Ceramics Monthly: What was the motivation to start Kaolin?
Kate McIntyre: The idea to create Kaolin, an online platform that celebrates local makers, grew out of conversations with fellow potter, Rachel Carter, about the need for a dedicated store for handmade functional ceramics in New Zealand. We wanted to curate an online store that brought together makers whose work aligned with our philosophy: quality, handmade pieces that are beautifully crafted and a joy to use.
We began by reaching out to emerging and established makers across a range of styles and aesthetics, from wood-fired to slip-cast works, to stock their pieces in our online collection and share their stories. It’s been lovely connecting with the wider clay community in New Zealand throughout this project.
I have a background in design, and initially made functional ceramics after I finished my degree. However, in 2015, I did a residency at the EKWC (European Ceramic Work Centre) in the Netherlands, exploring the use of digital technology in ceramics. During this time, my work took a new direction: I began making sculptural pieces, inspired by patterns in nature. On my return to New Zealand, I had the opportunity to exhibit my new sculptures, but I still had a real love of functional ware, so working with Kaolin and the makers was a great way to stay connected to this side of my practice.
CM: How does running Kaolin fit into your own practice?
KM: There is a huge crossover in the skills required between running my own business and the online store. I’m definitely a maker, not a marketer. Ideally, I’d like to spend all my time in the studio, but as a small-business owner, there are many hats I must wear. I try to get orders packed and customer care done first thing in the morning so that I can have the rest of the day focused on making new pieces. The workload leans more heavily toward my own studio tasks in the lead up to an exhibition, while at other times it will be dedicated to photographing new pottery for the website. Often, ideas feed from one part of my practice to another and give me a new perspective on my work. I like the constraints that come with functional ceramics, such as developing a glaze that is robust and fit for use, while in my own practice, I feel like I have more freedom to push the boundaries of the medium.
CM: How do you see the platform growing and changing?
KM: Recently I was fortunate to be able to set up my own studio space on our property near Auckland. The studio, which looks out over the edge of the Waitakere Ranges, a rainforest that runs down to the west coast, includes a dedicated space for making, a gallery for visitors to view work, and a small space to hold workshops. This year I’d love to spend more time designing and making pieces for Kaolin, and expand our range to include lighting. I look forward to being able to exhibit these pieces in our new space.
Photo: Mark Buntzen.