A potted history

Dame Doreen Blumhardt ONZ, DNZM, CBE (1914—2009).

A passionate ceramist and arts educator, she continued to work daily in her studio well into her 90s and inspired countless others with her enthusiasm for making and her boundless pursuit of knowledge.

She attended art school in Christchurch in the 1930s, and in 1942 Director of Education, Dr Clarence Beeby, employed her to develop art and craft activities for a national programme. He believed that ‘putting tools for creativity into children’s hands would have a long-term effect on the adult community’ and it was Doreen who began this work at Waterloo School in Lower Hutt and continued it at the Wellington College of Education in the 50s and 60s.

In 1957 she was one of 15 potters invited to show in New Zealand’s first national pottery exhibition and in 1958 she co-founded the New Zealand Potter magazine.

An avid traveller, Doreen often returned from as far afield as Japan, Petra and Mexico with boxes of ceramics to share with other enthusiasts. She encouraged celebrated international potters, such as Bernard Leach from England and Takeichi Kawai and Shoji Hamada from Japan, to present workshops in New Zealand. She created, in conjunction with celebrated photographer Brian Brake, two of the most important ceramics/crafts reference books in New Zealand - New Zealand Potters Their Words and Works (1976) and Craft New Zealand The Art of the Craftsman (1981).

Doreen exhibited widely and her work is held in several international collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and Museo Caccia, Switzerland. (Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano??) The Dowse Art Museum hosted her first solo exhibition in 1976.

In a life crowded with achievement, Doreen’s role in the New Zealand applied arts community is exemplified by the relationships she made and the inspiration and mentoring she provided. Her enthusiasm, her love for people of all ages, and her deep appreciation of beauty in nature and art, were underpinned by her deep spiritual faith.

She was made a member of New Zealand’s highest honour, the Order of New Zealand, in 2007. In 2003 Doreen established The Blumhardt Foundation.