Craft snippets: Ceramics with Cecilia Freire

Sally reports back from Craft snippets at Upper Riccarton Library which featured guest crafter, Cecilia Freire. The next Craft snippets event is on Wednesday 29 March with Tūranga staff talking about library tech and equipment that can be used to design, create and make.

In January we held our first Craft Snippets for the year and welcomed, Ceramist, Cecilia Freire.

Cecilia first off asked everyone what clay or pottery experience they had had, many remembered having a go at school, some successfully, others not.

Starting young

Born in Argentina, Cecilia grew up surrounded by creativity, with her mother being an interior designer and her father an architect. Her first lump of clay was given to her when she was three years old by her Mum’s friend Bebi. Cecilia described her world growing up as colourful, eccentric and happy. The day Cecilia saw Bebi’s ceramics studio, she knew what she would like to do when she was older. The first project Cecilia embarked on was to create a village based on the Asterix books with clay rivers, huts and people.

Cecilia reflected on what pottery and ceramics can teach you about life, when things break you have to let them go. Working with clay helped Cecilia express her emotions keeping her sane. At 13 Cecilia was uprooted from her beloved country and moved to the UK with her family. The weather was cold, and schools were full of rules and regulations. Cecilia struggled with this new life and was a bit of a rebel, but her parents sent her home to South America in the breaks and were very supportive of her interests and bought her a kiln and a wheel. This was to be a saviour and made life in the UK bearable.

Cecilia’s mum had a lot of books and these further shaped her teenage years, including 'Peter Principle' by Laurence J. Peter, ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’ by C.G. Jung, and “Your Erroneous Zones” by Wayne W. Dyer.  

After school, Cecilia went to the Central School of Art in London and did a degree in ceramics. Her advice to anyone doing study is to use every piece of equipment available to you. You can never own all of the wonderful machines available so use them while you are studying so that you can experience them and learn from them.

Teaching and travelling

After her study, Cecilia went on to teach pottery and work at a mental health centre. This is where her love of helping and teaching came from. Dividing her time between Venezuela and England, Cecilia worked at local museums, curated her own exhibitions, and taught ceramics.

Children came along and Cecilia left the ‘lawlessness’ of Venezuela to bring up her family in England where her and her husband felt safer. After that some time was spent living in Spain but that was not sustainable, so it was once again back to the UK. The time came for another shift and Cecilia said they looked at the map and said, ‘where to now’ and New Zealand popped up.

Cecilia and her family have been living in NZ for 15 years now but felt very isolated when they arrived so decided to do a workshop ‘creating well together’. Cecilia wanted to help people and by doing this integrated in to NZ and Christchurch. Cecilia spent much time helping at South Intermediate School where her children attended.

Cecilia showed some of the notebooks she has collected over the years of her ideas and creations. She said she has only made about 5% of the ideas in the notebooks. She carries a notebook everywhere with her so that she can jot things down as they come to her.

Cecilia brought along pieces to show us. Some works were from an exhibition she did called ‘Crackin’ on’ with works representing life after the Christchurch earthquake. Cecilia’s works brought humour to this theme with houses in an egg carton, and ‘traffic jam’ – a jar filled with small ceramic road cones.

‘Not a clay snob’ is how Cecilia describes herself. She does her own thing, uses whatever clay she can get her hands on (mostly buff or white) as well as glazes. Sometimes her works are finished with acrylic and ink after firing, a common practise in South America. Clay is bought in NZ from places like Gordon Harris and Office Max. Cecilia recommends not using Red Modelling Clay, it is like wet sand to work with, doesn’t hold and is crumbly.

Cecilia brought along one of her wheels and gave us a demonstration of throwing and making a small pot.

Pottery opportunities

Cecilia suggested watching the UK programme ‘The Great Pottery Thrown Down’. It has been very inspirational for people and created a real boom in pottery and ceramics in NZ. There are lots of places to learn in Christchurch including Hagley College and Stolen Bagel. Plus keep an eye out for any workshops Cecilia is running. Currently Cecilia has a pop up in Cashel Mall at the Life in Vacant Spaces LiVS Incubator. She is running workshops there painting a pot.

Angela gave a run down on the latest crafty books and mags in the Library.

Latest craft titles

Craft Snippets January 2023

Angela gave a run down on the latest crafty books and mags in the Library.

Items shared at our January gathering.

View full list

Upcoming craft events

We gave a run down of some of the fabulous events happening in and around Ōtautahi.

At the library

If you are interested in joining one of the many craft groups at the library, please to get in touch. The easiest way is to ring or email the Library. There are a number of different craft groups on every week, at libraries all over Christchurch. They are free and often there are people there happy to teach you new skills. For example, if you would like to learn crochet, do pop along to the ‘Knit n Yarn’ group at Upper Riccarton Library on Tuesday afternoons.

Other events and resources

Our next Craft Snippets event on Wednesday 29 March, will be staff from Tūranga talking about the amazing equipment and creative resources available to people that they can use for free to create. Perhaps take a leaf out of Cecilia’s experience from her time at Art School, trying out all of the equipment available!

Upper Riccarton Library