John Parker has been pushing the boundaries of clay production for over 50 years. He takes inspiration from art-house cinema, Wagner, Beatles albums, commercial potteries such as Crown Lynn and Wedgwood, and even the manufacture of power pole insulators. 

Auckland based Parker is also well known as an award-winning theatre and exhibition designer, film reviewer and opera fan. Among the many honours he has received, he was made a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate in 2010. 

In Parker’s words, “As an only child my early resourceful passions were for chemistry sets, puppetry, homemade museums and conjuring tricks. My forms and aesthetic, of the stark and the industrial, have always put me out of step with the craft based organically oriented mainstream of NZ pottery.

I owe more to the philosophy of the European design movements of de Stijl and the Bauhaus, than to the NZ preoccupation with Anglo Orientalism, the East and Zen. I subscribe to the idea of the Renaissance Man. I wrote Film Reviews, and contributed regularly to the late N Z Potter Magazine, of which I was on the editorial committee. Along with my ceramics, I maintain the parallel career as a designer of Theatre Sets and Costumes. I like my own exhibitions to always contain surprises. They are always staged, with the pieces presented as much for the dramatic effect as for the objects themselves.

When working in clay, I see myself following in the traditions of being just a craft potter. Each piece is hand-made and unique. I throw and turn all my work on the potter’s wheel. I make ware which is easily recognisable as the classical pottery vessel, bottle or bowl, but my special concern is to push the concepts of these as far as possible into severe minimalism and into the functional/non-functional debate to explore the very essence of defining these ideas.”