Mark James

I began my career in ceramics in 1986 when I spent two years at Nelson Polytechnic studying craft design. I majored in ceramics and gained a certificate in craft design.

From there I built a workshop and gallery in Canvastown, Marlborough, where I operated for about fifteen years making and selling a range of pottery in stoneware, earthenware and raku.

In 2003 my family and I moved to a bush block overlooking the Tasman Sea a few kilometres north of Punakaiki. I started specializing in copper glaze raku pottery. My work is inspired by the coastal setting, featuring native trees, sunsets and flowers in our garden. I gain much pleasure from the random spectrum of colours and patterns achieved from the copper raku technique, although sometimes this effect can be quite elusive.

Over the years I have exhibited work and won several awards in ceramic competitions, but these days I am quite content to sell my work through a select few quality galleries around the country.

The raku firing technique that I use involves firing the glazed piece in a raku kiln up to around 1000°C. From here, I manually remove the red hot piece into a bed of shredded paper which ignites on contact. I sprinkle sawdust over the piece to further spread the flames. I then cover the piece with an inverted drum. This excludes oxygen and the reduced atmosphere reacts with the copper glaze, creating unpredictable and often beautiful colours and patterns. This process often requires repeating several times before a desired result is reached.

Works are porous, so not designed to hold water.

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