John Wightman, the principal potter, has been working with clay since he was at school.
He really got going when he lived in Nelson, New Zealand, in the 1970s and came under the transferred influence of Bernard Leach - by default, (as did most of Nelson’s potters) - and the master potter Patrick Gaze – by choice.
He has been progressing in fits and starts ever since.
He is now set up on top of a ridge in the Sunshine Coast’s Hinterland – where paradise begins.
Clay is the most plastic of artistic media – you can do amazing things with it – even hollow it out on a turntable to make bowls and mugs!
John does perform this mud-slinging trick, but he goes beyond the conventional potters craft by finding ways to let the clay speak for itself.
He is always looking for new textures and colours that allow the ceramic magic of the kiln produce something unique.
But the end products always have a place in a domestic or garden setting and are good to feel and hold.
Although the same genre (baked clay) as the imported wares you find in the chain stores and shopping malls – Clay Art Maleny goes in the opposite direction.
Hand construction and decoration ensure that each piece is unique.
Surrounded by rainforest and often in the clouds, it is not surprising that many of Clayart Maleny’s studio products have a natural ‘organic’ appearance?
The fern leaf platters are the latest line of objects to ‘emerge from the bush’.
But when the mist rolls back, the light is bright and clear and the colours jump out at you from the landscape.
This brilliance is reflected onto John’s multifunctional ‘sTiles’.
Its not coincidence that they often have an animal theme – birds, fish, reptiles, butterflies and Queensland’s beloved frogs all feature.
John was once trained as a zoologist and is comfortable with this animal theme.
Tiles can be hand made, to fit a specific location – inscribed or in relief – or as singles or sets of commercial tiles adorned in an infinite array.
They find a place in the bathroom, or kitchen, as pot stands or wall inserts.
Even better – they can be customised: you tell John what you want, and it will be yours in a matter of days.
Mosaics might take a tad longer. Interior designers and landscapers: look no further.
A visit to the ceramics section of Japan’s National Museum in Ueno, Tokyo in November 2006, was a revelation.
Domestic wares over 500 years old had been made quickly but with care and surprising panache, in view of the tools and technology then available.
Inevitably, there were technical aberrations – stress cracks, runny glaze and wobbly edges – with the artisan’s fingerprints still clear to see.
But these features are part of the ‘fate’ of the object – this is how it is destined to be: a notion that John accepted and absorbed many years ago.
This exhibition was the inspiration for a new series - hand slabbed sushi plates.
Each is made with care (and has its own destiny): standing their on its own four feet, with serving platters and small bowls for soy sauce, pickled ginger, wasabi and those delicious preserved plums!
Again another Japanese influence: we call them ‘Black Velvet’ – deeply inscribed terra cotta towers with a black slip wash giving a soft velvety texture.
These hand made vessels look good in a formal garden ‘as is’, but are perhaps better thought of as good friend to a favourite plant or cut flower array. Landscape artists and interior decorators - these are the ones for you.
Talking about terracotta – there is a long line of hanging pots suitable for orchids, bromeliads, ferns etc. All ready to go, as they say.
And what about those whacky chooks – this time a development of the work of an English artist working in Belgium.
Look at the pictures – they tell all.
Each chicken lady has a name and is numbered – these are collectors’ items.
Contact us to arrange a visit to the studio or to arrange a show or viewing, especially in Queensland or New South Wales.
Holden’s Gallery in Maleny and Le Relais Bressan in Flaxton, both in the Sunshine Coast’s beautiful hinterland, always have a selection of our works and will be pleased to show them to you.