Potter | Elena Renker

Potter | Elena Renker

I was first introduced to Elena’s work at the WaiClay exhibition in Hamilton. Since then, I had the pleasure of visiting her workshop which had me feeling nurtured and never wanting to leave. 

Elena was born and raised in Germany and immigrated to New Zealand in 1984. She has always been interested in making things that can be used in daily life. Throughout her life, she has immersed herself in spinning, weaving, knitting, as well as, making pottery. When her kids were young, she made a lot of their wooden toys, books, dolls and clothes. She also grows most of her own food in her prolific vegetable garden.

Elena’s father was very interested in art and as children they always visited the museums, churches and popular sights wherever they ventured. Consequently, art has always been part of her life.

Elena was first introduced to pottery at the age of 17, when visiting Golden Bridge Pottery in Pondicherry, India – she ended up staying there for 3 months. She then worked in a pottery studio in Bavaria for a year before studying graphic design in Munich. Elena returned to pottery when her youngest child started school in 1998. She set up her studio at home while completing an Advanced Diploma in Ceramic Art. In 2009 she built her own wood kiln - she has been firing her work ever since.

 “I am influenced by the American abstract expressionist painters. I work in a similar style in quick gestural movements. But I am also influenced by many wood-firing potters from around the world”.

Elena has exhibited her work widely both in New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Germany, England and the US in solo and selected exhibitions. She has won numerous awards for her work.

 Elena’s work is either loosely thrown on the wheel or made in the kurinuki style where the pots are cut from a solid block of clay and then hollowed out. This is an old Japanese technique more suitable for tea ceremonial pots. All her work is glazed in an ash or a shino style glaze and fired in her wood kiln for 15 to 18 hours to 1300C.

 “I like to make functional wares that can be used in everyday life. There is nothing I like better then to be told that my cup or bowl is used every day”.