Judy Wood’s mother used to say to her, “With thumbs like those, you should be a potter”. Judy resisted her mum’s advice for as long as she could, until one afternoon in 1969, she put her two small girls into a creche, gave it a go and has been hooked on clay ever since.
Deep in the Dome Valley bush, Judy creates her magnificent sculptures, as well as teaching others the art and joy of playing with clay.
“I came to this district with the intention of building a kiln and making pottery. I had acquired a thousand bricks for $100 and after moving the bricks twice I was convinced it was time to buy a place where I could put them down, and never have to move them again. That’s when I found this piece of land in Dome Valley,” says Judy.
In 1979, Judy began building a workshop, so she could make a living for herself and her children.
“I lived without electricity with three children for months with the children sleeping in an army hut. It was pretty basic, but it was marvellous!”
“I had lived in Kaipara Flats for a few years with a whole colony of potters including Peter Lange, Jeff Hilliam, Joop and Willi Kuiper, Helen Johnson and Peter Oxborough, some of whom went on to do great things.”
After an inspiring trip to Japan in the early 1980s, a cooperative of eleven local artists formed the Warkworth Town Potters.
“We started with a little shop on the corner of Baxter and Percy (now a hairdresser) which quickly expanded and evolved into the Warkworth Craft Gallery Cooperative.”
Judy was in charge of exhibitions, and the business was very successful for the next 20 years. However in 2011 her beloved partner, of 30 years, passed away.
“When Bill became ill, my life changed. Following his death, I took a break from clay as I worked through my grieving process. For a year I did nothing but just get through the day. After five years, I went back to school and started over.”
“I have learnt to live by myself, be happy by myself and propel myself. To take my enthusiasm and motivation back.”
Judy’s next adventure will take her to the Quarry Arts Centre in Whangarei.
“They have a new, beautiful and huge wood-fired kiln. There’s a certain romance to wood-firing, the process of constantly poking wood into a kiln, sometimes for days. The effects of fire and ash on the clay can be achieved no other way,” says Judy.
“I want to create sculptures bigger than me. They are going to be so big that I won’t be able to move them!”
For information on upcoming clay courses and workshops at Judy Wood’s studio, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Exhibition ‘Fired’ at Mangawhai Artist’s Gallery, 45 Moir Street, Mangawhai.m24th May to 6th June.