The Northland Craft Trust run the busy Quarry Arts Centre in Whangarei - a bustling community hub that is the home of workshops for both adults and children, ever-circulating exhibitions, art studios, a craft co-op shop, ceramics shop and cafe.
Every year the Arts Centre team produce a collection of ceramic plates which they send to artists around the country to create a piece from. Some are painted, others are broken into pieces and mixed with other elements while others are reshaped altogether. The plates are then returned and listed for sale on Trade Me, with the proceeds going to the Trust. This initiative is known as Great Plate.
This is the tenth year of The Great Plate so we thought we would look back at how it came about.
Quarry Arts Centre Manager Ali Goodman says the idea originally came from Kaari Schlebach, as a part of the Whangarei Mid Winter Arts Festival. Claire Nicholls, the Centre Manager at the time, started Great Plate in response to Kaari's idea.
Ali says she started out as an avid purchaser and admirer of The Great Plate and now as the Centre Manager, like many of the Centres staff and volunteers, has “done everything for it from go to wo.”
It’s safe to say that The Great Plate is now an Whangarei institution. Great Plates can be found all over the country, but locals are especially big fans and it’s common to find a plate in a home or even whole areas devoted to them. Ali says they have art collectors buy up to ten plates each year. The Great Plate is a great opportunity to get an original artwork at a great price and help the Quarry Arts Centre at the same time.
The artists come back year after year. Hana Ott, Trish Clarke, Sid Ware and Claire Nicholls are four artists who have been contributing every year. Some artists get in touch as early as January to see if they can contribute. Ali says, “we really appreciate them donating their time, effort and talent”.
To date, there have been over eight hundred Great Plate auctions and they’ve raised more than $57,000 for the Trust. The proceeds from this year’s sales will go towards developing the Centre’s kiln precinct, which is open to the whole community.
There are some wonderful stories that have emerged over the years. In 2010, Garth Dobney’s I would rather be a saucer plate was sold to a Christchurch buyer however, it was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake. The plate was returned to Garth, earthquake proofed and sent back to its owner.
Whangarei locals Sheryl Mai and Mike Regan look forward to The Great Plate every year and especially love the creativity of the artists as well as the opportunity to support the Quarry Arts Centre. They’ve accumulated an eclectic collection of ten Great Plate plates over the years and are looking forward to adding to the collection again this year.
Their first and all-time favourite plate was a 2009 purchase; Cityscape by Carol Robinson (pictured below), whose work they love. Another of her Great Plate pieces sits in their home.
They’ve even contributed their own pieces over the years. And with Mike being a Trustee of the Northland Craft Trust, they can appreciate The Great Plate from every angle. Sheryl and Mike are avid collectors of art and other items of interest. Lamps, ceramics and a very niche collection of hickory-shafted golf clubs are just some of their treasures.
Check out this year's fabulous Great Plate auctions and get bidding!