WHO IS AUTHOR CERAMICS?
Author Ceramics is the creative enterprise of Stephen Smith, an Auckland based ceramicist who was raised in Taranaki. Stephen credits the awe inspiring coastline of Aotearoa as being a significant factor in his practice. This wild combination of influences shows in the wavy imperfection of his forms; the soft slip of his pillow vases, the dark, moody black clay sand.
Stephen’s transformation to full time potter is remarkable. He developed a love of ceramics after working as a chef, both locally and abroad. Eager for a challenge during lockdown, he hired a wheel, consulted You Tube and embarked on a dinner set for his upcoming nuptials. He was instantly hooked and as they say, the rest is history.
Most of Stephen’s work is wheel thrown, with some slab built pieces. He uses local clay, blended with sand and earth. Simple glazes and a simple firing process allows the imperfections in the clay to stay true. A self-described ‘impatient person’ who likes to work fast, Stephen enjoys wheel thrown work because it allows him to ‘slow down while still (being) able to move fast.’
Stephen believes that ceramics hold a special place in human relationships, vehicles through which family and friends connect both in good times, and bad, enabling rituals that create memories. The happiness or sadness a piece may bring holds a story that will last longer than the piece itself, a story that is slowly created over time by the owner and the home it lives in. In this way, it is the guardian of the piece who helps to ‘author’ and participate in its meaning.
For Stephen, the handmade object is more important than ever. The specific qualities of something made by hand, the story it can tell, the references and connections it can make to a local community or environment; these factors are becoming more important to people. Stephen says, “…we want to know the journey of our belongings…that’s a story we want to be part of.”
Photography Credit - Lilly Smith
WHAT IS YOUR ART PRACTICE?
I make functional ceramic pieces using local New Zealand clays with an emphasis on creating objects that are elegant but playful. All of our products are made by hand, allowing for an ever-evolving range of complementary pieces. I endeavour to create contemporary products that have an element of timeless restraint.
WHAT DOES A NORMAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
A normal day always begins with a strong coffee with my wife, I designed our Le Spresso cups specifically for this ritual. The studio door opens & the process begins, wedging local sand through our clay, with a good podcast on in the background. The wheel is set, I sit on my Nanas stool ready to spend a day making & exploring forms. I would love to say everyday is typical but every day comes with a new surprise, one day I am throwing, the next I am loading kilns & trimming work, or most importantly spending time as a family. And when the surf is good, the studio is closed with a back in five sign resting on the door.
HOW DID IT ALL BEGIN - WHERE DID THE PASSION FOR THE ARTS COME FROM?
I spent 16 years as a chef working mainly in fine dining in France, Canada & throughout New Zealand. I have always been a maker & loved creating things from scratch. During lockdown I had a dream to make our own dinner set to use at our wedding. I hired a wheel & fell in love, the rest is history.
WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION AS AN ARTIST?
I find inspiration in nature, family & nostalgia. Functional work that feels & looks great, but has a natural imperfection. This I feel is the work that represents me as a person & also my background.
WHAT IS THE THEMES/INSPIRATIONS BEHIND YOUR ARTWORKS?
Every piece has a story or form of individual history, but one thing I do to keep this story consistent is collect sand on our travels, as a family we camp & surf every other weekend. The sand we collect is in every piece that I make, every piece has a piece of our story, our travels, our hands. But most importantly, each piece will now have a new story, as a gift for a loved one, for yourself or your home, you are now the Author & the story of this piece begins...
WHAT TYPE OF COFFEE DO YOU DRINK - LONG BLACK, FLATE WHITE?Long Black all day long, always Kokako!
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT WORKING & LIVING IN AOTEAROA?
Family, friends, the people, the nostalgia, camping, surfing the beaches. It's home, it's simple, it's home.
WHAT IS YOUR STUDIO/CREATIVE SPACE LIKE?
It's a shed in our backyard, the roof is lined with surfboards, covered walls with ceramics & art. Buckets of sand & clay stacked around, our record player ready to play & always a cold beer ready to welcome guests.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR LEGACY /LASTING IMPRESSION TO BE AS AN ARTIST?
It would be not a memory of me, but a memory of the joy the work has given to the person who owns it. The story that people share about the piece, the feeling each piece gives a space & the joy that brings the people around it. The happiness or sadness a piece may bring holds a story that will last longer than anything I could ever make. We named our brand Author, because we believe that art tells a story, a story that is slowly created over time by the owner, a story of moving houses or birthday celebrations, the time it broke & grandad fixed it, the art comes from the home it lives in.
WHAT DREW YOU TO WORKING WITH THE POI ROOM?
I love the support that The Poi Room gives New Zealand artists! I am very new to this world & for The Poi Room to have faith in me & my art shows the dedication they have to helping local artist grow & that is pretty special.