Full of Wundaire: a studio visit
August 03, 2016
Felicity Donaldson's maker's mark is the American Sign Language sign for W, the initial of her ceramic brand Wundaire. It's also the three fingered salute of the Brownie promise and Scouts' honour. It symbolises a sense of the handmade. An authentic touch. It's a representation of the recent renaissance of pottery, a business that's developing in leaps and bounds for Felicity.
"I just found myself doing it more and more and now it's taken over my life!" says Felicity, perched in her little studio in Brooklyn. Hers is the story of an interest turned livelihood: a classic millennial dream of seizing an interesting opportunity and making it happen with the help of some hard work and a little social media flair.
The tactile craft of pottery suits Felicity: her years of freelance visual merchandising experience, with a sense for composition and design stands her in good stead for the creation of art in clay form. Her brother is an artist who creates lots of gig posters and cover art, but Felicity found that clay made more sense to her. "It's a lot about form and colour and composition. I think it's a natural thing, composition is really ingrained. I think you can be taught but most of it is already there."
Felicity discovered pottery while living on Auckland's K Road, deciding to take up a hobby—she chose the squidgy pursuit of pottery, taking a beginners' ten week course and building up her skills and the time spent creating and refining pieces. Eventually, she started Wundaire and things just "grew from there, really."
"The brand was something I'd been sitting on for quite a while," Felicity says. The word means wondering, and wandering, stemming from the travelling she was doing at the time. "It's quite a fluffy concept I suppose, but people absolutely get it! I love when someone says it right." After adapting her maker's mark from a classic W to her present sign, her brand is immediately recognisable and one of New Zealand's most well known contemporary ceramic brands. Part of this is down to her marketing, all done by Felicity on her iPhone and sent out to her 5,000-odd followers on Instagram.
Planters and plates are among her biggest sellers. "I love doing planters, which is the original reason I started doing it in the first place." Working primarily with slabs of clay and handbuilding, Felicity works primarily in white stoneware in different finishes, using slump moulds to craft her dishes. The café renaissance in Auckland has resulted in a bout of commissions from around the city for batches of plates, bowls and servingware. Every time the menu gets redesigned, Felicity gets the call for new vessels. Her collaborations are now diversifying into creative collaborations with stores around the country. She's just shipped off a range of beautiful raku-fired jewellery dishes for Meadowlark Jewellery, and Tessuti stock her planters. Local partnerships with other likeminded creative people have resulted in her involvement in events like The Neighbourhood Studio Plants and Ceramic Pop-ups in Newtown which have proved runaway hits.
When we visited, her kiln was full of student work. The studio also plays host to classes of people coming to learn a bit of pottery, in three-hour workshops that have been super-popular lately. "I think particularly through winter people just want something to do." It's a tactile, creative session with snack breaks (sounding great already) and an interesting mix of people. Felicity reserves one side of her studio for the classes, full of shelves of beautiful pottery tableaus and lush plants. The other side is home to her pegboard and workbench, industrial shelves of drying work and her kiln and potter's wheel. "People come away from the workshops really appreciative of pottery and the experience having enjoyed themselves, and that's even before they've received their work back. I love it."
Find Felicity on Instagram here or sign up for a smooshing good time at one of her classes here. Photography by Molly Robson/ class photo by Felicity.
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