Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pot roast

If you asked any New Zealand art museum director to name the three things most evocative of ceramics here in the 1970s, chances are they’d be ‘concrete bocks, doors and hessian.’ (Display instructions: 1. Stretch hessian over door. 2. Place covered door on concrete blocks. 3. Arrange ceramics on top of door). Ask a potter and it would be something else altogether like glazes, firing temperatures and Shoji Hamada. The first visit of this Living National Treasure in 1965 (he visited again in 1973, five years before his death) had a profound effect on New Zealand ceramics and is the central moment to Moyra Elliott and Damian Skinner’s recent book Cone Ten Down: Studio pottery in New Zealand 1945-1980.

Backed by extensive Creative NZ funding (including a recent fellowship of $65,00 for volume two) and in development for almost a decade, you might wonder at the black sticker that has appeared over the cover caption. It changes the name of the potter responsible for the work featured on the cover from Graeme Storm to Warren Tippet. It doesn’t get much more embarrassing. Yes…. shit happens. So when we heard of the error from a couple of sources we thought ‘there but for the grace of God’ and put it on the spike.

But hold the bus. The new what-we-really-meant sticker still dates the cover work to the late-1950s. Ok for Storm but a stretch for Tippet (born in 1941) who’d have been somewhere between 15 and 18 at the time. Asking around, the consensus seems to be that there is no way Tippet could have produced those sort of glazes in the 1950s and that given the pot’s look and feel, it was almost certainly made after the 1965 Hamada visit which, as the book itself confirms, was a pivotal experience for Tippet. So it looks like fifties - not. Another sticker? Maybe, but it still leaves the image in the inside pages mis-captioned even if it is referred to in the erratum. It’s hard producing a mistake free book, but given the significant funding they have put into the project CNZ might suggest for the next volume that some funds are put aside to check illustrations, captions and text with the potters and a couple of offsite experts.

Images: Top, Cone Ten Down cover with the ceramic formally known as Storm. Middle original caption. Bottom, Sticker amendment.