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Creative New Zealand acknowledges the passing of a master potter

5 Oct 2011

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Creative New Zealand joins the arts community in mourning the loss of one of New Zealand’s most prestigious potters, Len Castle.

Mr Castle died last week after a long illness. It was his request that news of his death not be made public  until his family and friends had the opportunity to farewell him in private.

Initially self-taught, Mr Castle worked with clay for more than  60 years to create some of New Zealand’s most sophisticated, innovative and beautiful pottery. He was the first potter to be awarded a fellowship from the Association of New Zealand Art Societies, travelling to England to work with Bernard Leach in 1956-57.

However Mr Castle’s professional life began not in art, but in science. He completed a Bachelor of Science in 1946 and trained as a secondary school teacher. For five years he lectured in science at Auckland Teachers' College, all the while learning the technique and artistry of ceramics.

In 1963 he resigned from his teaching position to concentrate on pottery full time. The grounding in botany, chemistry and biology was never lost on Mr Castle and science continued to inform his approach and overall career as a professional potter. 

Mr Castle received a CBE for Services to Pottery in 1986 and a New Zealand Commemorative Medal in 1990.  He received an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Award in 2003, and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Auckland in 2004. In the same year he was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Pottery.

The publication Len Castle: Potter (Ron Sang Publications) was joint winner of the Illustrative Category of the Montana Book Awards 2003 and Len Castle: Making the Molecules Dance (Lopdell House Gallery) won the NZ Post Book Award for Best Illustrative Non-fiction in 2009.

Len travelled extensively, demonstrated and judged at exhibitions, while producing his works.  Mountain to the Sea, a touring exhibition containing approximately sixty works, toured to selected galleries around New Zealand throughout 2009 and into 2010.

The expertise Len Castle acquired in his chosen artform and the contribution he made to the development of ceramics both in New Zealand and overseas, make him a craftsman of superior standard whose memory and work will serve as testament to his consummate artistry.