Monday, 8 March 2010
New Zealand's premier award for ceramic art used to be the Fletcher Challenge.
Steve won it twice.
Anyone else just managed once.
He's American without a trace of a New Zealand accent, despite having lived here since 1973.
His wife, Robin, a real sweetie, makes the best whitebait fritters in the universe and can discuss rugby with authority. Which (the latter) is no great surprise, given that her Dad, Bill Clark, is an All Black.
In New Zealand, playing for the All Blacks is as close as a mortal can come to being deified.
And there's no such thing as "He was an All Black"...
He IS an All Black.
Steve once said to me "Man, I hit the jackpot. Married a Maori princess with an All Black Dad. Doesn't get much better than that"
Not sure about the "princess" bit, but Robin (Ngati Porou, on her Mum's side) can trace back to the signatories of the Treaty of Waitangi and beyond.
He's a superb potter.
Not a DELICATE potter ("But I can do delicate too, if you want" he says) but a superb one.
His work varies from large structural pieces (Winged vessels for example. I've got one - saw it in a magazine, called him up in the middle of the night and bought it sight unseen) to plates and mugs with strangely alien faces and UFOs drifting across them.
Or wine coolers with "It's wine o'clock" sgraffito-ed on them.
Or peeing dogs.
And he doesn't do perfect, either ("But I can do perfect too, if you want.....")
He'll throw a perfect, chunky plate and then - almost as an afterthought - he'll give it a tap on the rim and it's...imperfect.
Sometimes he'll get carried away in conversation and almost - just almost - let a perfect one sneak through.
Someone wrote this about him:
Once he might have wiped a drip, corrected a slip, but now he allows it to stay. "It's a mistake and someone had to do it. In fifty years it will be the mark of something made by hand."
The New York Times wrote this, way back in 1990.
He was showing me some new stuff the other day, in between Robin's telling him which plates this gallery needs and which bowls that gallery needs.
"I kinda like these knobbly bowls" he said "Whaddya think??"
And then - sotto voce and conspiratorially - "Robin doesn't like 'em.."
(She doesn't like the peeing dogs, either. Especially when he glazes the testes silver. But that's another story....)
I reckoned that I liked them, but "what do the customers think?"
"Oh, them! Oh, they don't like 'em either....!"
A true classic.