x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Woven Waka by Peter Collis

Object of desire In an intricate and painstaking process, tiny "ribbons" of clay are made by hand, before being layered into a hull-shaped mould at precise angles to create the woven effect.

Large Woven Waka approx NZ$1,000 (Dh2,517) from Essenze, 285 Parnell Road, Auckland,
Large Woven Waka approx NZ$1,000 (Dh2,517) from Essenze, 285 Parnell Road, Auckland,

My first encounter with this beautiful piece by the New Zealand ceramicist, Peter Collis, produced an emotional - almost visceral - reaction. Certainly that's partly for the way it embodies my own heritage (growing up in the South Pacific, where the waka, or canoe, is a potent symbol of Polynesian culture) but it's also for the sheer beauty, power and presence of the piece. Meeting Collis in his Auckland studio, and seeing the work in progress, took my admiration for his work and passion for this piece to a whole new level. In an intricate and painstaking process, tiny "ribbons" of clay are made by hand, before being layered into a hull-shaped mould at precise angles to create the woven effect. In this case, the first layer of ribbons forms the stylised frangipani motif. After initial firing, three glazes are applied (each fired at a different temperature) to create the multi-layered and highly textured effect of matte turquoise (a signature Collis colour) over glossy indigo: the colours of the Pacific Ocean. A single, full-sized Waka - 80cm long - takes much more than a full day's work, not counting the quadruple-firing process.

The Woven Waka is a departure from Collis's best-known work: super-smooth and sensual orbs and ovals with distinctive glazes - creamy crackle glaze and high-gloss bright colours. "My work has always been about exploring form and surface," he explains. "Weaving is intrinsic to Maori and the wider Polynesian cultures - though I realised, once I started, that it is more than just Pacific; it is universal and speaks to every culture."

Large Woven Waka approx NZ$1,000 (Dh2,517) from Essenze, 285 Parnell Road, Auckland, NZ; +64 9 300 6238; www.essenze.co.nz (world wide shipping available; priced according to destination). Also available to order through Majlis Gallery, Bastikiya, Dubai; 04 353 6233.