Keeper of the kiln – Doreen Blumhardt

Hamada Shoji, Platter (bowl), 1962, Japan. Collection of TheNewDowse, Dame Doreen Blumhardt Bequest.New ceramics show pays tribute to arts patron, Doreen Blumhardt.

Best of the Blumhardt, opening 4 September at TheNewDowse, celebrates the vision of one of New Zealand’s most passionate arts advocates, Dame Doreen Blumhardt, ONZ, DNZM, CBE.

The exhibition of ceramics by local and international potters is a selection of works from the Doreen Blumhardt bequest and will mark the first anniversary of Doreen’s death on 17th October. It also acknowledges the ongoing commitment of The Blumhardt Foundation, which Doreen founded, as an advocate for the decorative arts.

Well-known as a gifted potter and a generous arts educator, Doreen was an inspirational force throughout her lifetime and continued creating in her studio well into her 90s.  Following her death, her entire collection, of ceramics, books and ephemera, was gifted to the Foundation. 

According to Doreen’s wishes, her significant collection of pottery was offered to TheNewDowse, from which around 120 works, by a range of national and international potters, were incorporated into TheNewDowse collection. A curated programme of these pieces make up the exhibition.

The remainder of Doreen’s collection is to be sold and the proceeds of the sale will be used to help fund further fulfilment of the Foundation’s objectives.  The auction at Dunbar Sloane Wellington is on Friday 23 July, 11am. Contact Dunbar Sloane for details.


“We are delighted to receive these works into the collection and acknowledge that the bequest is in line with Doreen and her Foundation’s desire to ‘establish great collections to preserve our decorative art and design archives’,”says TheNewDowse Director, Cam McCracken, “We will continue Doreen’s immense legacy through the Blumhardt Gallery exhibition programme and the Creative New Zealand / Blumhardt Foundation curatorial internship.”

Doreen played an instrumental role in New Zealand‘s pottery movement from the 1950s. A passionate, experimental potter and an avid traveller, she frequently returned from her travels abroad with boxes of ceramics from Japan, Petra and Mexico to share with other enthusiasts. She also encouraged celebrated international potters, such as Bernard Leach from England and Kawai Takeichi and Hamada Shoji from Japan, to present workshops here.  Works by these Japanese masters feature in the show as do other Japanese potters, like Takahashi Rokusai, Fujiwara Kei, Kawai Takeichi’s uncle, Kawai Kanjiro and Shimaoka Tatsuzo. In Japan, Fujiwara Kei carried the title ‘Living National Treasure’ and a museum was built and named in his honour. Kawai Kanjiro also had a museum erected in his honour, but declined the title, while Shimaoka Tatsuzo was also known as a ‘Living National Treasure’.

Photograph courtesty of TheNewDowse.