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Helen Mason (1915–2014)

Author: Courtney Johnston, Director

The Dowse remembers an influential potter and great supporter of New Zealand ceramics.

Cover of 'Helen Mason's scrapbook: fifty years as a backyard potter', Limited Edition Books, 2006.

Cover of 'Helen Mason's scrapbook: fifty years as a backyard potter', Limited Edition Books, 2006.

The Dowse wishes to mark the passing of Helen Wilmot Mason, an influential figure in the New Zealand studio pottery movement, who died peacefully on 22 of August in Hawkes Bay in her 100th year.

Helen was an extremely active and influential figure in New Zealand craft and ceramics. She helped found the Wellington Society of Potters, wrote for the New Zealand Listener and was editor of New Zealand Potter magazine for its first nine years. Helen was also a mentor and encouraged many others potters, including providing an apprenticeship for Bronwynne Cornish, whose work we will be presenting at The Dowse in early 2015.

Helen was hooked on ceramics from her first pottery lessons at Petone Tech in 1953. During these early years she spent time with Wilf Wright, Doreen Blumhardt and Terry Barrow. Helen bought Elizabeth Matheson’s old kiln and had it re-erected in her back yard with the help of Barry Brickell. In 1964 Roy Cowan, Barry Brickell, Warren Tippett and Michael Trumic built her a new Cowan designed kiln which enabled her to produce an exhibition for the New Vision Gallery in Auckland.

Helen had a long history of involvement with various arts and craft communities and spent time in the Wairarapa, Tokomaru Bay, Porongahau, Wellington, Waipukurau and Coromandel. Helen was appointed a New Zealand Order of Merit (M.N.Z.M.) for her services to pottery in 2005.

The Helen Mason House, an artist-in-residence dwelling, was established at Waiohiki and officially opened in 2006.

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