Harry Davis was only
really happy when he had a new project to get his teeth into, and in
1962 the Davis
family left Crowan and emigrated to New Zealand, where they established
the Crewenna Pottery near Nelson. Here for another ten years Harry and May
Davis produced some beautiful pottery, similar to Crowan.
The quotations below are from
May Davis' autobiography,
"Before we had even left
England we had decided that Nelson would be the best place in New Zealand
for us. Harry had studied the geological maps of New Zealand in the
Birmingham Museum and realised how rich the region was in every kind of
material we might need."
They bought a most attractive
property at Wakapuaka on the slopes facing Tasman Bay, with a charming
hundred-year-old house and enough space to build new pottery workshop
facilities further up the hill.
great having the pottery built as a pottery. At Crowan we had to fit
ourselves into an existing building, but at Crewenna we designed the
building to suit the process. At the south end we had the heavy machinery
for processing materials. Outside was the old Cornish jaw crusher, and
inside were the pug, blunger, a couple of ball mills we built ourselves,
two presses and smaller items. Next came the throwing room, where we had
two power wheels, stillions for pots and a jigger and jolley which was
used only for making setters, a type of kiln furniture.
throwing room led into the 'kiln shed', though it was not a separate shed.
Here were more stillions and stacks of kiln furniture. There was a
delightful veranda, where we sat to enjoy that 'cuppa', and also opening
from the kiln shed were the glazing room and at the north end, the packing
Wax resist fish decorated jug
made at Crewenna Pottery
more technically minded, the kiln was a twin down-draught shuttle kiln.
Each chamber was 144 cubic feet. Fired with oil fuel it had two
low-pressure burners operating on the first chamber for ghost firing with
a reducing atmosphere. The smoke produced by the reduction being consumed
in the second (biscuit) chamber by means of air, preheated in a chamber
between the fire boxes, and supplied under pressure to the exhaust flues
of the first chamber.
There was a retractable 'shuttle car' in each chamber running on rails, so
pots were loaded on to the car outside the kiln, and then the whole car
was winched in. The doors of the two chambers were built on the cars, so
that they closed as the cars entered.
firings themselves took 36 hours, but the number of pots ran into a couple
of thousand, counting the considerable number of cruet sets and egg cups
which we always made to fill up the corners."
Crewenna small stoneware pots and egg cups
"We had always envisaged a working group of about five, but this simply
did not materialise. Most aspiring New Zealand potters wanted to work for
three months or so before setting up on their own. Harry just would not
accept this kind of approach could lead to a good craftsperson. We had
someone from the UK for a year, and Stephen of course was with us for
several years before he left to work elsewhere and finally to become a
very successful potter on his own. Nina later worked with us for a while,
after she had graduated from Fine Arts School in Canterbury".
"But really the kiln was too big and the firings tended to be so far apart
that it was slow work developing a new glaze which would need several
testings to perfect it".
first arrived we held an exhibition of the Crowan pots we had brought with
us at the Suter Gallery in Nelson. This was also exhibited in
Christchurch. Later, our Crewenna pots were sold to shops, but this did
not last very long for we realised that we were strategically placed to
catch the tourists who passed our gate coming south off the ferry. In the
end we only sold from Crewenna".
had exhibitions at New Vision in Auckland, as well as ones in Toronto,
Sydney and London, but after that Harry turned against exhibitions. He did
not like the way the public, and press, stressed the person rather than
Harry and May Davis at
Izcuchaca, Peru. Notice the dinner plates on the table!
In 1972 work at Crewenna was
suspended when Harry and May Davis initiated and carried through a pottery
with a group of very poor Indians at Izcuchaca in the Peruvian Andes.
Their aim was to help a Third World village, creating a pottery workshop
with a degree of self-reliance. A really unique venture.
To fund the project, a series of lecture tours was undertaken in New
Zealand, Australia, North America and Europe.
They returned to New Zealand in 1979 leaving the project as a co-operative
paying its own way.
Harry died in 1986, there was no more production at Crewenna. He wrote two books.
The Potters Alternative,
and an autobiography which has never been published.
He also travelled widely; lecturing about pottery, alternative
technology and self-reliance. During this period, Harry and May lived
upstairs at Crewenna and their eldest daughter Gwenny and her husband
Guy Salmon lived downstairs. Crewenna became the headquarters of the
Native Forests Action Council until they grew large enough to move to
offices in Nelson.
A large Crewenna
jug with brushwork decoration
In 1987, the year
after Harry's death, May bought a small gas fired kiln and
started decorating, glazing and firing the 2,000, or so,
biscuit pots that had been left unfinished at Crewenna in
1972, when they went to Peru. This took some six
months, with the help of Hugh Macmillan a local potter.
She sold the
finished pots from the workshop, as well as the saggars, kiln
shelves, other kiln furniture and the rest of the Crewenna
Crewenna is still
in the family though. Harry and May's eldest daughter Gwenny still lives
there and organises conferences.
Gwenny has contacted us with
the sad information that on 30 May 2013 the Crewenna Pottery buildings,
that had recently been used as workshops, were completely destroyed by
Needless to say she was very
upset but as she put it:
"Nobody was killed. It
wasn’t the house. It wasn’t January with tinder dry grass and high winds
when I might have burnt several acres of grass, trees and neighbouring
from The New Zealand Herald.