If you’ve eaten in one of Auckland’s top restaurants, there’s a good chance you’ve already encountered the work of ceramicist Rachel Carter. Her bespoke stoneware has been commissioned by leading New Zealand eateries – including Sid at The French Cafe, The Grove, Baduzzi, Sidart and Cassia – chefs catering to private dining experiences and now, for The Hotel Britomart.
In her work, Rachel pairs graceful contemporary forms with an organic palette and a handcrafted finish, with no two items exactly the same. Well-balanced and solid, the pieces are designed to serve as grounding elements for the culinary flourishes they hold.
At The Hotel Britomart, Rachel’s work will appear in every room – bowls, coffee cups and vases in The Landing Suites – and vases and soap dishes in the standard guest rooms. In soft sage, stone and blush colours, each piece gives the daily rituals of eating, drinking and bathing a luxurious, hand-crafted touch.
The renaissance of interest in hand-made ceramics has coincided with the global expansion of foodie culture, says Rachel. “The level of appreciation for craft has really risen. I used to make pieces just for design stores and galleries or a bowl or vase or two for someone, but never a whole dinner set, which people ask me for now.”
In the classes she teaches at Auckland Studio Potters – where she also learned to pot – she’s seen the mix of attendees change over the years. “You see a lot of designers, producers, interior designers. I think a lot of creative people who work on computers find it a good creative outlet.”
Before she made it her career, that’s what pottery was for Rachel too – a way to express herself artistically while working a desk job in an office in London. Eventually, she realised that work that didn’t involve creating with her hands would never fully satisfy her, and after moving to Sydney, she set up her own studio.
Although she can talk at length about technique – like how gas firing brings out the characteristic iron speckles in her work – she is stumped when asked to describe what she loves most about sitting down at the wheel and shaping a lump of wet clay into something useful. Eventually she acknowledges with a shrug, “I’m a maker, not a talker.” Fortunately, the care with which each hand-smoothed piece is made tells the story for itself.