Cardrona ceramics artist at Labour Weekend show


Ceramics artist Shannon Courtney’s love affair with Cardrona river rocks has created quite a bit of baggage for her.

While studying her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Auckland University she would load up her suitcase with rocks to take north and copy for her 1000-piece Elim School of Fine Arts graduate project, Dry River Bed.

‘‘I got searched once and my bag came out with a sticker on it,’’ she laughed of transporting rocks through airports.

Ms Courtney is one of three guest artists at the annual Wanaka Art Labour Weekend Exhibition.
The connections between river ecology, water levels and water quality inspire her creativity.

Her work has two strands - one is sculptural (Cardrona rocks) and the other is functional, such as Thrifted, a dishwasher-proof collection of dinner set pieces.

Ms Courtney uses a slip cast technique to copy objects.

Thrifted is a series of colourful plates, tumblers, goblets and bowls - all replicas of items she found in second- hand shops.

The colours are created by mixing clay with powder stains. The pieces are given a clear glaze.

‘‘I like to find things with a pattern in it and make a mould. You might find one piece in a second hand store that used to be part of a complete set. They often have quite beautiful designs,’’ she said.

Ms Courtney grew up in Matakana, north of Auckland.

She completed her degree in 2019, and worked for Matakana potter Anthony Morris before moving to Cardrona permanently in 2020 to join her mother, Dale Courtney, who runs Kind Farm, an animal sanctuary.

She worked from a cherry shed until she could get consent for two small portable buildings - a work room and a studio - but for the first six months she had no kiln.

‘‘That was torture for me. But I did some drawing and painting.’’

Once the kiln arrived from the United Kingdom she began making pieces for her studio and for

Queenstown gallery, Broker, but found the southern climate a challenge.

‘‘With the sun, things dry a lot faster. Also with the colder temperatures over night, it freezes the clay so I have to leave the heater on the studio,’’ she said.

Ms Courtney also began exploring a completely new world online.

Artists had begun talking about making non-fungible tokens, which people buy using crypto-currency.

She decided to check it out for her new 100 Rock digital collection.

So far, she has made 20 non-fungible tokens from a potential 100.

The process starts with one ceramic rock, which is 3D scanned.

The image is then digitally manipulated on the computer, with each version a digital art work in its own right, which is then sold.

The purchaser owns the copyright and if they decide to sell the artwork again, the artist gets a royalty.

‘‘It is keeping money coming to the artists. It is not just for visual artists but musicians and entertainers, that sort of thing, too,’’ she said.

Ms Courtney has sold one on a non-fungible token market place so far and is seeing how things go.

‘‘I only heard about it this year... I thought it was very interesting, and with crypto-currency coming up,
I was quite excited about it,’’ she said.

Ms Courtney has also begun experimenting with animation.

‘‘This is a new world for me too. I am interesting in the moving water and the surreal world of the river and the rocks. And this is all part of an idea for a future exhibition to do with gold, the river, rocks and the ecosystem,’’ she said.

The Wanaka Arts Labour Weekend Exhibition has drawn 305 entries.

The guest artists are ceramists Shannon Courtney, of Cardrona, painter Justine Summers, of Nelson, and jeweller Amy Bixby, of Albert Town.

The judges are Stacey Butler and Marc Blake, both of Queenstown.

Six Wanaka artists will be working at the exhibition: Kym Beaton, Robin Brisker, Jenny Hill, Kate Boswell,Julia Sterncopf, and Kate Costello.

The exhibition is at the Lake Wanaka Centre from Friday to Sunday, 9am - 5pm.

- By Marjorie Cook

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