beaches. The options for making with clay are endless and I think I will be constantly learning and experimenting for as long as I continue to make. I am learning to let the medium and processes inform my work and to accept the surprises both good and bad that can happen during firing. The balance between intent and accident can be a marvellous and magical thing.

Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
I do a mixture of hand building and throwing in my practice. I really enjoy decoration and have developed a unique colour library of slips and glazes to decorate my works this year. I love to create bright, painterly patterns and graphic lines.

What inspires you?
I am inspired by story telling and the narratives that individuals project on to objects in our everyday world. I am inspired particularly by a child’s perspective and am drawn to works by other artists that are naive, humorous and have a certain element of magic.

Describe your creative process
A lot of my works start off as scribbles in notebooks. They may end up as simple ceramic shapes with drawings on them or the scribbles may inform the shape of a 3D form. There are a lot of processes involved in making ceramics so I usually only have a rough idea of what I intend to make and the making process influences the final product.



Describe your workspace:
My studio space is in the garage, a beautiful and rough concrete-block building with a high wooden ceiling. My main workbench looks out the window into the overgrown garden and a large over-productive lemon tree. I think this lemon tree is the reason I make and draw so many fruit!

What are you currently listening to?
I always have music on in the studio. Most recently, I have enjoyed listening to Troy Kingi’s new album.

Recommend an album
The Ghost of Freddie Cesar by Troy Kingi.

Five words that describe your mind
Curious, colourful, silly, forever problem-solving.

Your favourite feedback from a customer
I like hearing honest opinions about my work and narratives that others create for them. I was looking after our graduate show the other week and a woman thought the bananas I had made were inappropriate! I thought that was really funny.



What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
Any tales by Roald Dahl that have hilarious and scribbly illustrations by Quentin Blake. As a child, I remember being both terrified and enthralled by The Witches!

What are you reading now?
I’m slowly making my way through a large stack of pottery books and art magazines that I picked up at the Christchurch City Libraries sale.

Tell us about your pets
I live in an old villa with my cat and partner-in-crime, Bruce. He is a small tabby cat with tiny white paws and he likes to thump down the wooden hallway to announce his presence. He sleeps on the other side of the bed like a human, buried under the duvet with his little head poking out on the pillow. He is 14 now and he has taken good care of me, especially during lockdown this year.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Believe in yourself and your creative voice. Be open to constructive feedback and continue to adapt, improve and grow your practice.


Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
I think it is really special to know where and how goods are made, and the practices that your money is supporting. I appreciate and take greater care of items when I know the story behind them and it is a great feeling to know I am supporting other crafters and artists in my local community.

What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?
I have only just started selling wares so it has been a great surprise and pleasure to see that my specific kind of crazy is bringing joy to other people.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A beautiful mobile from Gwyneth Hulse Design. They are made in Kerikeri from native New Zealand timber and all babies are mesmerised by them!

What’s in store for the rest of 2020?
I’m part of a pottery studio tour on the 5th and 6th of December so I’m getting the garage studio ready for visitors at the moment. Otherwise, making, making, making. There simply isn’t enough time to do all of the crafts!

Stop the press! New prizedraw for Felt readers!

We’re extending our feature with Emma, and Emma has very generously offered another awesome prize for one lucky Felt reader – and a friend too! Did you love Emma’s fruity exhibit, pictured in the feature above? We sure did! Now you can get your own fruity Christmas decorations (see below), which Emma has just listed in her Felt shop! And to get in the Christmas spirit, Emma is going to give away two random fabulous fruity decorations, one for you and one for a friend you nominate, who deserves a treat this year. To be in to win, leave us a comment telling us why your friend deserves a fruity treat. The draw closes at 5pm Monday 14 December and is open to New Zealand residents only.



See more from Emma Turner here »


10 thoughts on “Intent and accident: a fascination with the nature of ceramics

  1. Enjoyed reading about your journey, Emma, and feeling how fresh and enjoyable your work is for you and the wonderful results. I had to smile when you wrote about the magical results of intent and accident. It’s amazing what happens when you just follow the process and let what happens happen.I’m up early this morning and am now imagining you asleep with Bruce on the pillow next to you. It took me a while to find the bananas ……..they are cheeky but very cute. All the best for your work in your studio,

  2. I have such a fascination for ceramics. Your work is beautiful! I nominate my daughter Mary. She’s my idol, and works hard to bring happiness to everyone around her.

  3. I pick my little sister Andrea who recently passed away.. we both spent many years in the fruit and vege caper… and having a fruit for her on the tree would be delightful….

  4. A delightful, colourful, and quirky style, Emma! I always love seeing what you’ve just created and how you make getting creative so accessible to anyone and everyone. I nominate my friend Jacinta. A fruity number would go perfectly with her partner’s fish tank.

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